You may know the dread of checking your contacts only to find that some (or all) of them have been deleted. And it’s a real pain to try to piece that information back together. Fortunately for those who use Google Contacts, all hope is not lost. You can, in fact, restore your contacts within 30 days of losing them. The downside is that the process is pretty ham-fisted, devoid of details such as which contacts are actually missing.

How to restore lost contacts

The process takes just a few clicks. First, navigate to Google Contacts in your web browser. Next, click the cog near your profile picture on the top right of your screen. Out of the two options that pop up, select Undo changes.

Here's what the cog and resulting menu look like.

What you’ll then see is a window asking you how far back you want to revert your contacts list. The default options range from 10 minutes to a week ago. However, if you select Custom at the bottom, you can manually enter how long ago you want to revert to, with a max of 30 days. Once you’ve selected or entered a time, simply click Undo at the bottom right of that window. If your contacts vanished within the period you selected, they should reappear on your device shortly.

This is where you can select how long ago to restore to.


Limitations of Google Contact restoration

Obviously, being able to restore your contacts list after it’s been wiped out is fantastic. But if you want more control over the process, you’re not going to find it.

The main issue is that, unlike Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos, there is no trash bin. In other words, there’s no way to tell who’s been deleted from your contacts. This seems like it would be a very simple feature to integrate. Additionally, the system doesn’t warn you about contacts that will be deleted when you restore to a previous state. If you added anyone to your contacts, say, a week ago, but restore it to the state it was in two weeks ago, those more recent additions will not remain and you won't be told about it.

To avoid losing contacts this way, we'd recommend exporting a backup first. On the sidebar to the left, click Export, and then select Export in the window that pops up. Save that file somewhere you'll easily be able to find it. Now that you have this backup, go ahead with the contact restoration. If you don't like what you see, click Import on that same left sidebar (or Import contacts in the center of your screen next to the Create contact option) and then press the Select file button in the resulting window. Once you've selected your backup file, click Import in the bottom right of that window to restore the backup.

Here's what the Export and Import options look like.

On top of all this, the feature is simply unintuitive. Aside from the process itself being straightforward, the option is ambiguously named Undo changes. This just doesn’t advertise the function of the feature to the user.