Contacts are missing when you click the To button

Last reviewed on May 26, 2013   —  25 comments

If you have Contacts in Microsoft Outlook's Contacts folder but they are not accessible when you click on the To button, check these settings:

Are you using the "wrong" view?

Is Name Only selected at the top of the Address book dialog? When More Columns is selected as the Search option, the address book will only display names if you search.

Is Name only selected?

Is the Contact's folder enabled as an Address Book?

Enable contacts as an address book

Make sure the Contact folder is enabled as an email address book.

To do this, right-click the Contacts folder, choose Properties then Outlook Address Book.

Is the box to Show this folder as an email address book checked?

If this is grayed out...

...and you use Outlook 2003: Go to Tools | Email Accounts, choose View or change existing directories or address book. Is the Outlook Address Book present? If it isn't listed, add it and close and restart Outlook. If it is listed, then remove it and close then restart Outlook and repeat these steps to add it.

If you are using Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, or Outlook 2013 and the checkbox is grayed, you'll need to remove the email account and re-add it or make a new profile as you can't remove the Outlook Address Book service in these versions.

Remove Address book (Outlook 2003 and older)

Go to Tools, Email Accounts, choose View or change existing directories or address book.

Outlook 2003 tools, accounts dialog

Is the Outlook Address Book listed?

If it isn't listed, click the Add button (Button 2 in second screenshot) to add it. Close and restart Outlook.

If it is listed, then remove the Address book by selecting it then pressing Remove (Button 1 in screenshot in second screenshot). Close Outlook and restart. Go back to this dialog and Add the Outlook Address book service (Button 2 in screenshot).

Accounts in Outlook 2010

Remove Account (Outlook 2007/2010/2013)

In Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013, the address book service isn't removable. You need to either remove your account and re-create it or make a new profile.

In many cases its better to make a new profile because a missing address book service means the profile is corrupt. This is especially true if you used Windows Easy Transfer to move the profile from one computer to another. Taking the time to make a new profile now may save you a lot of time in the future.

Configure Address books in Outlook 2010

Go to Account settings, Email tab and select the account. Click Remove. Click Add and recreate the account.

Video Tutorial: How to create a new profile in Outlook

About Diane Poremsky

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlook forums by Slipstick.com.

25 responses to “Contacts are missing when you click the To button”

  1. garrick youngberg

    Hello,

    The answer about having to delete and recreate your profile to fix the lost addresses is EXACTLY what I was trying to AVOID!!! Good ol microsoft...
    Again FAIL!!
    My addresses are in my contacts directory but you just can't access it from the "To" button when writing an email
    Thanks to you for stating the obvious but its still very sad and BS...

    Sincerely,

    garrick

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Unfortunately, this is one of the few areas where a new profile is required in Outlook 2007/2010 to fix a problem. :(

  2. Martha Bagwell

    I just spent 2 hours trying to fix the 'address list doesn't populate when i click the To. ' The 'fix for me was to click the Name only in the Contacts Search box. How this got changed in the first place though is a mystery to me! Sometimes the obvious eludes me.

  3. jacqui stevens

    I signed on to Microsoft live mail and all my contacts have disappeared!!! The whole box is blank...any suggestions please.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Which version of Outlook are you using? Do you see the Contacts in any folder in the folder list? (Ctrl+6 opens the folder list)

  4. Rudi

    Just as I was about to create a new Outlook profile for one of my team members in an attempt to remedy the missing contacts issue, my CTO showed me this easy workaround:

    Create a new email
    Click the To... button
    Add every contact from every Address Book to the To-> field
    Save the email

    Your Contacts should now be automagically restored.

    We successfully tested this workaround on Office 2010 & 2013.

    Hope this trick will help someone.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Yes, that usually works to repopulate the autocomplete cache. A new profile will not restore the autocomplete cache - you'd need to use this method in the new profile.

  5. Caroline P

    I think I love you... I've been searching for hours for an answer to this, and it was exactly the same issue. I never changed mine either, but there you go.

  6. Barry

    Hi, this did not work. Followed exactly as described.
    This was a new Outlook installed on a new pc and have never been able to see the contact list.
    Unfortunately for me is that when following this "new profile" procedure (which it originally was a new profile) I lost all rules, accounts and settings. I have many accounts and rules and it is going to take me a while to put them all back in. And in the end, I still have no email contacts when I am in the new mail and click on "To"
    When in the contacts tab, I see all (nearly 700) emails and contacts.
    In the contacts and folder tab, the check box is grayed as mentioned above, but it is checked, but grayed. But can not un-check and recheck as it is grayed and not an available option.
    I have been an outlook user since the late 90's and have never encountered this problem.
    Very upsetting and disturbing.
    This should never even be an issue at this age and time of 2014. Come on MS!
    Any other ideas anybody beside the "new profile" as this is very time consuming and it didn't work.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      The categories and rules are in the default data file and you should recover them if you use the same data file in the old and new profiles. Or just restore the old profile: did you delete your old profile? If not, use it, or use system restore to recover it.

      Outlook 2013 prevents users from unchecking the default contacts folder as an address book. Are you using an older pst file you used before or did you import it into a new pst? It sounds like the addresses on the contacts are not resolved, which can happen when you import.

  7. Omer Causey

    If I delete my profile and create a new one per the recommendation above, am I going to lose (or be unable to use) my existing PST file(s). I have tried variations of this suggestion over the last two weeks. None have worked as represented, and now I have several versions of PST files -- none of which can be reliably accessed.

    The various instructions on how to merge PST files are so obtuse as to be worse than worthless.

    I just spent an hour entering 60 email addresses for a new client. All seemingly went well, but when I tried to create a group from those addresses, they were nowhere to be found.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      If the data files are pst files, you won't loss anything if you make a new profile. If you use Outlook 2013 with an imap account, you need to make sure calendar and contacts aren't in the imap data file because you will lose them if you don't export them first. If you don't have duplicates, importing from the pst files is the easiest way to merge.

      Are the contacts in the contacts folder? Can you find them using Instant Search?

  8. Omer Causey

    I am using the latest updates of Outlook 2010 and Windows 7 on a 64-bit Toshiba Satellite S855 laptop -- - both installed with the recommended or automatic defaults. I have never seen anything labeled as "Instant Search."

    There are five email accounts: three POPs and two IMAPs. Two are Gmail accounts; two are associated with websites hosted by GoDaddy; one is the Exchange server at my office. Everything is also pushed to my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 running the latest Android OS.

    I am not concerned with Calendar - only Contacts and email. I have not been able to make "Import" work and merging the various PST files using any of the recommended methods short of third-party software has proven impossible.

    The laptop was previously assigned to a different single user. I have been unable to transition to a new user successfully. The login for the new user works, but all work is being saved to the previous user's files. I have not been able to remove the old user's file structure even though the new user has full Administrator authority.

    Contacts were originally migrated to the Toshiba from a Dell running Windows XP and Office 2003.

  9. Carol Larson

    My internet provided "migrated" my outlook express and now all my contacts have disappeared. there is nothing in either the contacts folder or the address book. Can I retrieve them without having to reenter all? This happened about 12 weeks ago and I created a new list from scratch. I would like not to have to do this again.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What did they migrate it to? Do you still have the Outlook Express address book available? What version of Outlook are you using? If you still have the address book it can be imported into Outlook.

      (See Upgrading from Outlook Express for file locations)

  10. Kim

    I missed on crucial step in the process of importing from Outlook Express in CSV format and that was not paying attention to the mapping of fields. I assumed (always a bad idea) that the email address would be mapped from OE to Outlook without a fuss. I actually had to map this field. If the field was not mapped the data would show up in Contacts aka "People" in 2013 but would not show up in the Address Book. After mapping and importing again everything is there. A good reminder for me of a basic rule - pay attention to detail. 3 hours wasted, my own fault :)

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Thanks for the update - I'm sure you aren't the first and won't be the last to make that mistake. :)

    2. Lynn Shoberg

      I am having this issue also. We have a new Win 8 computer using Outlook 2013 old computer XP using Outlook express. What do you mean mapping? I thought I followed the steps correctly.

    3. Diane Poremsky

      Mapping is the last step in the import wizard, where you tell outlook the field names in your import file. Coming from Outlook Express, the field names should be correct.

      Are the contacts in the Contacts folder? If you open a contact and delete then retype the address, does it show up when you click the To button? It's not uncommon for imported addresses to not resolve - Outlook doesn't 'see' the address and won't use it.

  11. john schindler

    I have Outlook 2010 on Windows 7 64bit.

    Recently, the contacts were not available for search or display. The contacts folder properties showed that "show this folder as an e-mail address book" is checked--gray but checked. At the bottom of the screen, I'm told that there are 2380 items are present, and this info also shows next to the folder name "Contacts".In the main area of the screen it says "there are no items to show in this view." The column headers include Full Name, company, etc. so it should be a useful view. I read in several places that this means the profile is corrupt.

    I removed the profile, loosing four email account configurations, made a new profile, pointed it and the new email account to the original pst file and I still cannot see the contacts.

    I can create a new contact with an email, and this contact will be suggested/auto filled in a new email.

    What should I try next?

  12. john schindler

    Yes, I have tried resetting or selecting other views. Sometimes, during searching for contacts, some information that looks like the expected display will flash for a second.

  13. john schindleer

    Sorry it took a while to get around to this, but /cleanviews had no effect. I think I have some non-standard views, like two calendars displayed, possibly custom arrangement of the reading pane, etc. They are all the same, and 'reset view' is grayed on the individual views.

  14. Chris K.

    Thanks so much Diane.

    I had been tearing my hair out over something as simple as using the "wrong view".

    Every post of yours is informative and easy to follow. Keep up the amazing work, you are desperately needed!

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