The best way to merge your contacts with iPhone

Scott dunn By Scott Dunn

Many people find that synching a new iPhone with their contact and calendar data from applications like Microsoft Outlook just doesn’t work easily.

Fortunately, there are techniques you can use to make sure that your devices are sharing data smoothly.

If you’re having trouble using iTunes to sync your contact data from Outlook or other sources with your iPhone or iPod Touch, follow these steps to get your data where it needs to be.

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Step 1. With your phone connected to your computer, make sure iTunes is running. If necessary, select your phone under the Devices category in iTunes’ left pane.

Step 2. With iTunes’ Summary tab in front, make sure the Options at the bottom are set the way you want them. I like to control which files are moved and when, so I uncheck Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected. I also select Manually manage music and videos.

Step 3. Click the Info tab. Select the box at the top of the Contacts section if you want iTunes to sync that information with your phone. Select other settings in that section to control how the data is organized.

Step 4. Repeat the above step for the Calendar and other sections as desired. Click Apply.

That should initiate the synching process. If it doesn’t, wait until the Sync button appears and click it.

No go? Try the official iPhone troubleshooter

If you run into problems while synching your phone via iTunes, Apple offers several strategies that may solve your problem. Here’s a quick rundown of workarounds to try:

• Make sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed. To test for a newer version, pull down iTunes’ Help menu and select Check for Updates.

• Reset the sync history. In iTunes, choose Edit, Preferences. Click the Devices tab and then select Reset Sync History.

• Disable non-Apple add-ins in Outlook by unchecking the boxes for each one in the COM Add-Ins dialog box. The steps to opening this dialog vary between Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007; consult the programs’ help files for instructions.

• Use Vista’s User Account Control applet to create a new user. Then log off your current account, log into the new account, and try the sync again.

• Uninstall iTunes and then reinstall the program.

Detailed steps for each of these approaches can be found in support article HT1692.

If none of the above fixes things, your iPhone synching problems may be caused by corrupt entries. To test for this, browse through your Outlook contacts list looking for garbled names or other indications of faulty data. (Doing so also helps you eliminate duplicate entries, which are discussed in the next paragraph.) Delete any corrupt or superfluous entries and retry the sync.

One final snafu may remain. When merging address books, entries with minor differences are sometimes interpreted as separate entries, resulting in one or more duplicates. Fortunately, a number of products exist to ferret out and deal with such dupes.

A free program I like is Contacts Scrubber for Outlook from TeamScope Software. It searches your contacts and presents dupes to you one at a time, making an educated guess as to which fields to merge. You can specify which entry is the one to preserve and click inside individual fields to select details to merge, overwrite, or discard.

The free version of Contacts Scrubber can process up to 1,000 items, but TeamScope sells for U.S. $30 a version that goes beyond that limit and includes more advanced features. Contacts Scrubber works with Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista and Outlook versions 2000 through 2007. You can get the free version from Downloads.com.

A phone without stored phone numbers is pretty much useless. Fortunately, the procedures outlined here will solve most iPhone sync problems. Still, you may need to use several techniques until you find the combination that works for you.

Scott Dunn is an associate editor of the Windows Secrets Newsletter. He has been a contributing editor of PC World since 1992 and currently writes for the Here’s How section of that magazine.