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iCloud: Resolving duplicate Contacts after setting up iCloud Contacts

Symptoms

After setting up iCloud Contacts, you may see an issue where individual Contacts appear to be duplicated. If you think you have this issue, visit iCloud Contacts at icloud.com/contacts to confirm if your contacts are duplicated.

  • If your contacts are not duplicated on the iCloud website (but are in Contacts, Address Book, Microsoft Outlook, or on your iOS device), continue following the rest of this article.
  • If your contacts are duplicated on iCloud.com, contact iCloud Support.

Resolution

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In some cases, data can appear to be duplicated, but actually your client application or device stored your data in multiple locations or data stores. Instead of attempting to remove or edit duplicate Contacts, you should verify if and how your Contacts are duplicated.

Handling duplication caused by service conflicts

In some cases, duplication of Contacts may occur when you sync your Contacts with multiple synchronization services that are designed for exclusivity. This type of duplication is relatively easy to resolve, and you can address it by adjusting your setup and usage patterns.

Exchange and iCloud

If you are syncing data with a Microsoft Exchange server, you most likely will have Contacts for iCloud and for Exchange. Separate data stores save these contacts and may duplicate content between them. iCloud does not sync or otherwise modify Exchange data. If you want to continue using iCloud and Exchange at the same time for Contacts, you can adjust how you use them. For example, use iCloud for your family's and friends' contact information and use Exchange for your work contacts. 

For more information about how iCloud and Exchange interact, see iCloud: Microsoft Exchange behavior with iCloud.

iTunes and iCloud

Avoid using iTunes to sync with Contacts, Address Book, or Outlook while using iCloud Contacts with the same iOS device. iTunes 10.7 and earlier will allow you to enable iTunes sync for Contacts even if you already are using iCloud Contacts on your computer. iTunes can sync your data via USB or Wi-Fi when enabled.

Note: Although iTunes 10.7 and earlier provides a warning to help you avoid possible data duplication, in some cases iTunes sync may still be on after you enable iCloud in iCloud System Preferences (on a Mac) or in the iCloud Control Panel (on Windows). iTunes 11 will not sync your Contacts if you have enabled iCloud in iCloud System Preferences (on a Mac) or in the iCloud Control Panel (on Windows) to avoid possible duplication.

  • To use iCloud to update your Contacts:
  • Disable syncing Contacts in iTunes.

    1. Connect your iOS device to your computer via the supplied USB cable.
    2. Open iTunes.
    3. Select your iOS device in the Source List.
    4. Click the Info tab.
    5. Make sure the checkbox next to "Sync Address Book Contacts" or "Sync Contacts" is deselected.
  • To use iTunes syncing to update your Contacts:
  • Disable iCloud Contacts in the iCloud System Preferences or iCloud Control Panel.

    1. Open System Preferences (or Control Panel if you are using a PC).
    2. Click iCloud (if you are using a PC, you may need to open the Network and Internet Control Panel section first).
    3. Deselect the checkbox next to Contacts. Click Delete from Mac.
    4. If you are using a PC, click Apply.
    5. Close the iCloud System Preferences pane or iCloud Control Panel.

Handling unexpected duplication

If you see duplicate Contacts, and you are not syncing with Microsoft Exchange or iTunes via USB or Wi-Fi and iCloud at the same time, then you might have an issue with Contacts that needs further troubleshooting and investigation.

As noted above, if your Contacts are duplicated on iCloud, you should contact iCloud Support for assistance. If you are unsure whether the duplicate contacts are actually occurring with iCloud, visit icloud.com/contacts and verify that there are multiple copies of the affected contacts. If you see duplicate Contacts on the iCloud website, then iCloud is affected, and you should contact iCloud Support for assistance.

If your contacts are duplicated in Contacts on OS X Mountain Lion, Address Book on OS X Lion or in Windows Outlook 2007 or 2010, there are steps you can take to clean up and resolve the duplication.

Resolving duplicate Contacts using Contacts or Address Book

If you are using OS X Mountain Lion or Lion, both Contacts and Address Book have a built-in tool that locates and merges duplicate contact information. In order to effectively use the Look for Duplicates tool, you may need to run the tool a few times. Here's how:

  1. Open Contacts or Address Book.
  2. Back up your iCloud Contacts as described in the Contacts section of iCloud: How to back up iCloud data.
  3. Select Card > Look for Duplicates from the Card menu.
  4. Review the results, and click Merge when prompted.
  5. Repeat steps 3-4 until no duplicates are found.
    • Sometimes it takes multiple passes to successfully remove duplicate information from Contacts. If you have repeated steps 3 and 4 six or more times and still are seeing duplicate data, you should quit Contacts or Address Book by selecting Quit from the Contacts or Address Book menu. Then reopen the application, and begin this process again starting with step 1.
  6. After you have removed the duplicates from your Contacts, back up your iCloud Contacts again as described in step 2.

Resolving duplicate Contacts using Outlook 2007 or 2010

If you are using Microsoft Outlook 2007 and have duplicate Contacts, see this Microsoft article for additional assistance. If you are using Microsoft Outlook 2010, see this Microsoft article for assistance.

This document will be updated as more information becomes available.
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Last Modified: Dec 7, 2012
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  • Last Modified: Dec 7, 2012
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