Duplicate contact folders?

If you’ve been using computers and Outlook for as long as I’ve have, you probably have had occasion to need to migrate from one computer to another and take your entire Outlook with you. You’ve spent a lifetime configuring and getting Outlook to respect your tastes.

One of the things that happens when you migrate to a new computer and setup Microsoft Office on it and start up your Outlook for the first time, it goes and creates an empty “Outlook profile” for you. There is no simple way (at least from a UI perspective, IMHO) to go and stop this. Outlook will always go and create an empty profile for you, the first time you start it. This is basically the reason that you actually get the duplicate contact folders problem in Outlook.

The typical prosumer / geek way of backing up Outlook for moving it to a new machine involves finding the profile’ PST file (typically in C:\Documents and Settings\YourWindowsUserName\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook) and copying it over to the new machine. Suppose you do manage to attach the old data file to your new Outlook and get your basic email / tasks / calendar working again, the one thing that typically screws up is the Contacts. Outlook retains the old data file that was created (at least the Contacts part) and shows it to you in various parts of the UI. This can become most irritating especially when Outlook still retains the Contacts from the data file that it default-created as your default Contacts repository even though you have no contacts in it. All “To:“ button clicks, address book lookups, etc. will default to this Contacts repository with a UI option to switch repositories via a drop down list box which displays a stupendously amazing list of two items, both showing the single, innocuous word, “Contacts”, leaving you to figure out which-is-which.

Now for the good news: It’s a pretty simple matter to eliminate this problem. Just use the “Tools – Email accounts” option and instead of selecting the normal Add / Change email account option, notice the bottom portion that you have become trained to turn a blind eye to, “Directory”. Use the “View or change existing directory or address books” option to receive a heretofore undiscovered dialog that lets you figure out a way to set Outlook’s address book selection preference and optionally even delete an address book. Yup that’s what you want to do. Only, you’ve got to figure out which particular “Contacts” book you’ve to delete, they are both named the exact same thing.

So, if you’ve been following me so far, I think it should be a simple matter for you to figure out the correct address book and delete it. The other address book quickly becomes the default and Outlook starts looking up contacts correctly again.

Or you could take the 0.5 probability chance to just delete the repository that shows by default. Is it the first
item, could it be any one of the two, if you’re willing to take the gamble, you have a good 50% chance of success. I took it and was rewarded suitably enough to write this. However, I *do* recommend a full backup of your PST file if you’re actually going to go ahead and try this. DO NOT come back to me and tell me, “What you asked me to do ended up with me losing ALL my contacts.” You were warned.

Do tell me if you’ve ever experienced this problem, and your experiences with above solution. I’ve not taken the time/effort to create screenshots and upload them yet, but I will, if anyone finds it necessary. Do post a comment if you want this.

While listening to: Juno ReactorContact

One thought on “Duplicate contact folders?”

  1. hey..I just read through and would like to know if you are doing this to actually save your outlook emails If so, Is backup not a solution?

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