Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another Adventure In Computer Disaster Recovery: Contacts

How many times in your life have you keyed in all your contacts, when no import from your previous contact management software was available? I believe this is my fourth or fifth.

I abandoned Evolution for Mozilla Thunderbird, which is what I used on Windows. My only file backup of my contacts is in an Outlook.pst file on an external hard drive; Thunderbird can (theoretically) import those... but only on a Windows computer with Outlook installed! Having an Outlook.pst file alone is not enough!

All I could find is a printed copy of the list from 2005. That, with an occasional assist from my cell phone and from the few hundred emails in the cloud (IMAP), enables me to (groan) re-create the contacts list in Thunderbird's address book, which is decent for the purpose.

Excuse me now. After an afternoon spent, I'm only through the B's...


  1. Bloody Hell Steve it sounds like a big job you have there

  2. Hey, jams, it's midnight, and I got through the F's... and it didn't take all evening. But yes, what a task. I could have used this time in so many better ways.

  3. Bummer! Been there. You might consider, when you are finished, exporting everything to a comma delimited file and/or an Excel spreadsheet. I also copy mine into an Access database file. I do this every couple of months.

  4. fallenmonk, I'm doing that about every 5 letters of the alphabet during data entry, exporting to a tab-separated file. (.csv files are great, but some imports are fussy about embedded commas... tabs are safer.)

    And I did back up my contacts regularly all along, by exporting my Outlook.pst file. I just always assumed that after a crash, I'd again be running on Windows, running Outlook and able to re-import a recent backup. As noted, even Thunderbird will import a .pst, but only if Thunderbird is running on a Windows machine with Outlook installed.

    I'm not sure I did anything stupid. It seems to me I simply couldn't anticipate this bizarre combination of circumstances.

  5. I didn't mean to imply stupidity Steve. It is just that I am a belt and suspenders kind of guy when it comes to backing up important data. I use an external HD for my weekly and all important data files I also back up to DVD. It is only the cost of paper and ink that prevents me from being more paranoid.

  6. I always go with comma delimited because data conversion was a big part of my business at the beginning of the switch after the IBM PC was introduced. RS-232 cables and data conversions were two of our specialties.

    I added a comma to tab converter when Macs took off.

    Pure ASCII text and a good text editor with search/replace are your friends.



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