How to Remove Duplicate iCloud Contacts from Mac Address Book

More is generally good. Multiple televisions. That great pair of jeans. A second copy of your favorite rookie-of-the-year baseball card. All great examples of good duplicates.

But more can also bring clutter. And the smallest things can be the most insidious. The one thing I hate having duplicates of is contacts on my Mac.

The Mac Address Book (which was renamed Contacts with Mac OS Mountain Lion) is a powerful contact list that stores everything from a contact’s name, address, and phone number to their Twitter, Facebook, and other social media information. You can even save home pages, pictures, birthdays, and special notes.

It’s a ton of information organized into a nice, clean interface.


It’s not until you start linking your contacts with Facebook, Twitter, mobile, and every other service you use that duplicates start to show up.

Contacts Have a Way of Multiplying

Maybe you entered Facebook and Twitter for your friend into one contact and their phone number into another. Maybe you made one for your mom’s email and another contact with her address.

Whatever the case, duplicates can show up quickly, and if they go unchecked, they can clutter up your lifeline to friends and family.

Enter Scrubly. Scrubly works great with contacts synced to iCloud. Here’s what to do.

A quick note: I am writing these instructions with OSX 10.8.3. As long as you have iCloud on your machine, these steps should be basically the same.

How to Scrub Those Contacts

1. Open up your system preferences by clicking on the Apple logo in the top left of the menu bar.

Graphic of the menu bar.

2. Select “System Preferences” from the menu.

Graphic of the system drop-down menu.

3. When the System Preferences window opens, click on “iCloud.”

Graphic of the complete system preferences menu.

4. Once the iCloud panel loads, click the check box next to “Contacts” so the box is unchecked.

A warning will appear asking if you want to keep or delete your iCloud contacts on the Mac.

You need to keep your contacts for this to work and for you to not lose any data.

Graphic of the iCloud menu.

Graphic of the iCloud Contacts dialogue box.

5. You should see the Contacts box unchecked. You can now close the System Preferences window. You’ll re-enable this once the cleaning process is complete. To turn iCloud sync back on, simply follow the steps above again, but this time check the Contacts box.

With iCloud turned off, it’s time to get those contacts clean and orderly.

1. Log into Scrubly. Once you’re logged in, you’ll get some tutorial messages. I strongly recommend you take the time to view these. You’ll understand the service much more if you do.

Graphic showing where to find Scrubly help videos.

2. In the window that appears, select “Address Book (for Mac)” from the Step 1 box.

Graphic showing step 1 of the Scrubly set-up menu.

3. When you click on the link, the site will ask you to name your address book. You can name this something like “Work” or “Home” or even the name of the machine you’re running it on. Whatever you name it, this is only for your benefit in case you run multiple address books through Scrubly. So name it whatever you like. Once you enter the name, click “Next.”

Graphic showing step 2 of the Scrubly set-up menu.

4. You will get a confirmation that your address book setup is complete. Click “Next.”

5. You’ll be prompted to download the Mac client. Click the download button.

6. You will get some instructions and, depending on your browser, a warning about the download. Click OK in the window after reading, and accept the download.

Graphic showing what comes next in the Scrubly set-up.

Graphic showing the warning message.

7. Once the file downloads, find where it was saved (e.g. in the Downloads folder) and double-click the installer to load the client.

Graphic showing the Mac<br />
Downloads folder.

8. You will go through a basic Mac install now to get the client working. Proceed through the suggested steps in the installer. Enter your administrator password if prompted.

Graphic of the Scrubly installer.

9. Once the install is complete, the Scrubly client will load. Enter the same login you created for the Scrubly website in the window that appears.

Graphic of the Scrubly welcome message.

10. Once you enter your username and password, you can now select the Scrubly address book you just created from the list.

Graphic of the Scrubly address-book wizard.

11. If you forgot to do the steps above to disable iCloud syncing, you will get a warning. Before you click through the warning, verify iCloud is turned off.

Graphic of the Scrubly syncing warning message.

12. You will most likely get a warning that Scrubly is trying to access your contacts. You must approve this before continuing to use the service. This approval just lets the Scrubly client access your local contacts.

13. Click “Send” in the Scrubly window to continue. Your contacts will be securely uploaded to the server. No cleaning is being done at this time, only uploading.

14. Once the upload is complete, click the “Go to Scrubly Online” button to go to the site and begin the cleaning process. Basically you are uploading the address book from your Mac to the new address book you created on the Scrubly website.

Graphic of the Scrubly Allow/Don't Allow warning.

Graphic of the Scrubly approval request.

Graphic of the upload-complete dialogue box.

15. Once this button is clicked, the Scrubly site should load. If successful, you will get a Congratulations! window. Click “Next” to continue.

16. You should now see your named address book with a “Start Scrub” button. Click this to start the scrubbing process.

Graphic of the scrub-initiation menu.

17. You now have a choice.

  • Express Scrub: a nice, safe, automated clean of your contacts. This will only remove exact duplicates and combine contacts that are 100% safe to merge. This is great for most people and will take the shortest amount of time.
  • Deep Scrub: This requires your help throughout the process and will check every way possible to combine duplicates.

For this example, we will do the Express Scrub since this is what most people will ultimately choose. With this option, you still need to decide what happens to your notes for each contact. The safest method is to automatically merge note fields. Leave this box checked to do this. You will get the best results possible by leaving it checked. Click “Next” to continue.

Graphic of the scrub-options menu.

Graphic of the notes-field dialogue box.

While this is processing, note that your contacts are being cleaned on the site, so nothing is happening to your machine just yet. You can go do other things while this is processing, but depending on the number of contacts you upload, it should only take a minute or two to complete the process.

18. Once Scrubly is done, you will get a conformation window showing what was done. In my case, 4 contacts were updated and 4 were deleted. Click “Next” to continue.

Graphic of the scrub-completed dialogue box.

19. You will see a social network update window next, which can update your contacts with information from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Click “Run Update” to use this information, or “Skip” to continue without it. If you use this feature, you will need to link your social networks to Scrubly. For the sake of this tutorial, we will skip this.

Graphic of the Scrubly contact update dialogue box.

20. Once this is complete, you must download your freshly scrubbed contacts back to your Mac. To do this, select the “Download…” option and click “Continue.”

21. In the next window, click “Apply.”

Graphic of the address book wizard.

Your contacts are now downloading. As long as you’re under the free limit of 250 total contacts uploaded, or a Premium member, your contacts will download to your Mac, ready to sync again.

You now have a contacts archive on your machine now. Open the Contacts app on your Mac, and click the File menu. Once it opens, select the “Import” option. From here, select the file you just downloaded from Scrubly. You will get a warning that this will replace all your current contacts. Click “Replace All” to continue. This is why we turned iCloud off, so we could restore them without causing iCloud to get mad at us.

Graphic of the warning message.

When your contacts are loaded back onto your Mac, you can re-enable iCloud sync using the steps above, but making sure to check the Contacts item in iCloud.

The Results

Your fresh contacts should sync over to all your devices that sync contacts with iCloud.

This means your iPhone, iPad, and any other Macs you sync will have their contacts up to date and sparkly clean.

You’re now clean, synced, and ready to go.


Scrubly sign-up.