The Complete Guide to Transferring Outlook Contacts

Outlook contacts stuck in a box? Moving your address book between platforms is no solo mission – this guide has you covered! Learn how to smoothly export contacts from Outlook, import into Gmail and elsewhere, avoid duplicate disasters, and keep your data safe. Migrating your contacts just takes a few easy CSVs. Let’s get your address book everywhere it needs to be!

Why Transfer Outlook Contacts?

So you’ve built up a solid contacts list in Outlook over the years, full of leads, clients, and professional connections. Maybe Outlook’s organizational features helped you keep everything neat and tidy. But now, you’re thinking about transferring those contacts somewhere else – another platform, a backup file, or even just sharing with a colleague temporarily.
Why go through the trouble of figuring out how to export contacts from Outlook? There’s actually several great reasons you may need to transfer your Outlook address book.

Migrate from Outlook to Another Email Service

Perhaps the most common scenario is fully migrating from using Outlook to another email service. Despite Outlook’s long popularity, many individuals and businesses are making the switch to web-based email platforms like Gmail or Office 365. The reasons vary:

  • Cost – Hosted email services often have more flexible or affordable pricing, especially for smaller teams.
  • Accessibility – Webmail can be conveniently accessed from anywhere, across devices. Outlook usually requires installing software.
  • Collaboration – Shared contacts, calendars, and folders allow seamless teamwork. OutlookExchange supports this but isn’t as intuitive.
  • Features – Webmail providers rapidly roll out new capabilities to users. Outlook’s pace of innovation is slower.

When you decide to fully transition email, contacts, and calendar to a new system, exporting Outlook contacts is inevitable. Manually re-entering hundreds or thousands of records would be unrealistic! The most seamless experience involves transferring your full address book to the new platform.

Whether you’re switching to Office 365, Gmail, or another provider, the ability to import your Outlook contacts is key. And the export process is essentially the same no matter where you’re headed. More on that process shortly!

Use Outlook Contacts in Another Email Service

For some individuals and teams, continuing to use OutlookMail may make the most sense. But you still may want to access your Outlook contacts from another email service occasionally.

For example, many companies run marketing campaigns through a provider like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or Campaign Monitor. Typically you’d need to import relevant contacts to send a newsletter or promotion. Copying your Outlook records into the campaign platform is much easier than recreating lists.

Freelancers or consultants may keep their main contact database in Outlook, but also use a web-based email account for quick messages on the go. Having easy access to Outlook contacts from a mobile mail app is very convenient.

In these cases, you don’t necessarily need to fully migrate contacts to the secondary system. But regularly exporting from Outlook and importing to the other platform fills the gap.

Share Contacts with Teammates Using Different Email Clients

Outlook makes sharing contacts between teammates using the same system fairly seamless. But once different platforms are introduced, it becomes trickier.

Say you’re an Outlook user needing to collaborate with colleagues that use Gmail day-to-day. Maybe you need to temporarily give them access to a contacts list for a specific project. Or perhaps new employees have joined who haven’t migrated fully to Outlook yet.

Rather than managing totally separate address books, exporting from Outlook to import into Gmail keeps everyone on the same page. This helps eliminate duplication of efforts and ensures nothing falls through the cracks.

The same concept applies when sharing Outlook contacts with external partners on different systems. Maintaining a “master” list in Outlook that can be distributed makes coordination much easier.

Back Up Contacts Data

Having just a single copy of important business contacts isn’t ideal. If something happens to disrupt access to your Outlook data, you could be left scrambling trying to reconstruct lists.

Backing up your Outlook address book provides protection in multiple scenarios:

  • Hardware failures, data corruption, or accidental deletions
  • Lost or forgotten passwords locking you out
  • Cyber attacks that encrypt or destroy data
  • Natural disasters, fires, floods, etc. damaging equipment

Regularly exporting Outlook contacts to a secondary file, printed records, or cloud storage mitigates these risks. Should disaster strike your primary system, you can still reliably access the information to rebuild.

And thanks to Outlook’stools for exporting contacts, creating backups is fairly simple. You don’t need any specialized utilities or technical skills.

Migrating, Sharing, Backing Up – Made Simple!

As you can see, there are plenty of great reasons you may need to transfer contacts out of Outlook someday. And the basic process is essentially the same for each purpose:

  1. Export contacts from Outlook to a transferable format
  2. Import that file into the other platform or location

The difficult part is figuring out specifically how to accomplish those steps smoothly. But don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!

In the following sections, we’ll walk through the nitty gritty details for exporting contacts from Outlook and importing to various destinations. We’ll also look at recommended practices for backing up your data.

Whether you’re planning to migrate platforms completely or just need to share contacts occasionally, you’ll learn how to transfer Outlook address books with ease. Let’s get started!

Exporting Contacts from Outlook

Alright, time to dive into the specifics of getting your contacts out of Outlook and into a transferable format.
Outlook stores your contacts in its own database format – great for use within the program, but not so convenient for exporting. To transfer contacts elsewhere, they need to be converted to a common file type like CSV or vCard.

The good news is Outlook provides a couple easy ways to export contacts so you can move them. Let’s explore the major options.

Export All Contacts to a CSV File

CSV (comma separated values) is the most universal format for exporting contacts from Outlook. It can be opened by virtually any platform, from Excel to Google Sheets.

To export all contacts to a CSV file, you have two choices – use the built-in wizard or copy/paste manually.

Use the Import & Export Wizard

The Import & Export Wizard streamlines exporting your entire Outlook contacts list to CSV in just a few clicks.

Here’s a quick walkthrough:

  1. Open Outlook and click File > Open & Export > Import/Export
  2. Select Export to a file > Comma Separated Values (Windows)
  3. Choose your Contacts folder and click Next
  4. Select a save location and give the CSV file a name
  5. Click Finish and the export will begin immediately

That’s really all there is to it! The wizard handles everything automatically.

Once finished, open the CSV file to verify all contacts exported properly. Expect to see some blank columns – no worries, you can delete unneeded ones later.

Manually Copy & Paste Contacts

Rather than using the wizard, you can also export Outlook contacts to CSV through manual copy and paste. This gives you more control over which fields are exported.

Follow these steps:

  1. In Outlook, switch the Contacts view to List
  2. Expand columns by going to View > Arrange By > Add Columns
  3. Select all contacts using CTRL + A
  4. Copy the selection to your clipboard with CTRL + C
  5. Paste into a blank Excel sheet using CTRL + V
  6. Rearrange columns or delete unnecessary ones
  7. Save the sheet as a CSV file

The copy/paste method takes a bit more work. But it lets you customize which details are transferred, and may suit your preferences.

Export Contacts by Category or Folder

If you don’t want to export ALL contacts, but rather a specific subset, Outlook accommodates that too.

Filter by Category when Exporting to CSV

To export Outlook contacts belonging to certain categories into a CSV file:

  1. Switch to table view and group by category using View > Arrange By
  2. Select the categories to export, copy them, and paste into Excel
  3. Rearrange, delete unneeded columns, and save as CSV

Filter by Folder when Exporting to PST

Exporting contacts by folder is done by saving to Outlook’s PST data file format rather than CSV.

Here’s how to export only contacts from certain Outlook folders to a PST file:

  1. Use the Import & Export Wizard like above, but select Outlook Data File
  2. Choose your folder(s) to export and check Include subfolers
  3. Select a save location and name for the PST file
  4. Click Finish and the filtered contacts will export

This exports your chosen folders along with the folder structure intact.

Export Deleted Contacts

Accidentally deleted some important contacts? Not to worry – you can recover and export deleted Outlook contacts too.

First, restore the deleted records:

  1. Open the Deleted Items folder
  2. Right click deleted contacts and select Move > Contact Folders

Once restored, export the recovered contacts using either wizard or copy/paste.

And going forward, make regular backups to avoid needing contact recovery!

Exporting Outlook contacts may feel daunting, but as you can see it’s quite straightforward. Whether exporting all or just some records, the process is simple.

Now let’s look at getting those contacts safely transferred into other systems…

Importing Contacts to Other Platforms

You’ve successfully exported contacts out of Outlook. Now it’s time to complete the transfer by bringing them into another system.
The good news is that importing Outlook contacts into most other platforms is straightforward, since you have the data in a compatible CSV format.

Let’s look at the specifics for popular destinations.

Import to Gmail

Gmail doesn’t offer a direct import from Outlook. But it happily accepts CSV files containing contact data. Just export from Outlook, then upload to Google.

Export Outlook Contacts to CSV

First, export contacts from Outlook to a CSV using either:

  • The Import & Export Wizard (File > Open & Export > Import/Export)
  • Manual copy/paste method

For a refresher on the steps, see the previous section. Name the exported file something like “outlook-contacts.csv” for easy identification.

Import CSV to Google Contacts

Next, import that CSV into your Google account:

  1. Go to and login
  2. Click Import in the left sidebar menu
  3. Click Select file and choose your Outlook CSV file
  4. Click Import and contacts will upload
  5. Contacts from your Outlook CSV will now be available in Gmail!

Migrating from Outlook to Gmail is that simple when you stick to the CSV format.

Import to Other Email Clients

The same CSV export/import method works for most other email platforms too.

For example:

  • Apple Mail – Just double click the Outlook CSV file after export to import.
  • Thunderbird – Open address book, go to Tools > Import, and select the CSV.
  • Yahoo & AOL – Sign in, go to Contacts > Import > CSV.

As long as the destination supports CSV import, you can reliably transfer Outlook contacts without issue. No reformatting needed!

Third party address book apps like MonicaHQ can also generally accept CSV files. So Outlook CSV is your most versatile export format.

Of course, always refer to your specific email client’s help documentation for details on the import process. But the Outlook CSV output will populate correctly.

Migrating or sharing Outlook contacts by way of CSV is efficient and minimizes headaches. For even more peace of mind, let’s talk backup…

Transferring Contacts from Other Platforms to Outlook

Up until now, we’ve focused on getting contacts out of Outlook into other systems. But what about the reverse?
Importing contacts from places like Gmail into your Outlook address book is just as straightforward as the export process. Let’s review how it’s done.

Import from Gmail

Since Outlook doesn’t connect directly to Gmail, importing involves the now-familiar CSV two-step:

Export Gmail Contacts to Outlook CSV Format

On your Google Contacts:

  1. Click Export in the left sidebar menu
  2. Select Outlook CSV as the file type
  3. Save the exported CSV file

Choosing “Outlook CSV” ensures the formatting matches what Outlook expects for import.

Import CSV to Outlook

Then, in Microsoft Outlook:

  1. Go to File > Open & Export > Import/Export
  2. Choose Import from another program or file
  3. Select your saved Gmail CSV file
  4. Pick folder to import into and click Finish

And that’s all it takes to bring Google contacts over to Outlook!

Since Gmail outputs an Outlook-friendly CSV, no manual data wrangling or column mapping is required. Much easier than re-entering contact data!

Import from Yahoo Mail, iCloud, etc.

The CSV export/import method works for most other webmail providers too.

Here is the standard workflow for platforms like Yahoo Mail, Apple iCloud, Zoho, or Fastmail:

Export Contacts to CSV

Import CSV to Outlook

  • In Outlook, start the Import Wizard at File > Open & Export > Import
  • Select your exported CSV file
  • Choose destination folder and click Finish

As long as the external platform can output contacts as a properly formatted CSV, Outlook will ingest it without issue.

Smooth Sailing with CSV

As you can see, importing contacts from common external sources into Outlook is quick and painless.

The CSV file format acts as a universal translator, bridging the gaps between platforms. It requires a few extra steps vs. direct import, but eliminates headaches down the road.

With Outlook import powers combined with expert exporting skills, you’re equipped to transfer contacts anywhere you need them.

This concludes the core tutorial on moving Outlook contacts between systems. Next let’s examine another critical task – backups!

Backing Up Outlook Contacts

You’ve put significant time into building up your Outlook address book. Losing all those carefully collected contacts due to a crash, corruption, or accidental deletion would be devastating.
That’s why regularly backing up your Outlook data is a must. In this section, we’ll explore some options for safely archiving your contacts.

Backup to PST File

Outlook’s proprietary PST format is a common choice for full backups. It preserves your existing folder structure and relationships.

To backup Outlook contacts to a PST file:

  1. Go to File > Open & Export > Import/Export
  2. Select Export to a file > Outlook Data File (.pst)
  3. Choose the folder(s) containing contacts
  4. Select a location and name for the PST file
  5. Click Finish to begin export

PST backups make restoring your whole Outlook environment easy if disaster strikes. But they have some downsides to consider:

  • Large file size – Entire mailbox gets backed up even if you only need contacts.
  • Slower performance – Outlook’s speed can degrade as PSTs grow large. Keep them under 20GB.
  • Fixed format – Not easily readable by other programs or editable.

So PST backup is best suited for full Outlook data protection rather than contacts-only.

Backup to vCard (VCF)

For contact-focused backups, the vCard format is popular. vCard files contain contact data in a portable structure many apps recognize.

To export Outlook contacts to vCard:

  1. Select contacts in the address book and right click
  2. Choose Forward as vCard from the context menu
  3. Pick a save location for the VCF file

Unlike PST, vCard stores only contact information, not emails or other content. And vCard files remain compact even with large contacts lists.

But since Outlook only exports one contact per vCard, this method isn’t optimal for frequent bulk backups. It’s better suited for sharing individual records or small batches.

Backup to CSV

Given its cross-platform versatility covered earlier, CSV makes an excellent bulk Outlook contacts backup choice.

Follow the same steps outlined in the exporting section to regularly save your full contacts list or subsets to a CSV:

  • Use the Import & Export Wizard for full exports
  • Copy/paste filtered tables for partial backups

CSV keeps files tidy, preserves all fields, separates data well for editing or review, and integrates smoothly across platforms. It’s ideal for Outlook contacts backup.

For maximum protection, maintain a robust backup schedule exporting to CSV:

  • Weekly exports of your full contacts list
  • Daily incremental exports of high value subsets
  • Periodic exports before and after major edits

Store in Password Protected Archive

An added backup best practice is to store your exported CSV files in a password protected archive like a ZIP.

This affords an extra layer of protection against corruption, unauthorized access, or inadvertent file deletion compared to naked CSV files.

Use a strong password only you know and keep the encrypted archive in cloud storage or on an external device.

For really critical contacts data, consider also keeping a physical backup stored securely off-site. Printed contacts, burned to optical discs, or on a plugged-off external drive kept in a bank deposit box provide redundancy against any digital disasters.

Stay Protected with Backups

Losing access to valuable business and personal contacts causes massive headaches. But sticking to a regular backup regimen eliminates that risk.

The methods here provide a layered approach to securely archiving your Outlook contacts, giving complete peace of mind.

With a sound backup strategy combined with Outlook export mastery, your address book will stay protected and portable. No need to worry about contacts getting lost or locked in!

Now that you’re a pro at migrating, sharing, and protecting Outlook contacts, the only remaining hurdle is dealing with pesky errors…

Troubleshooting Contact Transfers

Despite the relative simplicity of exporting and importing Outlook contacts, occasional issues can still crop up.
Let’s review some potential problems and solutions to smooth out any bumps in your Outlook contacts transfers.

Fixing Data Loss

You exported contacts successfully, but some records are missing after importing to the destination. What happened?

A handful of common culprits can lead to partial data loss:

  • File corruption – Open the source CSV in a text editor. If formatting is disrupted, the import may fail. Reexport a fresh CSV.
  • Column mismatch – The import expects certain columns that don’t exist or are mislabeled in your CSV. Adjust headers to match expected fields.
  • Duplicate IDs – The destination platform assigned random new IDs rather than retaining Outlook’s original unique IDs during import. Reimport setting duplicate handling to “Skip” rather than “Replace”.
  • Import errors – Review logs for any records flagged as failing to import due to bad formatting, invalid values, etc. Correct and reimport only those rows.
  • Character encoding – Special characters display incorrectly due to UTF vs ANSI encoding mismatches between Outlook’s CSV and the importer. Specify UTF-8 encoding on export.

Catching these early and troubleshooting will help minimize mystery missing data.

Duplicate Contacts

You imported your Outlook CSV successfully, but now have duplicate contacts everywhere. What happened?

The likely reasons:

  • Repeat imports – Importing the same Outlook CSV multiple times unintentionally duplicates all records.
  • Contacts already existed – Some contacts migrated over from Outlook already had native records in the destination service.
  • Automatic syncing – Ongoing auto-sync between platforms creates copies of new contacts.
  • Multiple CSV exports – If you aren’t overwriting the previous CSV, each export creates more dupes on import.
  • Co-workers’ contacts – Your address book overlaps with teams who natively use the other platform.

Careful importing using the “Skip duplicates” setting prevents the issue. But if dupes sneak in, most contact manager apps provide merge tools to de-duplicate.

Resolving Import Errors

You attempted importing your Outlook CSV but get an error message instead of contacts. Some troubleshooting tips:

  • Review requirements – Ensure your file meets the importer’s formatting standards for column headers, values, extensions, encoding, etc. Tweak if needed.
  • Truncate data – Overly long records can derail imports. Shorten fields and try again.
  • Validate data – Scan for missing required values, invalid formats, or unrecognized characters. Edit then re-import.
  • Break up file – Large CSVs hitting row, column, or size restrictions could trigger an error. Split into multiple smaller files.
  • Update app – Buggy import functionality in outdated platforms can hinder imports. Update to the latest version.
  • Seek support – If all else fails, contact the app developer’s support for assistance investigating issues.

With some trial and error, you can isolate and correct whatever glitch is preventing import. Don’t give up!

Corrupted Contacts Files

Over time, stored contacts files like CSVs and vCards can become corrupted. This often surfaces during transfer attempts.

If you suspect your Outlook exports are damaged, try these troubleshooting steps:

  • Validate data – Open in a text editor to check for malformed records, weird characters, etc.
  • Reexport from Outlook – Don’t reuse old CSVs as the source. Fresh exports avoid carrying over corrupt data.
  • Import to validator app – Web tools like CsvLint flag errors in faulty CSVs.
  • Use cleaner app – VCard Validator confirms vCard integrity.
  • Repair app – Stellar Repair for Contacts fixes common corruption issues.
  • Convert formats – Try exporting from Outlook to vCard instead of CSV, or vice versa.

Catching bum data early avoids headaches down the line! Proactively validate integrity before transfers.

Smooth Sailing Ahead!

With the right preparation and diligence, you can usually circumvent thorny contacts transfer issues.

Careful export procedures plus attention when importing will sidestep many pitfalls. And methodical troubleshooting will rectify slip ups.

Stick to the techniques covered here and you can handle Outlook contacts like a pro! No more frustration or head scratching during your transfers.

We’ve reached the end of our in-depth Outlook contacts tutorial. Read on for some alternative tools to further enhance your address book management…

Alternative Contact Management Tools

While this guide has focused specifically on transferring Outlook contacts, there are lots of other great address book management tools out there.
In this final section, we’ll briefly highlight some alternative contact apps to consider alongside or beyond Outlook.

1. MonicaHQ

Monica is an open source, self-hosted contact and relationship manager. Key features:

  • Available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS and Android
  • Shared contacts for teams
  • CRM-like relationship tracking
  • Calendar and tasks integration
  • Slick UI with photo support

As an installable app, Monica provides more convenience than webmail contact managers. And being open source, it’s completely free without data harvesting.

2. HubSpot Contacts

Popular marketing platform HubSpot includes a built-in contacts database alongside CRM and email.

Benefits include:

  • Tight integration with HubSpot email and ads
  • Contact timeline and history
  • Segmentation and groups
  • Email tracking and notifications
  • Third party integrations (like Google Contacts and Outlook)

The free HubSpot CRM tier supports 1 million contacts – plenty for most.

3. Cobook

Cobook is a fast, focused contact manager for Mac, iOS, and web. Key advantages:

  • Simplicity and ease of use
  • Touch ID integration on iOS
  • Smart profile recommendations
  • Email workspace with highlights
  • Strong Outlook sync support

Cobook prides itself on offering a refined, uncluttered contact experience.

4. Apple Contacts

Don’t overlook the built-in address book on Mac (Contacts) and iPhone (iCloud).

Highlights include:

  • Deep integration with Apple Mail and iWork
  • Native encryption with iCloud Keychain
  • Continuity Camera integration
  • Groups, flags, and notes
  • Support for Exchange contacts sync

Already integrated into your Apple ecosystem, Contacts is a frictionless option.

5. Google Contacts

And of course, Google Contacts tied to your free Google account offers core features:

  • Tight Gmail integration
  • Mobile apps for Android and iOS
  • Contact groups
  • Import/export support
  • Google account security

Simple, straightforward, and already available with your Google login.

Bonus: Contact Management Integrations for CRMs

Most modern CRM platforms like Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive, and dozens more include contact management features or integrate with contact apps.

So if you already pay for a CRM, explore whether it can serve double duty as your address book rather than paying for a standalone contacts product.

Smooth Contacting Ahead!

However you choose to manage your contacts beyond Outlook, the export, import, and backup fundamentals remain the same.

You now have the expertise to reliably move contact data between platforms and keep it safely backed up.

Here’s wishing you smooth sailing ahead as you grow your address book, no matter which tools you use!

Key Takeaways

Migrating contacts from Outlook or collaborating across address books doesn’t need to be difficult or risky. Just remember these best practices:

  • Use the versatile CSV format for exporting Outlook contacts. It integrates smoothly across other platforms.
  • Leverage native import tools in destination services instead of manual entry. Streamline transfers.
  • Clean up data before exporting to minimize formatting issues or corruption down the line.
  • Handle duplicates carefully on import to avoid mass duplication.
  • Review logs for errors and fix faulty records to ensure full transfers.
  • Backup contacts regularly to CSV and secure cloud storage for redundancy.
  • Validate file integrity before transfers to spot potential corruption early.
  • Keep Outlook contacts categorization intact when migrating by exporting folders or categories separately.

With the techniques covered throughout this guide, you can now confidently export, import, share, migrate, back up, and troubleshoot your Outlook contacts like a pro!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I export Outlook contacts to CSV?
A: Use the Import & Export Wizard at File > Open & Export > Import/Export and select the CSV format. You can also manually copy and paste contacts into Excel then save as CSV.

Q: How do I export only my Outlook contacts, not the Global Address List?

A: When using the Export Wizard, choose your default Contacts folder to export just your personal address book. The Global Address List requires different steps to export.

Q: Does exporting Outlook contacts also transfer emails?

A: No, exporting contacts only extracts the contact information itself – names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Email messages and folders remain in Outlook.

Q: Why does my exported Outlook CSV file have blank columns?

A: Outlook exports many extra fields beyond basic contact details. It’s safe to remove unneeded blank columns in Excel before importing elsewhere.

Q: How do I import CSV contacts into Gmail?

A: On Google Contacts, use the Import tool, select your CSV file exported from Outlook, and upload. The contacts will populate in your Google address book.

Q: Can I import multiple Outlook contacts CSV files to Gmail at once?

A: Unfortunately, no. Gmail only allows importing one CSV file at a time. You’ll need to upload each Outlook CSV separately.

Q: How can I tell if my Outlook contacts CSV file is corrupted?

A: Open the CSV in a text editor like Notepad. If the formatting is disrupted or unreadable, the data is likely corrupt and will error on import to other apps.

Q: I lost some contacts after importing to Gmail. How do I restore them?

A: First re-export a fresh CSV from Outlook to avoid transferring over any corrupted contacts. Then use Gmail’s Find & Merge tool to remove any duplicates before reimporting.

Q: What’s the easiest way to regularly backup my Outlook contacts?

A: Exporting to CSV on a routine schedule (such as weekly) and saving to a cloud drive or external storage provides a simple, automated contacts backup.