Resolving or deleting duplicate contacts in Microsoft Outlook

If you save a contact with the same name or e-mail name as one that already exists in your Contacts folder, Microsoft Outlook displays a dialog box with options to either add the duplicate contact as a new contact or update the existing contact with the new information from the duplicate contact.

Another situation in which duplicate contacts are created is when you import contacts into Outlook. In this case, you can delete the unwanted duplicates. You can also turn off the Duplicate Detection feature if you are saving many contacts at one time and want to speed up the process.

The options for resolving duplicate contacts

You have two options to resolve duplicate contacts in the Duplicate Contact Detected dialog box:

Add a duplicate as a new contact The new contact will be added to your Contacts folder. For example, if you create a contact with the name Judy Lew, and you already have a contact with that name in your Contacts folder, you will have two contacts named Judy Lew. To distinguish between the two, you can add a middle initial to one.

Tip Displaying your contacts as Electronic Business Cards is a good choice of views in which to see enough information to distinguish contacts with duplicate names.

Update new information from a duplicate contact to an existing one Outlook will compare all the fields that contain data in both the duplicate and existing contacts and copy the data from the duplicate contact into any fields in the existing contact that have conflicting data. For example, if you have a contact named Judy Lew with the phone number 555-0112, and you get a duplicate contact with a new phone number, Outlook will copy the new number into the appropriate field in the existing contact and leave all the other fields the same.

The color categories that you assign to the new contact and the text in the message from the new contact will not be copied into the existing contact. If you want to copy this information, you must do so manually. Certificates and links to contacts on the Activities tab will be copied from the duplicate contact and added to the existing contact without replacing the original information. However, links on the Activities tab to items other than contacts, such as tasks and appointments, will not be copied.

Whenever Outlook updates the data in a contact, a copy of the original contact is stored in the Deleted Items folder. This copy can be used if you need to revert to the information in the original contact.

Delete duplicate contacts

If you imported contacts into Outlook by using the same names or e-mail addresses that already exist in your Contacts folder, and you selected the Allow duplicates to be created option in the Import and Export Wizard, you might have unwanted duplicates of several or all of the contacts that you imported.

Removing the unwanted duplicate contacts is a manual process, but the following is the easiest way to do it:

  1. In Contacts, select the contacts folder that has duplicate contacts.
  2. In the Navigation Pane, under Current View, click Phone List. This is the best view to scan your contacts list and see the duplicate contacts. Now you can sort the list by modified date and group the duplicates together.
  3. On the View menu, point to Current View, and then click Customize Current View.
  4. Click Fields, select Modified in the Available fields list, and then click Add.
  5. Click Move Up until Modified is at the top of the Show these fields in this order list.
  6. Click OK twice.
  7. In the list of contacts, hold down CTRL while you select each duplicate contact.
  8. When you have selected all the duplicate contacts, press DELETE.

Note If you do not want the duplicate contacts when you import contacts into Outlook, select the Do not import duplicates option or the Replace duplicates with items imported option in the Import and Export Wizard.

  • Do not import duplicates Existing data is kept, and the duplicate information in the Personal Folder file (.pst) is not copied to the Contacts folder.
  • Replace duplicates with items imported Existing data in the Contacts folder is replaced with the information in the .pst file that is being imported.

Turn off the Duplicate Detection feature

If you are saving many contacts to Outlook, the process can be faster if you do not use the Duplicate Detection feature. To turn this feature off, do the following:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. Click Contact Options, and then clear the Check for duplicate contacts check box.

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