iCloud offers an easy and reliable way to sync your contacts across Apple devices, which is why it remains a popular choice. However, an iCloud bug sometimes leaves you with many — many — duplicate contacts. Something as simple as signing in and out of iCloud can cause a syncing issue that leaves you with thousands of duplicate entries in the address book, which nobody wants.
However, there are a few quick ways to fix this, and I’ll walk you through each of them.
Delete duplicates using the Contacts app on a Mac
If you have a Mac, you can delete duplicate iCloud address book entries using the built-in Contacts app. For this to work, you first need to check that iCloud contacts are syncing with your Mac — if they’re not, you won’t be able to see any contacts on the app. To do that, click the Apple logo in the top-left of your Mac’s home screen and go to System Preferences > Apple ID. Under “Apps on This Mac Using iCloud,” make sure that Contacts is checked.
Once you’ve done that, open the Contacts app on Mac. If you’re having trouble finding it, use the Command+Space Bar shortcut to fire up Spotlight search (or try these better alternatives). In the search bar, type Contacts and open the app. Here you’ll be able to see all of the duplicate entries in your contact list. To find all duplicates in one fell swoop, go to the menu bar at the top and navigate to Card > Look for Duplicates.
A few seconds later, the Contacts app will show you how many duplicates you have. There’s a checkbox in this pop-up, which asks if you want to merge other contacts that have the same name, but contain different information — such as two entries for John Doe, with one having his phone number and the other his email address. You can check this box if you want to merge those contacts, too.
When you’re ready, click Merge, and the Contacts app will do the rest.
Manually select and delete duplicates on iCloud.com
Alternatively, you can use iCloud.com to manually select and remove duplicate contacts. Remember that this method does not work on mobile devices, such as your iPhone. You’ll have to open iCloud.com on a laptop or a desktop to access iCloud contacts.
To get started, go to iCloud.com in any browser and sign in. Once you’ve logged in, click Contacts to view your address book on the web. This will show you all the duplicate contacts. You can hold Command on Mac or Control on Windows and click each duplicate contact until you’ve selected them all.
Now just press Delete on the keyboard to see a confirmation pop-up that checks if you really want to delete those contacts. You do, so select Delete to get rid of the duplicate entries.
Use Gmail to delete duplicate iCloud contacts
If you’d rather not spend hours selecting 10,000 duplicate contacts, you can quickly export iCloud contacts to Gmail and clear duplicates on Google’s service. Before you proceed, it’s important to understand exactly what we’re going to do — because this method involves a risk of losing all of your contacts.
We’re going to export all contacts from iCloud, import them into Google Contacts, and remove duplicates there. Then we’ll delete all contacts from iCloud and import the de-duplicated contact list from Google Contacts. If anything gets messed up along the way, there is a risk of losing your contacts, so be sure to have a backup of all contacts — and proceed with caution.
Let’s start by signing in to iCloud contacts in any browser. Once you have iCloud contacts open, click the gear icon in the bottom-left corner and then click Select All. With all contacts selected on iCloud.com, click the gear icon once more and select Export vCard. This will export a .vcf file containing all of your contacts, and you can save it anywhere on your computer.
Now log in to Google Contacts in your browser. It’s best to use a fresh Google account that has no previously saved contacts to avoid a mix-up. When you’re signed in, click the Import button in the left pane and hit Select file in the pop-up. Find the .vcf file you exported from iCloud, select it, and click Import.
Google Contacts will take a few seconds to import all of your contacts. Once it’s done, all imported contacts will be neatly sorted in a label in the left pane. It usually reads: “Imported on DATE.” With all contacts imported, select Merge & fix in the left pane, which is below the Frequently contacted button.
This will show all the duplicates and let you merge them, too. If it shows no suggestions, refresh the page once to make it work. Review to see if it shows all duplicate contacts, and then click Merge all. Finally, click the Contacts button in the left pane and check if all contacts have been merged.
Now it’s time to export these merged contacts. Press Control+A on Windows or Command+A on Mac to select all contacts and click the three dots icon below the search bar at the top. Select Export. In the pop-up, choose vCard under Export as and click Export. Now save this file somewhere safe on your computer.
Let’s bring these fixed contacts back to iCloud, shall we? Return to iCloud contacts in any browser, hit the gear icon in the bottom-left, and click Select All. You can click the gear icon again and click Delete to remove all of your contacts from iCloud.
Once that is done, hit the gear icon in iCloud contacts again, and select Import vCard. Now import the contacts file you just exported from Google Contacts. This will fix all your duplicate contacts on iCloud.
Delete duplicate contacts using an iPhone app
For those who don’t have access to a computer, there is an iPhone app that will delete all duplicate contacts quickly. It would’ve been a lot better if the Contacts app on iPhone could do the job, but sadly that’s not yet possible in the timeline we live in.
That’s why we’re going to use a third-party app to complete the task quickly. I checked out a lot of apps that let you delete duplicate contacts, but most of them appeared to be too expensive or had unclear (or alarming) privacy policies. Fortunately, Duplicate Contacts Fixer is inexpensive, and its App Store page suggests it doesn’t collect any data, so that’s the app we’re going to use.
Follow these steps:
- Download Duplicate Contacts Fixer and open the app.
- Give it access to your contacts, when the app asks for it.
- You can delete three duplicate contacts for free. The “pro” upgrade costs $US3 ($4) per year. (I’ll show you how to make sure it doesn’t auto-renew the subscription.)
- With the Pro upgrade purchased, the app will prompt you to back up your contacts in a .vcf file. Tap Yes and save the file anywhere on your iPhone (such as a folder in iCloud Drive).
- Now tap Find Duplicates on the app’s home screen.
- A few seconds later, the app will show you how many duplicate contacts are on your phone. You can then tap Delete Duplicates.
- The app will delete all the duplicate iCloud contacts from your phone.
- Finally, it’s time to stop the subscription from auto-renewing. Open the App Store and tap the profile icon on the top-right.
- Select Subscriptions > Duplicate Contacts Fixer.
- Tap Cancel Subscription and confirm it when a pop-up asks you to do so. You’ll still be able to use the app’s features for a year after cancelling the auto-renewal.
With that done, you should also check out how to move all your photos from iCloud to Google Photos.