Mac: Repair broken contacts database

The Contacts app on the Apple Mac shows you local, iCloud and other contacts. However, it can happen that something goes wrong, contact information is missing, individual people and companies are not displayed or the like. You can read in the following instructions how to repair a defective contact database under macOS. Basically, this boils down to forcing the system to recreate the overview and thus eliminate errors. Before you try the procedure on your Mac, iMac, MacBook or other Apple computer, you should make a backup (at least of the contacts) - just to be on the safe side.

If you want to repair a defective contacts database on the Mac, the instructions here will help you. Changing contacts and their e-mail, address, phone number, etc. works again.
If you want to repair a defective contacts database on the Mac, the instructions here will help you. Changing contacts and their e-mail, address, phone number, etc. works again.

Background: Help with locally stored contacts

If the faulty contacts in your overview on the Mac are iCloud content, then the instructions below are of little use. To re-catalog cloud-based contacts, you have to remove the corresponding account (iCloud, Exchange, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) and register it again. Then a completely new query of the contacts linked to the service is triggered and the database is updated accordingly. If you need help with incorrectly displayed or missing contacts that you only manage on the Mac, you can continue with the steps shown below.

Cloud-based contact data such as B. You can update the contacts copied via iCloud by logging out and logging in again. Screenshot source: Apple.com
Cloud-based contact data such as B. You can update the contacts copied via iCloud by logging out and logging in again. Screenshot source: Apple.com

Repair corrupt contacts database on Mac

Now let's get to the instructions. The process is pretty simple and you don't even need that Port. In effect, it's just a matter of deleting the Contacts app's directory files to force them to be recreated. If you want to create a backup of your contacts beforehand, simply select from the menu bar filing -> Export... -> Contacts archive and then saves the corresponding file.

Then you close the contacts app and proceed as follows:

  1. The first thing you have to do is navigate to the address book or AddressBook folder. The quickest way to do this is to open the Finder in the menu bar Go to -> Go to the folder ... chooses and then ~ / Library / Application Support / AddressBook entered and confirmed.
  2. In the AddressBook folder you then look for these files and delete them:
    addressbook-v22.abcddb
    addressbook-v22.abcddb-wal
    addressbook-v22.abcddb-shm
  3. Then you open the contacts app and see how (or whether) the contact list is renewed
You have to delete these three files so that the contacts database is recreated on the Mac. A backup of the entire folder can be made beforehand.
You have to delete these three files so that the contacts database is recreated on the Mac. A backup of the entire folder can be made beforehand.

If nothing changes or something goes wrong, reset the folder named above with the created backup.

Why the procedure can repair Mac contacts database

The Contacts app on the Mac saves the contact details individually as vCards. In order to provide a quickly usable list of contacts, these individual vCards are cataloged in a database. If you now make changes to a single contact entry, both the catalog database and the individual vCard must be adapted. If the database is defective for any reason, the changes cannot be saved. Other errors can also occur. By deleting and automatically recreating the above-mentioned files, the contact database is created from scratch from the existing vCards. In this way (ideally) old mistakes are eliminated. 

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10 Responses to “Mac: Repair Corrupted Contacts Database”

  1. I have a problem with the contact DB and have therefore deleted the 3 files as described in your instructions. The DB has not been recreated but remained empty. What is the reason?

  2. i have the same problem (os big sur 11.4 on macbook pro 2017).
    Contacts crashed when creating a new group. no i cloud. Files removed as instructed, new files are created automatically, but nothing happens.
    keep the newly created ones or reinsert the removed old ones?
    and then what to do?
    best regards. happy

    1. Hello Jon! Unfortunately I can't give you a recipe. I would save everything and then try what helps. VG, Jens

  3. Thank you!
    My MacBookPro no longer displayed the birthdays of acquaintances who had been in my address book for a long time in the calendar. The birthdays of people who only recently got into the address book, however, easily. All my attempts to fix this have been unsuccessful. Only after deleting these three files and synchronizing them with my iphone does everything work again. Thanks!

  4. Maybe a bit off topic. I have a problem entering contacts. If I'm not fast enough, the app on the Mac will snap back out of "Edit Mode". It seems to be sync related and annoying. I haven't found a solution yet, except that I press save immediately after entering the name, then enter the phone number, save again, etc. It looks like a sync process is causing the entry to be aborted. Has not been fixed in recent versions. I have multiple contact sources. Gmail and Icloud. I would prefer to “copy” all contacts on Gmail and have linked or linked data as a complete contact without linking. Is there a best practice?

    1. Hi Michael! I would install macOS over it. Unfortunately, I can't help you with Gmail contacts. I don't use Gmail... :(

  5. Andreas Höllinger

    This “tip” is a hell of a trip!! The procedure deleted all of my locally stored contacts (> 500)! I was only able to restore them with the help of TimeMachine.

    1. Hi Andreas! Thank you for your hint. There are people for whom it works (see comments above). But we have included this note for a reason: “Before you try this procedure on your Mac, iMac, MacBook or other Apple computer, you should have a backup (at least of the contacts) – just to be on the safe side.”
      LG, Jens

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