How to Transfer Contacts With a USB Drive

Your contacts file will need minimal flash drive space.
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Your list of contacts may seem like your lifeline to the world, so it's important to keep the information up-to-date and readily available. Though many online services are available to keep your contact list backed up, it may be prudent to also store the content on an external storage device -- like a flash drive -- so you also have a method of transferring or accessing your contacts even when an Internet connection is not readily available.

  • Flash drive with available storage space

1 Transferring from a Webmail Account or ICloud

2 To ensure

Sync your smartphone's contacts to ensure there is a fresh version of the data available in iCloud or in your Web mail account. See Tips for device-specific backup information.

Plug your flash drive in an available USB port on your computer.

Log in to your Web mail account and launch the export feature. In Google, for example, click "Gmail" and select "Contacts," then click "More" and select "Export." In, click the down arrow next to "Outlook" and switch to "People," then click "Manage" and select "Export."

Follow the on-screen prompts to export your contact information to your chosen file format. When asked for a save-to location, navigate to the drive that represents the flash storage before you complete the export.

Unplug the flash drive so it can be shared and the contact data imported into other computer applications or Web mail accounts.

3 Transferring from Outlook Desktop

Launch the program you use to manage your contacts on your computer. For example, launch Outlook on a PC or Address Book on a Mac.

Plug your flash drive in an available USB port on your computer.

Select "File | Options | Advanced | Export."

Click "Export to a File" and select "Next."

Select the file format you wish to use for the exported file and click "Next."

Choose the contact list you wish to export and then click "Browse," choose the flash drive folder and enter a name in the "File Name" field. Click "OK" and then "Next."

Click "Finish" to begin the export and allow a few moments for the process to complete.

Unplug the flash drive so it can be shared and the contact data imported into other computer applications or Web mail accounts.

4 Transferring from Apple Address Book

Plug your flash drive into an available USB port and launch Apple Address Book.

Launch your Finder and select your flash drive storage in the navigational pane on the left.

Highlight those contacts you wish to export -- you can select all of them by pressing "Command-A" on your keyboard.

Drag the highlighted contacts out of the Address Book window and into your flash drive storage as it appears in the Finder window. A VCARD file will be created for each of the individual contacts.

  • If you use the People app on a Windows 8 machine to manage your contacts, the data will be synced to the primary Microsoft email you've configured for the app and can then be exported using the Web interface.
  • To manually initiate a wireless sync from an iPhone running iOS 7 to iCloud, launch Settings and tap "iCloud." Sign in with your Apple ID and password if prompted and then ensure that "Contacts" is enabled for syncing. Tap "Storage & Backup" and select "Back Up Now." You can also connect your iPhone to a computer via iTunes, switch to the "Contacts" tab to configure your sync settings and then process the sync over USB to your computer's hard drive.
  • On a device running Android OS 4.0 or higher, sync settings can be found by swiping downward on the Notifications bar and tapping the gear icon. Select "Accounts," tap "Google" and select your primary Gmail account. Ensure that "Contacts" is enabled and tap "Sync Now" to transfer to Gmail.
  • On a Windows Phone 8, swipe left on the Start screen to the App list, tap "Settings," select "Email + Accounts." Select "Microsoft" and tap the name of the primary account you use to back up the phone. Ensure "Contacts" is enabled and tap "Sync."
  • With BlackBerry OS 7.1, select "Setup" and launch "Email Accounts." Select "Internet Mail Account" and enter your username and password if prompted. Select the email account you'll be using for syncing and select "Edit." Ensure "Contacts" is enabled, click "Save" and then enter your email account's password to initiate the synchronization. If you're operating on BlackBerry OS 10, swipe down from the top of the Home screen and tap the gear icon. Select "Accounts" and tap the account you want to use for syncing. Ensure "Contacts" is enabled and tap "Done" to initiate syncing. If you prefer to use the BlackBerry Desktop Software on your computer instead, connect your device, click "Organizer" and ensure that your contacts are configured to sync to the appropriate place on your computer. Click "Sync" to finish.
  • If given the choice while exporting, select the CSV format if you intend to view the data in a spreadsheet or use it in a non-Apple email client like Outlook, Yahoo or Gmail. If you intend to use the contacts in the Apple Address Book, choose the VCARD format instead.

Based in Tampa, Fla., Danielle Fernandez been writing, editing and illustrating all things technology, lifestyle and education since 1999. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Tribune, Working Mother magazine, and a variety of technical publications, including BICSI's "Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual." Fernandez holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of South Florida.