Eliminate Contacts Sync Error with iPad

| How-To

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.

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What I want to know is how to sync my computer address book to my iPhone address book without jumping through multiple hoops, not the other way around…
My iPhone, as that is what I carry with me everywhere, is where my new and updated contacts are, but my computer is always getting uppity and trying to delete them thinking it has the most updated contact info.
That’s very annoying.

John Martellaro

trussrigger. When I make changes on my iPhone, a sync puts them in my Mac address book.  When I make changes to my Mac’s address book, the next sync puts the changes on my iPhone.

Perhaps if you step through the process above, it’ll clear out the iTunes cobwebs and get things working.  After all, thats the whole idea behind a 2-way sync.

Let us know how it goes.


I think the biggest problem is that the iPhone pushes to MobilMe yet my computer Syncs “Automatically”...I think the Auto isn’t so Auto…So if it hasn’t sync’d before I go to Sync my phone, then I get my ‘puter getting snarky.
Having to add that extra step of making sure my ‘puter is up to date before I can sync my phone to avoid _that_ hassle is the hassle.

John Martellaro

Ahh… I don’t use MobileMe for syncing—just device to device.  I’ve heard about lots of problems with MobileMe syncing, which is why I’ve stayed away from it.  Anyone else have suggestions or thoughts?


I always use MobileMe, and I’ve yet to have a problem. Simply don’t do both (tether and MobileMe).


Too many former Microsoft programmers are working for Apple these days; clarity, intuitiveness, simplicity are suffering. Good programmers stay late so the user has an easy time of it; bad programmers go home early since “that will work”.

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