Last reviewed on January 8, 2015   —  22 Comments

Import CSV error messageWhen exporting contacts from Hotmail or website in CSV format and import into Outlook, you may receive a Translation Error message, telling you that a file error occurred in the translator.

Note: this error is not limited to CSV files exported from or Hotmail.

Translation Error

A file error has occurred in the Comma Separated Values translator while initializing a translator to build a field map.
Outlook was unable to retrieve the data from the file "E:\Downloads\WLMContacts.csv". Verify that you have the correct file, that you have permission to open it, and that it is not open in another program.

This is the result of the exported file's Unicode encoding. When the CSV is opened in Excel, all of the comma-separated fields are shown in one cell, not one cell per field. Excel can’t detect the field separators and neither can Outlook.

If you open the file in Excel to look at it, close it without saving.

Solution: Save the CSV with ANSI format selected. Open the CSV file in Notepad and use File, Save as then select ANSI from the Encoding dropdown and Save using the existing file name.

Save CSV using ANSI format

Unicode format causes error

Tip: to open using Notepad when Excel is set as the default, right click on the CSV file and choose Open with... from the context menu. Choose Notepad from the menu. If Notepad is not listed, select Choose default program to open the application picker dialog. Deselect the Set as default option from the Choose program dialog before selecting Notepad.

How to open the CSV file in notepad video tutorial


  1. Hemant says

    I am having a similar issue when importing my Windows Live Mail contacts into Outlook 2010. After opening the file in Notepad and saving it with ANSI encoding, it is only able to save as a .txt file. Do I need to convert it back to a .csv file to import in Outlook?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Open the file in notepad and click Save as - don't enter a new file name, just save it and it should use the same extension. If it doesn't use the same extension, you can change it back to csv before importing.

      Windows tip for the day: if the Save as dialog doesn't use the extension you want to use (or tags another extension on to the filename), wrap the name and extension in quotes: "contacts.csv". This works in most, if not all, Windows Save dialogs and with all file types (not just notepad and csv).

  2. Eelco Haarsma says

    Hi Diane,

    I followed your procedure with ANSI encodig and was able to import all my contacts into outlook but all the contacts are empty, so have no data. I then try to delete the empty contacts but this doesnt work either.

    any ideas how to fix this.




  3. Halvor Røyset says

    I have the same probolem. Saved it in Notepad as ANSI, looked at it in Excel but comma separation is still not working (everything in col A).I can now import it into Outlook 2013 without any errors, but I just getempty contacts:-(

  4. Halvor says

    Hi, here are two different causes for my problems:
    1) I exported from Gmail in "Outlook csv-format", used Notepad to convert to ANS: This imports to Outlook 2013 without any errors but with EMPTY CONTACTS :-(
    I did not investigate this any further
    2) Then tried "Google csv-format" pluss ANSI conversion and mported into Outlook 2013 without any problems.

    For Excel Norwegian language version: csv-files are using the semi-colon ";" as separator since comma "," is used as decimal point in numbers. Accordinglys comma-separated files may be comfusing since they do not display correcly in Excel. If you then save it as csv-file, you have to repolace all the separators by comma before importing to Outook (even though Outlook is the Norwegian langauge version too).

    Thank you for the ANSI hint!

  5. Lynn says

    I have tried all of these and still get the translation error. The comma separated values are in their own fields. They all have headings. I have opened with notepad and saved as ansi format. Any other suggestions?


    • Diane Poremsky says

      If you open it in Excel, everything is in the correct columns? Try using Save as > CSV from Excel as a unique new file and import the new file.

    • Biswaroop Chatterjee says

      Tried all the things. I am trying to import in Outlook 2007. Had 4 exported files containing Emails exported from Outlook 2007. While importing had problems. Checked everywhere for solutions. One of the files got imported after creating a new file. But the rest are not getting imported, no matter what I try.

  6. Rich says

    Hi Diane,

    When I upload my CSV file into (in People really), it keeps on saying "There was a problem...Try importing again...". I've tried multiple times with no success. Do you have any idea as to what I can do next? Thanks!


    • Diane Poremsky says

      Open the CSV in Excel - are the fields all ok? Try saving a new csv to import (from the copy opened in excel).

  7. JB says

    Dear Diane - YOU are a STAR. THANK YOU for this solution. Worked perfectly for me.
    Pity Nokia, Microsoft and all other involved companies are not as bright as you.
    Kind regards.

  8. John says

    Dear Diane - Among my Outlook 2007 contacts are many written in Greek. When trying to import the corresponding CSV (ANSI) file to my "" account I get the symbol � for any Greek character. Do you think there is something I can do?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Did you try using the Outlook Connector in Outlook to upload the contacts? If that is not possible or it also doesn't work, I'll look into it.

  9. John says

    Yes, but when I tried to copy my contacts to my account it returned "unknown error" and it did not let me do it. I could not fix it. I erased my account and reinstalled. No joy... So I was left with nothing else than CSV...

  10. pswal67 says

    HI Dianne,
    Followed you advice TO THE LETTER but didn't work for me. Very p!ssed off with Microsoft, but then that's nothing new.
    Regards, Peter

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      Did you check either of the links at the end? I'd start with the first one, to contactgenie and see if he has any additional information that has come to light since I wrote the article.

  11. Andra says


    I'm trying to export my contacts from Outlook 2013 (Swedish) and I don't have comma separated (columns).
    Can you please help?

    Thank you,

    • Diane PoremskyDiane Poremsky says

      Are they separated by the character typically used in Sweden? Outlook should use the separator configured in Control panel, Regional settings.

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