How to restore Contacts from Time Machine after Big Sur or Catalina upgrade

Rosa Reyes
time November 18, 2020 Preview 10.2K
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macos mojave upgradeWe all are excited to upgrade to the latest macOS when it comes to public. However, what if you lose your Contacts or other data after the upgrade? This happens to many Mac users after each OS X and macOS upgrade. Don’t worry. Our article will show you how to easily restore Contacts from Time Machine.

Contacts disappeared in Big Sur or Catalina upgrade? - Don’t panic

After upgrading from macOS Sierra to High Sierra, lots of Mac users lost their Contacts, photos, documents and applications, among other things. The same also happened to previous upgradings such as from OS X El Capitan to macOS Sierra.

The good news is that you can effortlessly restore Contacts from Time Machine. Other lost data and files can also be recovered with Time Machine or using other methods. As a result, you can update to Big Sur, Catalina or Mojave without losing data.

How to restore Contacts from Time Machine backup

What is Time Machine?

Time Machine is built to OS X since Leopard and macOS. It is made to backup all the files on your Mac to an external hard drive so that you can restore them later if necessary. With it, you can easily preview and restore files, contacts, emails, etc. by browsing the previous backups.

Please note that you can recover files and restore Contacts from Time Machine only on the premise that there is a backup available. In the following part of the article, we will show you how to backup Contacts with Time Machine.

Step 1. Connect your Time Machine disk to your Mac.

Step 2. Open the Contacts app and run Time Machine. On the bottom right corner of the screen, you can scroll through the timeline and look at your previous versions of Contacts.

time machine mac restore

Step 3. Find the latest version prior to upgrading to Big Sur, Catalina or Mojave. Select it. Hit the Restore button to get back the contacts disappeared in macOS upgrade. This is how you can restore Contacts from Time Machine backup.

How to backup Contacts with Time Machine

It’s impossible to restore Contacts from Time Machine if there isn’t a backup in the first place. To make it possible to restore contacts, emails, calendar, files, etc., you need to set up Time Machine and use it to back up your Mac.

time machine mac set up

How to set up Time Machine and use it to backup Contacts and other data

Step 1. Get an external hard drive with a storage size bigger than the size of your Mac internal storage.

Step 2. Connect the external HD to your Mac, and a window will pop up asking if you want to use the HD for backup. Click the Use as Backup Disk button, and you will be presented with the Time Machine Preferences window.

Step 3. In the Preferences window, you can find the next backup countdown telling you in how many seconds the next backup will start automatically.

time machine mac backup

To backup manually, just unselect Back up Automatically and select the Show Time Machine in menu bar option. Click the Time Machine icon and select Back Up Now.

After the backup finishes, a Backup Complete message will pop up. You can eject the hard drive now. This backup allows you to restore your contacts from Time Machine without trouble.

By default, Time Machine backs up all of your files and data including Contacts, but you can exclude folders or items from the backup in Options. It’s a good practice to backup on a regular basis, so you can restore Contacts from Time Machine with just a few clicks.

Restore Contacts and other data disappeared in macOS upgrade without Time Machine

While it’s possible to restore data from Time Machine with ease and efficiency, there are a few main downsides.

  • This built-in backup and restoration solution doesn’t work for people who never use Time Machine.
  • If, for one reason or another, you haven't backed up Time Machine for a long time, the data recovery results may not be satisfying.
  • Things will get complicated if your Time Machine hard drive is corrupted and the data on it is not available. Check out the solution for a situation like this.

Luckily there are methods to restore contacts and other data disappeared in macOS upgrade without Time Machine.

Method 1. Restore lost files after Mac update using data recovery software

Cisdem Data Recovery for Mac can recover deleted, formatted or corrupted data from Mac’s internal hard drive, external hard drive, SD card, USB flash drive, digital camera and more. It supports a wide variety of file formats and types such as images, audios, videos, documents, archives and more.

If your photos, songs, movies and other data disappear after you upgrade to Big Sur, Catalina or Mojave and you don’t have a Time Machine backup, you can use this app to get disappeared data back effortlessly.

To get started, download and install Cisdem Data Recovery on your Mac. One can download the free trial from

Step 1Select a suitable data recovery solution

There are five recovery solutions provided, including Basic Data Recovery, Advanced Data Recovery, Formatted Drive Recovery and more. If you are not in a hurry and want the best possible recovery results, you can choose Advanced Data Recovery.

five recovery solutions of cisdem data recovery for mac

Step 2Scan and preview

Select your internal hard drive (in this case) or an external storage drive and click the Scan button. During the scan, real-time scan results will be provided. After the scan is completed, you will find a list of all the recoverable files and data. You can preview them in batch or one by one.

scan and preview recoverable files

Step 3Start restoring

Select (individually or in batch) the items you want to restore and click the Recover button. This app will start recovering the lost data caused by Big Sur, Catalina or Mojave upgrade or other reasons.


If you have a recent backup of your Mac and are going to restore contacts from Time Machine but only to find that the external disk drive is corrupted. Don’t worry. You can use Cisdem Data Recovery to recover the corrupted data from external hard drive.

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Method 2. Restore contacts, emails and calendars from iCloud

In addition to restore Contacts from Time Machine, you can also get your contacts, emails and other items back from iCloud.

1. Open Safari or another browser of your choice on your Mac. Sign into

2. Go to Settings > Advanced. Click Restore Contacts. It will list the archives of contacts with data and time.

restore contacts from icloud

3. Select an archive of contacts that you need and then click the Restore button.

4. Open iCloud and check Contacts. The restored contacts should appear in Contacts. It’s that simple to restore contacts disappeared in macOS upgrade. If it fails to sync, check out this contacts not syncing to Mac fix.

In conclusion

For those who have a habit of regularly backing up Mac with macOS’ built-in backup app, it can be very easy to restore Contacts from Time Machine. If you don’t use Time Machine or haven’t use it to back up for quite a while, you can use data recovery software such as Cisdem Data Recovery to recover contacts disappeared in macOS upgrade or restore the disappeared contacts from iCloud.

Do you find this article helpful? What do you like most about macOS 11 Big Sur? Just leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Rosa Reyes
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Rosa has worked in Mac software industry for more than eight years. She believes that the purpose of software is to make life better and work more productively. In addition to writing, Rosa is also an avid runner.

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