Backing up contacts from Facebook

People are starting to realize it’s wise to backup information stored on online services like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc. Just as backing up family photos stored on your home PC to a separate disk is a good idea, so is backing up family photos stored on the internet to a disk that’s in your control.

Why? No, your home computer isn’t as reliable as Facebook or Google’s or Microsoft’s servers… but these services “crash” in ways your home computer can’t:

  • Your information’s used in a way you didn’t expect & you want to quit
  • Business changes occur you don’t agree with & you want to quit
  • Online applications you hoped would stand forever disappear& you’re forced to quit

Keeping your information backed up along the way makes it possible to deal with all these scenarios.

Here’s a way to back up contacts from Facebook into a CSV file (“comma separated values”.) We’re using Windows Live to import contacts from Facebook, then exporting from Windows Live to CSV file. The CSV file is convenient because you can open it in Microsoft Excel or any text editing program. Email applications can often import CSV files as well.

A warning: Using this technique, as far as I know, will send an email to each contact’s address inviting that person to also use Windows Live. This appears to be its cost. This is not stated clearly by Windows Live, so I’m warning you here, and I’m hoping Windows Live clarifies & provides opt-out option in the future. I still think it’s worth doing.

Here are the steps:

1) Sign in or sign up at http://people.live.com.

2) On the main screen at http://people.live.com, click “Add People”

 image

3) Select “Facebook” from pull-down list, then click the big arrow.

4) A window containing a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/login.php…) appears asking for your permission to read contacts from Facebook. Yes,  this is what you came here to do, and if you did these steps, yes, that’s really Facebook, not a malicious site.

5) You may have to repeat step 3 and 4; I’m not sure why.

6) Windows Live itself breaks import into 3 Steps, 2 of which are easy: click “Next” on Step 1 of 3, and “Next” on Step 2 of 3.

7) In Step 3 of 3,  I recommend unchecking “Add these people to Windows Live Messenger” and “Also show these people on my profile page”. These options have benefits, but you can always go back into Windows Live contact list & do these things later once you understand what they mean. Regardless of what you check, this is the step that may “Send Invitation”  emails to your friends. Click “Send Invitation” once everything’s just so:

 image 

9) If this isn’t the first time you’ve done this, or you use Windows Live for contact management already, now’s the time to use “Merge” (under “Manage”) to merge any duplicates created by the process back into single contacts. I’ll leave this step up to you; Windows Live makes it easy.

10) Now to export your Windows Live contacts to a CSV file: Click “Export”, under “Manage”:

 image

11) Pass the “are you human?” test:

image

13) Save the CSV file.

There may be some other technique, but this is what I do. I’d love to hear how you do it.

29 thoughts on “Backing up contacts from Facebook

  1. Ashkaan, what stopped working? Maybe it was a temporary or regional issue? My steps seem to be working correctly right now in the US on IE8, although 2 things of note: 1) my step 5 is still a required workaround, at least in IE8, and 2) there are some new contact providers that I don’t recall being there before… maybe there was some downtime when they were added? Or maybe there was some policy change for Facebook along with addition of new providers. I’m only speculating, I have no idea. But anyway, it seems to be working just fine for me at the moment. More info?

  2. So far it seems to be working. Unfortunately I found this after I had copy and pasted to a word document 18 pages of emails (then I realized I couldn’t import from a word document). Can you tell my wife and I are new at this. Thank so much!

  3. It doesnt work because now doesnt keep the contacts in hotmail account since 2 weeks, only works for sending the invitation. Any suggestions ¿?

  4. Hi all… the steps don’t seem to work anymore. I can’t get past steps 4 & 5. The Facebook login doesn’t get me back to Windows Live to import contacts; instead, it takes me to my News Feed. I will leave feedback.

  5. Hi Wade,

    This is still working. Only last night I made a backup of all my contacts on facebook. Works a treat. The only difference I found from your tutorial is that you have to select either ‘Add all to Live Messenger’ or ‘Add contact to profile’. It wouldn’t let me deselect all of these.

    It’s possible that they’re shutting this off by region, but for a UK user, this worked great, so thanks!

  6. there is a greasemonkey script to export phone numbers. see here: http://brad.livejournal.com/2398409.html

    i would not spam my contact list. wish there was a workaround for this. damn microsoft and damn facebook and their evils.

    if you change the user agent of your browser to a mobile device, email addresses are shown in plain text. however, there is no list, it would require trawling each contact individually. this is the kind of thing facebook really doesn’t want.

  7. melchoir, unfortunately I suspect such scripts are trouble with respect to the Facebook TOS. (Yeah, I am not a fan either.) Actually, I’m not clear how Windows Live would get email addresses… as that’d seem out of alignment with the TOS just the same. So I assume that can’t be it. I wonder if it’s just associating with Windows Live IDs, or if response to the spam we deride actually has a purpose? (The reason why: I just noticed that Facebook friends who I’ve never emailed, and so I would only know email address via what they’ve input Facebook, only have an email address in the “Windows Live ID” field.) Anyone done a more conclusive test? I’m starting to doubt my own method now.

  8. Thanks Wade

    Help’t alot, please can you commet on this, i regulery get new contacs on FB and if i woul like to merge them aswell to my gmail account do i have to do the whole exersice again or will windows live only capture those which i dont have in my contacs already.

    Cheers

    Graham

  9. Graham, every time you import only the new contacts will come in. (As Windows Live will store the prior import.) You may find duplicates & have use the Merge/clean-up capabilities as I mention in step 9, for example when someone changed name. You won’t have to do that unless there’s an exception though.

  10. Hello Boss Wade.

    This is an amazing workaround, though I have not tried and succeeded in it. I am in the process.

    Will leave my experience here once done.

    This message is to Salute your ingenuity!

    Cheers.

    Ra.

  11. Hello Boss Wade.

    My 2 cents on the whole process.

    1. Works best with IE. Does not seem to work with Firefox.

    2. The total process took about 1 hour because of step 5. I had to do it about 10 times.

    3. Live account DOES NOT get all the FaceBook contacts in the new category that you just created. (Step 7.) (Showed 24 out of 275 that I have in FaceBook.) In case that happens with you, too-

    -4. Import them again and you will get a page full of “errors while importing” where all the Names and email address shall be displayed.

    5. Copy all the email addresses and paste them on to an Excel file.

    6. Use Data>Text to columns>Delimited. Use ( as the delimiter. The email addresses will be shifted to the next column.

    7. Use Ctrl+H to find all the instances of ) and replace it with nothing.

    8. You will have a new excel file with all the names in fist column and email address in the second.

    9. Export your other CSV files and use them all to get that ONE BIG DATABASE!

    ***************************

    10. Skip all this. Get a Yahoo email account and it allows you to import ALL other accounts in one go and it works, as of today!

    It was NOT there yesterday when I went through the whole rigmarole of all these very many steps! :-P

    *Samay se pehle aur Bhagya se zyaada, kabhi kisi ko kuchh nahi miltaa!*

    Meaning, before due Time and more than due quantity, no one has NEVER received anything.

    Ra.

  12. I just tried it with yahoo, it works very smooth.

    Since it adds the contacts to address book already on yahoo, I used the following steps:
    I exported my current yahoo address book
    Deleted all yahoo contacts
    Imported my FB contacts
    Exported my FB contacts
    Imported my old yahoo contacts.

    I wanted to have a clean FB list, so I can create a seperate outlook file for them.

    Marco

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