How to fix VCF/vCards importing errors in iCloud

Synching contacts into iCloud

Importing your contacts into iCloud is a handy option to sync your contacts among your iDevices like iPhone. This will be also useful when you want to copy your contacts from non-apple devices into your iDevices.

vCard/vcf is a popular contacts interchange format and supported in almost all the modern phones and e-mail programs such as Microsoft outlook.


Recently I have noticed something interesting when I tried to import my vcard contact files into iCloud. When I tried to drag my vCard contact files into iCloud interface it was throwing error as – Unable to import vCard.


iCloud - Unable to import vCard Error

iCloud – Unable to import vCard Error

The error message will not say anything specific about what caused the error, the learn more button will lead to a support page would not be much helpful either.

After researching a little I have figured out iCloud requires the minimum of vCard(.vcf) version 3.0 whereas many of the software and phones would create vCard(.vcf) version 2.1 or lower.

So the solution is to convert the vCard files into compatible format – version 3.0 or above. Fortunately for the purpose of iCloud import, the conversion can be done easily and yourself. All you need is a good text editor.

I am explaining the steps to convert the vCard version 2.1 to 3.0 here using the textpad (my favorite text editor!).

Step 1 – Download and install the textpad from http://www.textpad.com/download/index.html

Step 2 – Open a blank textpad window

vcard/vcf version change with textpad

Step 3 – Drag all your vCard (.vcf) files into the textpad window. If you have 1000s of contacts I would recommend processing them in 2 or 3 batches so not to crash the application.

Converting vCard/VCF version 2.1 to 3.0 with textpad


Step 4 – Open the Replace window (shortcut key – F8), shown below.

iCloud vcf/vcard import errors


Step 5 – Fill/Configure the details like shown below

Find what – VERSION:2.1

Replace With – VERSION:3.0

Choose All documents open under scope group

Press the Replace all button

iCloud vcf/vcard import errors

This will change the version number to 2.1 to 3.0 in all the files


Step 6 – Save all files (Shortcut key Ctrl+Shift+S), or File > Save All

Now the vCards can be dragged into iCloud to add the contacts. However iCloud drag interface creates a lot of issues when multiple files dragged together (some random files will be skipped from importing). So it is a good practice to merge the vCard files together into a single .VCF file. Fortunately there is an easy option available to merge the vCard files together into a single file that you can do it yourself without any special tools

Step 7 – Open the command prompt (Start > Run > Cmd)

Step 8 – Navigate to the folder where vCard/.VCF files are stored. For example, if you have all your vCards stored in folder??c:\vcf then type command as cd c:\vcf and enter

Step 9 – Now type this command copy *.vcf combined.vcf

This command will combine all .vcf files into a single file named combined.vcf



Merging Multiple vCards/.VCF into single .VCF with Command Prompt

Merging Multiple vCards/.VCF into single .VCF with Command Prompt


Now you can close the textpad and command prompt window and try to drag this single combined.vcf file into iCloud contact interface again and all your contacts should now import without any errors.

vCard Contacts import into iCloud


You can follow these steps for copying your contacts from Samsung phone contacts into iPhone as well. I have earlier wrote a separate post to cover the steps for??transferring contacts from Samsung to iPhone

If you want to export the vCard files from outlook you can refer this post for steps -How to bulk export vCards from outlook

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  1. Tim says:

    Excellent! Quick, painless, free. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Still had to import them one at a time via icloud, but with only 100 contacts that was manageable. Wish I had found it earlier :(

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback. There is a trick to drag all the contacts at once instead of one by one. I will update my post to include that technique.

      1. ab says:

        hey when i convert and save the contact from version 1 to 3. It fail to open and gives the following error
        “An unknown error occurred while performing the requested action on this contact”.
        Help plz

  2. electron says:

    The post updated for additional steps to merge vcards together and import into iCloud in one shot

  3. TJ says:

    I have been struggling to get my contacts to my iphn5. Waiting to get home today and try the above….fingers crossed:)

    1. electron says:

      Good luck! Do let me know if the instructions on this post helped.

  4. TJ says:

    I got the combined vcf:).
    However I got the following message: 295 contacts could not be imported because there was a problem reading the vCards.

    Also after I sync my iphone 5, the contacts from iCloud do not appear in my phone contact list. Please Help!!

    1. electron says:

      Can you copy one of the contact’s detail in here. I would like to check what format it is in (you can fake the name and contact details in it, i just want to check the format/structure of one of the contact)

      1. ctulhoo says:


        1. electron says:

          Sorry i could not understand what you are asking for, could you clarify?

          1. Anonymous says:

            You asked example contact detail here
            Here is mine and is not working by your way. I changed 2.1 to 3.0 already as you can see

        2. electron says:

          Sorry for the delay! I see that your VCF has some formatting error (not sure where they are exported from). After defining the chars set you will have to replace the ; with :
          Like this– windows-1251;Bakhit to windows-1251:Bakhit for all the instances. You can use the textpad to perform a mass find and replace for windows-1251; to windows-1251: and try to reimport again

  5. SR says:


  6. Hooligan says:

    You rock! Thanks a ton for providing the web with this info!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad to know it helped.

  7. JCB1 says:


    That worked so easy – changing 2.1 (my old Palm format!) to 3.0 and I got everything into icloud. I am going to have to clean up so stray odd characters – but the bulk of the date is there and looks good!

    Now if I can figure out how to import my old Palm calendar!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Glad to know it helped.

  8. Tim H says:

    Excellent advice

    Many thanks …

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback!

  9. Matt says:

    For those having problems

    I found the problem with my contacts was the country code on the phone numbers

    I’m in UK most were +44
    so did a replace of +44 with 0 (as normally the leading zero is dropped for uk numbers)
    and then saved the VCF file
    and icloud imported them in one go – about 200 or so in one file.

    hope it helps someone!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for sharing the tip! I am sure it will help others.

  10. Harrie K says:

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH, it worked perfect: all of my 371 contacts in one go! When you know it, everything is easy, thanks to you it became easy!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Harrie. Glad to know it helped.

  11. Amit says:

    Hey, A quick fix is to import the .vcf file to google contacts and then export them as vcf. Believe me the new file works in icloud.

    1. electron says:

      Interesting and thanks for sharing that tip! I am sure it will help others. I will try this approach and update my post if it works

  12. Owala says:

    Super thanks a million that was short and sweet and worked like a charm. I use EditPlus 3 it works similarly.

    It need a bit of old fashioned DOS, but it saved a hell of a lot of time…

    1. electron says:

      Hey, thanks for the feedback. Glad to know your time saved!

  13. Mopo says:

    For some reason I keep getting those error messages for some of my condacts, even though the vCards are all in version 3.0… here is an example:

    N;ENCODING=CHARSET=UTF-8:White;Walter <3
    PHOTO;ENCODING=BASE64;TYPE=(long link to a picture I not nescessary to link here)
    TEL;TYPE=CELL;VOICE:+1 (000) 000-1000

    1. electron says:

      Hey there! If i take out the ‘photo’ line and try to drag the card it loads into iCloud. Could your picture encoding has some issue, not sure. But with the ones you have issue, you can delete try delete the line starts with PHOTO save the file(s) and try to re-import again? Let me know if that helps.

  14. kalyan says:

    Thank you so much, it helps us a lot, i was struggling for this issue, but now my problem resolved, and one more observation is, I have few contacts from my andriod, which are exported into vcf file without name and first name (‘N’, ‘FN’) only Email id is saved, those contacts are unable to load in icloud, which i later deleted from my VCF and loaded the proper file….

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback and sharing your experience Kalyan!

  15. Ninan George says:

    Thanks buddy for that great tip. Well done.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Ninan!

  16. Felipe says:

    Thank you! Great tip! It works!


    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Felipe!

  17. Ramanuj Bhattacharya says:

    Thanks a lot for the information. I looked at various places before. But nobody had the answer like you. Thanks again.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Ram! Glad to know it helped.

  18. Sumanth says:

    thank you very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    after nearly 5 hrs of searching got the solution. :)

    1. electron says:

      Hey, thanks for the feedback! Glad to know it helped.

  19. Tung says:

    Excellent!!! Easy to understand.

    1. electron says:

      Hey Tung, thanks for the feedback

  20. Watdog says:

    This was by far the most useful article I have found on any forum thus far. Thank you. You legend!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback!

  21. Chip says:

    It would have been helpful to explain now to transfer the Contact files to the text editor. I tried exporting Contacts to my desktop, then dragging them into TextEdit, but that didn’t work.

    1. electron says:

      Hi chip, You can try textpad used in my steps to drag all the files at once

  22. Chip says:

    Drag the files from where? Finder? If so, where in Finder? drag from the Contacts app? that was my question…

    1. electron says:

      Ok, i assumed you would have all the contact files stored in your computer already. Depending our your source (e.g. outlook) contacts export option varies. What is your source (where all the existing contacts stored?). I am not sure what you mean by “Finder” is it a software?

  23. Ramprasath says:

    thanks a lot.. i thought 1st it wont work out.. but great tip.. i copied all ma contacts.. :)

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the taking time to provide feedback Ram!

  24. Kike says:

    I changed the version but it still doesn’t work… Here I leave you the card example


    1. electron says:

      Hey kike, The format/fields not seems to be valid for me either. Where they are exported from? Compare the standard VCF format exported from outlook or google contact for reference.

      1. Kike says:

        Thans in advance, they are exported from samsung Kies. I’ll try other ways, thank you very much!

  25. Manju Gandhi says:

    ii could not upload n icloud even after converting to vcard 3.0
    pls help

    1. electron says:

      Hi Manju, I would recommend that you import you rVCF files into outlook and export it to a standard vcf format. Your format slightly seems different than outlook vcf format.

  26. Scott says:

    I tried the trick above but it would not import. Here is a sample of my vcard file:

    N:Check Balance;;;;
    FN: Check Balance

    This was exported from T-Mobile online.



    1. electron says:

      Hi scott, if this format does not works, then try importing this into outlook and export it to a standard vcf format that icloud could import. If you are not sure how i have many posts around importing and exporting vcf from outlook on my blog (checkout posts index section for this)

  27. Anonymous says:

    great thx….i got really frustrated about this.

  28. Aidan says:

    Thanks a million for your guide. Quick and simple to follow!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Aidan!

  29. Limm says:

    This was good. I am phobic to programmers thinks such as the “command..” and needed a little help, i didn’t know those “dir..” and that stuff. But this article was the solution for me to import 489 contacts, thanks God i already have them in the iphone. Thanks.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Not able to import contacts despite changing the version from 2.1 to 3.0
    My contact details read like this:


  31. Imke says:

    Thank you a lot for this instruction. Now I was able to add all contacts into the icloud which i have exported from Nokia Ovi Suite. I thought I will be mad because of the failure notices during import. I haven’t understodd why this wasn’t working. Your site was the solution which saved a lot of time and my nerves. Without this side I would have written all contacts new….

  32. Darren says:

    You star! Thank you for this. M mum will be most pleased when she wakes.

  33. Luis Morales says:

    Thank you for your help, It worked wonderful!!

  34. Kris says:

    Sigh . . . this is not working for me. This is so frustrating. I’m an admin and was given the job to move hundreds (I didn’t count – maybe 1,000s) of contacts from Outlook to icloud. I cannot install textpad on my computer and so far this doesn’t seem to work with notepad.

    Am I missing something by “dragging the vcards into the textpad window”. Exactly what do you mean? Sorry to be dumb but exactly from where do I drag this info? Explain to me like I’m 5.

    I’m using Outlook 2010 & my fellow admin (who also has hundreds of contacts to move to icloud) is using 2013.

    I have so much to do and can’t believe something that should be simple is so overly complex! I’m having strong feelings of loathing towards both Microsoft & Apple.

  35. shiva says:

    Thank you very much!!!! works very well (version 2.1 to 3)

  36. Ty Hann says:

    BRILLIANT! Worked the first time. So much better than routing everything through Outlook or Gmail. Thank God I found this page today!

  37. Australian Graeme says:

    Thanks, this was the quickest safe fix. Not surprised at how in flexible apple seem to be with this problem. Thanks again your brilliant.

  38. Piseth says:

    Fantastic fix! You’ve saved my day.

  39. Martino says:

    thank you very much … I was getting crazy or better I wanted to switch to Android …!!

  40. Vinod says:


    I couln’t able to upload to iCloud even after changing the version to 3.0. I have exported these contacts from samsung kies. Can you please help me ..
    Thank you in advance.

  41. zach says:

    downloded text pad, imported vcard… but when i tried to replace VERSION 2.1 to VERSION 3, its saying it cant find literal VERSION 2.1….plz help

  42. Dixon says:

    Worked like a charm (I used Notepad by the way). Thank you!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for feedback Dixon!

  43. Boris says:

    Also a million thanks from me!
    One Point: If you combine first then the replace is much easyer because of only one file to do with normal notepad… ;-)

    Anyway Apple SUCKS !

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for feedback and sharing your experience Boris!

  44. biscuit says:

    You are a life saver. I spent hours looking up forums on apple support and none of them helped.. Thank you for saving my contacts lol. And the images helped a lot. Kudos to you bro.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for feedback!

  45. Pati says:

    You are amazing! I would never come up with the solution!!!! You are my hero! Thank you :) :) :)

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Pati!

  46. Storm says:

    If you concatenate the files using cmd (as you so nicely explained) you can then use the windows text file editor to do the global change of version 2.1 to 3.0. Saves learning how to use a new text editor.

    But, thank you,thank you,thank you,thank you!

    1. electron says:

      I agree! Thanks for sharing that time saving tip!

  47. Jim says:

    Thank You Thank You !!.
    Apple needs to have this instruction in their FAQ.
    FWIW: I reversed your steps [did the merge first, and then used Notepad’s find & “replace all” to fix the version entries] Worked like a champ.
    You saved the day :-)

    1. electron says:

      Thanks Jim for sharing your experience and feedback! I am glad to know the info. helped you.

  48. Wiley Post says:

    This worked great. I exported 198 contacts from Yahoo as a single vcf file. Opened it with WordPad and then did the find and replace and changed the version to 3.0 just as you describe. I did a file save and just overwrote the existing file. When I went to iCloud, I clicked on import and chose the new file and it was done in less than 10 seconds. They all imported perfectly.
    THANKS!! There are a number of sites that have posted solutions, but yours was the easiest and quickest.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience and feedback Wiley!

  49. Nicolas says:

    Thank you man! i love you, i thinked what i cant import my contacts

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Nick.

  50. bill says:

    Spending hours trying to import from CSV or Vcard and it’s not working (tried all of the above). How could Apple suck so badly in such an easy and common activity. Time for Droid.

    1. electron says:

      I am with you on this!

  51. puneet sinha says:

    Love you man!
    you helped me big times!

  52. Danh says:

    I saved the contacts from Blackberry to vcf and combined as your advice but still failed to import to iCloud. Please help!

    The code is just same as Mopo above with the “…error in reading vCard…” from iCloud.

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