Eliminate Contacts Sync Error with iPad

Occasionally, when syncing your iPad (or other iOS device) contacts via iTunes, you’ll see an alarming message that most or all of your contacts are about to be changed — and they don’t need to be. Here’s how to fix that and avoid accidentally losing all your contacts.

Let’s say you’re casually about the business of connecting your iOS device to iTunes on your Mac or PC. Suddenly you get an alert box from iTunes that’s labelled “Data Change Alert” and it says that that 100% (or some other alarmingly high number) of your contacts will be changed by this synchronization. This error can crop up, unexplained, and you may be concerned that if you make a wrong move, you could lose all your contacts on the Mac. I’ve encountered that error myself, and there’s no explanation. Sometimes iTunes just gets confused. Here’s a good way to proceed safely.

1. Cancel the alert message.

2. Back up your address book. Launch the Address book and look at the File menu. Select Export. That will write out a complete copy of your address book database in case something goes wrong. If it does, you can use the Import function to put it all back in place.

Addr Book File menu

Addr Book Export

3. Back in iTunes, select the Info tab. Note the check box, marked in red here: Deselect it.

iTines Info tab


As soon as you deselect the check box, you’ll get a message like this:

iTunes De-sync

iTunes Desync

The language is a bit ambiguous, but what it’s saying is that all the contacts will be removed from the iPad. That’s what you want. Click on “Remove Contacts.”

4. Now, in iTunes, immediately recheck the box “Sync Address Book Contacts.” On the bottom right of iTunes, click the “Sync” button. All your contacts will be re-synced from the Mac to the iOS device. With luck, you shouldn’t see any more Address Book error messages when connecting.