iCloud keeps adding back / synching unwanted deleted contacts to my iPhone

Discussion in 'Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, Apple Services' started by Hoosh, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Hoosh macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012
    The contacts in my iPhone 5 are unmanageable. I want to clean them up so that when I'm looking for a name I don't have to sift through thousands of unwanted/duplicated contacts. I discovered the reason for so many unwanted contacts being there in the first place and adjusted the settings in my Gmail account so these unwanted contacts don't continue populating. For the purpose of focusing on the answer I'm looking for, from this point on I'm removing Google from the issue at hand. I've got the Google piece under control now and have turned off all options that would connect anything from Google to my current issue.

    Issue: I've cleaned up my contacts list in the Contacts app on my MacBook Pro, but every time I turn the Contacts switch back to "On" in the settings in my iPhone 5 all the old/unwanted/deleted contacts get added back to my phone.

    Here are the steps I took:
    1) Saved my cleaned up contacts list to my computer as back-up.
    2) On my iPhone I went into Settings > iCloud > and flipped the "Contacts" switch to "OFF" so that it would no longer update my contacts over the air.
    3) Deleted all contacts from my iPhone.
    4) Went into the Contacts app on my MBP and deleted all contacts.
    5) Connected my iPhone to my MBP and used iTunes to sync the contacts. I wanted to make sure both devices were synched with NO CONTACTS in either of them, which was the case.
    6) Imported my back-up file into the Contacts app on my MBP and the app now only showed the contacts I wanted.
    7) On my iPhone I went into Settings > iCloud > and flipped the "Contacts" switch back to "ON". I figured this would transfer the cleaned-up list from my computer to my phone.

    Problem: All of my old contacts (thousands of them) start populating back onto the phone rather than the cleaned-up/desired list that is in the MBP Contacts app. I don't understand where these old contacts are coming from. I deleted them off the phone and off the computer and synched the two devices.

    Question: How do I delete the old contacts once and for all, or at least prevent them from being automatically added back to my phone?

    I'm already aware of some work-arounds (i.e. Google Contacts), but am not interested in hearing about those. I simply want to know about iCloud synching contacts between my Apple devices.

    Thanks for any help you may be able to provide.
  2. DefBref macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    Dont switch the syncing off when you delete from the iphone

    All your doing is when you switch it back on the iphone says 'oh look all these contacts in icloud aren't synced, I will sync them now'

    It doesn't know you have just deleted them because you had syncing off.
  3. Hoosh thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012
    As far as I can tell there are no contacts in iCloud when I'm switching it back on.

    When I switched contact syncing to "OFF" on the phone it asked me what I wanted to do with the previously synced iCloud contacts on the phone. I selected "Delete from My iPhone", which seems to suggest it's deleting all iCloud and Phone contacts before it stops syncing (before changing the setting to "OFF"). If I leave the contact syncing in the "ON" position there's no way to delete all contacts on the phone at once. As far as I can tell the only way to do this would be to go through them one at a time and delete them individually, which would take hours.

    I tried leaving contact syncing on (within the phone settings) and using iTunes to delete all contacts, but with syncing still "ON" iTunes only tells me that my contacts are being synced over the air and it doesn't allow me to select/deselect syncing in iTunes. Everything I read previously said to turn syncing to "OFF" on the phone before trying to use iTunes for any kind of syncing/deleting, and I can see why.

    It doesn't seem very intuitive when you can have zero contacts on your phone, zero contacts in your Contacts app on your MBP, and zero contacts in your iCloud account contacts, then sync the phone via iTunes, yet have all the old/unwanted contacts stored elsewhere and watch them all re-populate when you turn syncing back on within the phone settings. Where are all these old/unwanted contacts being stored?

    As usual, I've seen a lot of suggestions to download a 3rd party app to handle deleting all contacts from your phone at once. Is there not a way to do this within Apple's software, while leaving the phone sync setting in the "ON" position?

    I'd like to try DefBref's suggestion to delete all contacts on the phone while the sync setting is still "ON", but I don't want to have to delete thousands of contacts one by one.
  4. DefBref macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    Have logged onto iCloud.com to confirm what contacts are there?

    The message you get on the phone about deleting all contacts when switching iCloud syncing off only applies to the contacts stored on the phone it does not delete them from iCloud as well. It has to be like this otherwise you wouldn't be able to change phones, as if you switched syncing of on a phone your getting rid off and that lost all your iCloud contacts what would be the point of iCloud syncing?
  5. adnbek macrumors 65816


    Oct 22, 2011
    Montreal, Quebec
    Leave syncing on, THEN delete.

    By deleting the contacts while syncing is turned off, the contacts aren't be deleted in iCloud. So when you turn it back on, it's resyncing all those contacts left in iCloud back to your phone.

    By turning off syncing, you are disconnecting your phone from iCloud and it asks if you want to delete them from your phone. (BUT NOT FROM ICLOUD) That way, if your intention was to replace the phone with another, you can restore them back from iCloud on the new device.

    Don't argue with us. Just do it this way.
  6. Hoosh thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012
    adnbek, I'm not arguing with you or anyone. I'm simply trying to figure out how to do this. I've followed all advice so far and nothing is working. I asked in my last post how to delete all contacts at once without turning off syncing and I haven't receive an answer to that yet.

    Do you know how to delete thousands of contacts on the phone at once without turning iCloud syncing off?


    Yes. On my MBP I clicked on System Preferences > iCloud, then logged in. I unchecked Contacts and it asked me "Do you want to keep a copy of your iCloud contacts on this Mac?" I selected "Delete from Mac". When I open the Contacts app on my MBP it is now empty.

    I've also gone to icloud.com, selected all, and deleted everything there.

    In addition to this I went into Settings (on my phone) > iCloud > Storage & Backup and clicked "Back Up Now" after all contacts were deleted on my phone, computer and in iCloud.

    Same things happens though. When I flip the switch back to "ON" (in my phone settings) all the old contacts start re-populating.

    Thank you for your replies/suggestions. Keep 'em coming if you have more ideas.
  7. DefBref macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    Stop unchecking syncing everywhere!!

    Just make sure everything is in sync and still syncing and then choose the most appropriate/easiest place to delete/sort/edit your contacts. As you update them everything will update.
  8. tootall macrumors regular

    Apr 17, 2011
    Quebec, Canada
    I am with the people above, but if it still does not work, just delete the contacts from iCloud...
  9. Hoosh thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012
    Solution Found

    I discovered why I was having so many issues getting this process to work. It brings me back to old memories of frustrations with Apple.

    Many years ago I unintentionally created two Apple IDs. The original I created when I bought my first iPod and knew nothing about iTunes or anything Apple. That iPod was stolen and I never actually used my Apple ID for anything. Years later when I bought a new iPod and actually started using iTunes and needed an Apple ID I was no longer using the email address that was associated to my original ID, so I signed up using my new email address. I thought I was just updating my email address, but it turns out I actually created a second Apple ID.

    When I discovered this I went to Apple and asked if I could either merge the two IDs or delete the original one. They told me neither of those were options and that I'd just have to keep both of them. This response frustrated me because I envisioned issues down the line. Throughout the following years I ended up logging in using both Apple IDs, but tried to migrate to the one connected to my new email address.

    Since I haven't been using my old Apple ID I didn't even think to log in with that to see if these old/unwanted contacts were being stored under that account. I honestly forgot I even had two different IDs. Since I just remembered this I tried logging in with it and sure enough all my old contacts were being stored out there. So every time I'd delete the old contacts and check my iCloud it was bringing me to my new account and showing no contacts. Now that I logged into my old account and deleted the contacts there it is syncing with my phone and showing only the contacts I want.

    So I had been trying all kinds of suggestions and nothing was working because my phone was tied to a different iCloud account. How frustrating!!!

    If only I was able to get rid of the duplicate Apple ID years ago (I've actually asked Apple about it multiple different times throughout the years) I would never have gone through all these troubles with updating my contacts list.

    I honestly don't understand why Apple has taken such a strong stance against merging duplicate accounts. It's clearly a wide-spread issue. It's not as if they "can't" do it, it's that they "won't" do it.

    Anyway, I'm happy to have figured this current problem out, but a bit peeved that my prediction years ago did indeed come true and bit me in the a**.

    Thanks to those of you who responded to my request for help. There was obviously no way for you to know the real roadblock to the solution, but I appreciate you taking the time to help me and hopefully this thread will help out others in a situation such as mine.
  10. ugahairydawgs macrumors 68030


    Jun 10, 2010
    Do you know of any other service out there like iCloud that lets you merge accounts like that? Google, Microsoft, Yahoo....none of them do that.
  11. sabria93 macrumors newbie

    Oct 3, 2013
    I'm not too sure if you've figured it out but I've been googling on how to get rid of old contacts (seeing them as you type in a letter) and with the ios7 update you are NOW allowed to type in for instance - A and say your deleted "Aaron" you can click on the information icon next to (whatever name you want to permanently delete from your phone) and select "Remove from Recents" in red - and its gone! I just did it with maybe 50 contacts I've deleted last year but have been haunted by them still remaining in my phone someone but not my contacts list. I hope this has helped out :) I couldn't be happier with ios7!!!
  12. protebell macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2014
    For some reason, my Contacts completely disappeared few hours ago. I was actively using my phone for text messaging and browsing Twitter (using Twitter app) when I noticed that the names of the people I was texting were no longer showing up in the Messages window, only their numbers.

    When I went to Settings -> Mail, Contacts & Calendar -> iCloud, I noticed everything except "Find My iPhone" had been turned off.

    Fortunately I was able to restore most (I think?) of the contacts from iCloud by re-enabling the sync settings (i.e.,, turning them back on), but a few seem to be missing and my custom tone settings have disappeared.
  13. timberfish macrumors newbie

    Jun 24, 2004
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree, there aren't any I know of that do this that are exactly like iCloud. But what makes iCloud unique and problematic is that there's no interface to fully manage the data that it stores. Dropbox is pretty easy as you'd just do it via your OS's file manager (Finder, Explorer, etc...) Also, Dropbox will transfer your referral bonuses and other account related info to a new account if you submit a ticket. Then there are services like Disqus which have an automated account merging tool. And YouTube has made some effort to allow this with Google accounts, although it's not completely simple or effective.

    I think the real issue in this case is that it's not good design on Apple's part to try and remove data by checking/unchecking things on every device that's being synced and hope for the results you want.

    I actually have a severe issue that no one at the Apple Store or at Apple tech support has been able to solve. I have my ex's iCloud email account showing up and syncing under the Internet Accounts section of System Preferences. They've all tried walking me through various ways of removing the ghost account. Even went as far as doing a fresh install on 3 of my 4 devices and then removing it on my 1 remaining. Nothing worked and this is after dealing with escalated support directly from Apple. The best guess is that I can remove the account if I can get the login information from my ex. Since she no longer has her login info and doesn't use that account, it's pretty much dead in the water unless they do something to address this in a future OS update (from Apple support).

    As a developer I've scoured forums (Apple dev & consumer) as well as worked on my own code solutions. After all this and talking to many Apple developers the consensus is that iCloud is very poorly designed and so heavily automated (without smart automation) that these issues are not only more and more common, but often cripple system performance and have no solution other than turning off iCloud altogether.

    Sadly what we all must wait for is Apple to make some major changes to iCloud, offer users an advanced UI, and allow for an entire account reset to flush ALL data and start from scratch (this is currently not possible).

    Best of luck to the OP on the issue.
  14. ondersc1 macrumors newbie


    Apr 30, 2008
    Northern California East Bay

    Similar Issue, although I admit I haven't read every word of every post in this long saga ....
    I completely edited all my contacts in my MacBook over several days (700+) and when they did not upload to iCloud but instead took the bad ones back down, I turned off my wi-fi connection, completely updated my Address Book in MacBook AGAIN, then exported that to an .abbu file as well as a vCard file. Then I deleted all the contacts from iCloud and iPhone. Then I turned wi-fi back on, imported the good contacts back into MacBook. BUT iCLOUD now has a partial version of my contacts containing deleted contacts, as well as some pre-editing and post-editing. Where on earth did these come from? In Address Book/Preferences/General it shows two accounts: iCloud and Mac. Where it says "Default Account" I selected "On my Mac" figuring this is how to tell it not to override these contacts with the bad stuff now on iCloud.

    FYI I have an early 2008 MacBook OSX 10.7.5 and iPhone 4S with IOS 7.1 Also have iPad2 IOS 7.1 and late 2009 iMac OSX 10.7.5 which now have the bad iCloud contacts on them.

    HELP HELP HELP!! I'm ready to dump iCloud!!
  15. bmush macrumors newbie

    Jul 28, 2014
    Something with iCloud

    I have a similar problem with recent email addresses showing up after a complete wipe and reset.

    Then I exported my contact from my MBP, created a new iCloud account and all was well until I imported my contact list in. After this, all of my recent email addresses repopulated my phone.

    I even tried deleting all my contact in iCloud and still the same result.

    The only way I could get around this issue was to create a new iCloud account and then manually re-enter contacts. I've been working with this now for about 3 weeks.

    Once I manually added the data, I've been clean since. I then setup a forwarding rule in iCloud so that hopefully at some point I can really delete the recents and return to my original Apple ID.

    I even reformatted my MBP just to clear all the Mobile Sync files... It's been a frustrating few weeks.

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