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How to restore contacts with Google or Gmail on any device

How to restore contacts with Google or Gmail on any device

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Everyone’s accidentally deleted a contact or important message before. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you’ve lost your digital connection with that person forever. Both Google Contacts and Gmail offer solutions to recover individual deleted contacts and groups of them if you’ve accidentally deleted a whole list.

But there is one caveat: All deleted contacts are permanently deleted from Google’s servers after 30 days, regardless of whether you use Contacts or Gmail. If you’re within the 30-day limit though, here’s how to restore your contacts.

How to recover deleted contacts in Google Contacts

Google Contacts is an ideal solution for managing your connections. The app is available on multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and Windows. It’s also the most straightforward place for you to recover your deleted contacts.

If you need to restore your contacts, follow these steps:

  1. Access Google Contacts and click the Trash folder.
  2. Within the Trash folder, view any contacts deleted within the last 30 days.
  3. Select individual contacts or click All to select every contact.
  4. Click Recover.
screenshot of Google Contacts age with encircled Recover contacts button and a red arrow pointing to it

Follow those steps, and you’ll see your formerly deleted contacts instantly move from the Trash folder back to your standard Contacts directory. Let’s also take a quick look at how to move contacts out of the Trash folder on a web browser and on the mobile Google Contacts app.

Retrieve deleted contacts with a web browser

Any web browser works precisely the same to recover contacts. Launch your web browser of choice, and navigate to the Contacts app. Once there, follow these steps:

  1. Open up the Trash folder.
  2. Review your recently deleted contacts.
  3. Click the checkbox next to a single contact or choose “All” to select them all.
  4. Select Recover to restore your contacts.

Important note: Be especially careful to choose the Recover button, not the close-by Delete Forever button. You cannot restore contacts that have been deleted permanently.

Recover contacts on mobile

The Contacts mobile app simplifies managing your contacts and is available on all tablets and smartphones. If you haven’t downloaded it, you can do so via the App Store for iOS. All Android devices have Contacts pre-installed.

If you already have the app and it’s been fully synchronized, follow these steps to restore deleted contacts:

  1. Open the app, which is a silhouette of a person encased within a blue circle.
  2. Click the ☰ button on the left side of the screen under your name.
  3. Look for Trash in the menu.
  4. Tap the contact you want to recover. Select multiple contacts by pressing and holding the first contact, then tapping any others.
  5. Press Restore at the bottom of the screen.

Important note: If you’re restoring contacts via the Contacts mobile app, you must switch on automatic syncing. You can do this from your phone’s settings by going to Settings > Google > Settings for Google Apps > Google Contacts Sync > Status > Automatically Sync.

How to restore missing contacts from Gmail

Google’s services are all linked to your account, meaning you can also restore contacts directly from Gmail, either via your browser or the Contacts app. With 1.8 billion users, this remains the most popular email service globally.

Since your services are linked, Gmail contacts can also be found within Contacts. Follow these steps to restore contacts from your Gmail inbox:

  1. Click on the Google Apps icon in the top right corner next to the profile icon.
  2. Scroll down to Contacts.
  3. Click on Trash in the left-hand column.
  4. Select individual contacts or All to select everybody.
  5. Click Restore.

Recover iPhone contacts from Gmail

Despite capability issues between iOS and Google products in the past, Apple plays super nicely with the G-Suite today. Even if you frequently switch between Android and iOS devices, your contacts are held within Google’s servers, meaning you can access them regardless of the device you’re on.

Please note: The Gmail app on iOS devices doesn’t provide a direct link to your phone’s Contacts. Instead, you need to download the Contacts app from the App Store or read the above method for web browsers. But to recover contacts on iPhone, here's how to do it:

  1. Open the Google Contacts app.
  2. Navigate to the Trash folder.
  3. Select individual or All to select everybody.
  4. Tap Restore.

Restore deleted contacts from Android

Previously, Android users needed to use the web version of Google Contacts to retrieve deleted contacts. Now, this can be done directly from your Android app by following these steps:

  1. Open your Contacts app and click on the Fix & Manage tab.
  2. Click on Bin.
  3. Check your deleted contacts and long-tap on the contact’s name.
  4. Tap on the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner of your screen.
  5. Click Recover.

Other ways to protect or restore contacts

Unfortunately, connections you rarely interact with could be deleted, only for you to notice months later. The best way to preserve your contacts list is to utilize other Google features to provide yourself with a backup.

1. Export a backup of your contacts

Exporting your contacts into a separate file every so often lets you keep a backup in case the 30-day restoration limit passes. Alternatively, it’s also a fantastic way of circumventing the 25,000 maximum contacts limit. Here’s how to transfer contacts using the app:

  1. Open the Contacts app on any device.
  2. Click the ☰ button.
  3. Look for the Settings tab next to the gear icon.
  4. Click on Export under Manage Contacts. Note: You must select the one you want if you have multiple accounts.
  5. Select the .vcf file and Save to export your contacts to your chosen location.

Exporting your contacts works the same regardless of whether you use an iOS tablet or an Android smartphone. Depending on your version of the app, you may even be able to skip the steps above and simply open Google Contacts, press the button that looks like an arrow pointing up, and a window that’ll help you export your contacts will appear.

screenshot of Google Contacts page with opened Export contacts window after clicking the export contacts icon at the top right corner

2. Import previously backed-up contacts

Have you deleted your contacts, and the 30-day restoration limit has passed? If you have a backup, you can simply import your previously exported contacts to restore them. 

Here’s how to do that with the Google Contacts app across both iOS and Android devices:

  1. Open Google Contacts and click .
  2. Click on Settings next to the gear icon.
  3. Tap on Import.
  4. Choose where you want to import it, and you can either import it using a .vcf file or your SIM card. Again, if you have multiple accounts, ensure you select which account you want to use.
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.

Alternatively, you can navigate to the Fix & manage menu on the left side of your screen in the Google Contacts web browser, click Import, and the following pop-up window will appear to help you import your desired list of contacts.

screenshot of Google Contacts page with highlighted Import contacts button at the left sidebar and opened Import contacts window

3. Syncing the Contacts app (on multiple devices) 

Automatically syncing your account with multiple devices is a prerequisite for restoring your contacts. It’s also considered a best practice for centralizing your contacts and automating the process. Said differently, this makes sure your list of contacts looks the same across all of your devices.

Here’s how to set this up, depending on the device you’re using:

Sync contacts on iPhone/iPad

  1. Open Settings by tapping the gear icon.
  2. Scroll down and click Contacts.
  3. Click Add Account.
  4. Follow the instructions on-screen to add or create a new account. If you already have an account, you may need to enable Contacts.
  5. Sync your contacts by going to Account > Advanced > Use SSL to ensure Contacts has been activated.
  6. Click Save, and your app will sync automatically.

Sync contacts on your Android phone

Android users can easily sync their Google Contacts because the process happens automatically. Your Android phone will sync every time you sign in, and if you have multiple Google accounts signed in simultaneously, Contacts will sync everything from each account.

Sync contacts on a Mac

  1. Open System Preferences from the top left corner of the screen.
  2. Click Internet Accounts and Google.
  3. Type in your email address and password, and click Next > Contacts.
  4. Click Done to sync.

Sync contacts on Windows 10 and up

  1. Click on Settings.
  2. Head to Accounts > Email & App Accounts > Add an Account > Google.
  3. Type in your email address and password.
  4. Review your permissions and press Allow and Done.

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FAQs about restoring contacts

How can I recover my deleted contacts without a backup?

You can restore deleted contacts via Gmail or Google Contacts from any device, but only contacts deleted in the last 30 days can be recovered without a backup. There’s no way to recover contacts after this point because they’ve been deleted from Google’s servers.

Can I restore contacts from my SIM card?

Yes, you can. Contacts can be stored either on your phone or on your SIM card. Exporting your contacts to your SIM card allows you to restore your contacts if you lose or get a new phone. However, beware that you cannot restore contacts from a higher version to a lower version of your operating system.

How can I recover contacts on my iPhone?

Occasionally, iOS users may find that their iPhone contacts are missing. There’s a chance these contacts on your iPhone were also stored in your Gmail account so that you can restore them in the opposite direction. Here’s how to find deleted iPhone contacts stored in your Gmail account:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Click Mail and Accounts.
  3. Choose your Gmail account with your saved contacts.
  4. Toggle on Contacts to sync your Gmail and recover contacts on your iPhone.

The next time you turn on your phone or the Contacts app, you’ll find your contacts restored.

Why did Google delete all of my contacts?

Sometimes, you may find that your contacts have been deleted without your input. This occurs when contact information is deleted from a device logged into your account or when a syncing issue occurs. So, if you delete the contacts on your Android phone, you’ll also find they’re deleted on your iPhone.

You cannot get around this because all devices where your account is signed in are synchronized.

How do I restore Google Contacts to a previous date?

The easiest way to restore your Google Contacts to a previous state is to visit Click on the gear icon at the top right to open your settings, and then select Undo Changes.

You can now restore your Google Contacts to your desired date. Note that the 30-day limit still applies. Once synced, any changes will be reflected on your other devices.

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