How to move Contacts from Outlook to Outlook.com

Today's tip is one that I thought everyone already knew how to do, but today I had questions from two people struggling with moving contacts to Outlook.com (Hotmail), so it looks like I was wrong.

If the contacts are in Outlook there is no need to export to a CSV file and import the contacts using Outlook.com online. Install the Outlook Connector or create the account in Outlook 2013 as an Outlook.com/EAS account and drag the contacts from your to the Outlook.com Contacts folder.

You can select the contacts in groups of around 25 - 50 at a time (it's easier if you use a list view) or select all and move all at once.

If you are using the Outlook Connector, you can do the same for your calendar: use a list view, select all and drag to the Outlook.com Calendar folder. In Outlook 2013, syncing appointments that were moved or copied into the folder is buggy at best and its better to import the calendar as an .ics file at Outlook.com.

Comparing Outlook.com and Outlook

There are several things to remember when moving contacts to Outlook.com:

Character limits in Company and Notes fields
Outlook.com supports just 40 characters in the Company name field. Either shorten long names before moving the contacts or let Hotmail truncate them. Use the macro at Check Contacts before moving them to Hotmail Contacts folder to identify contacts before moving them.

The Notes field is limited to 1024 characters. While Outlook.com won't truncate your notes, only 1024 characters will be available online or on other computers. The macro that checks company name field length will check for longer message bodies too.

Display name field format
Outlook.com uses the Full name & Email address format used by the email address Display as field as part of the unique identifier, so you can't change that field. Outlook.com updates this field automatically, so you won't need to fix any contacts that use a different display name format.

Categories and Contact Groups
Outlook.com uses categories to create Contact Groups (Distribution lists) online. Theses categories sync to Outlook as color categories, however, you cannot set categories on contacts in Outlook, the categories won't add the contact to a group in Outlook.com and other categories may be erased. You cannot create Contact Groups in Outlook (the command is grayed out). If you need to add contacts to a contact group, do it at outlook.com. You can group by category in Outlook and send email to the group. Select the category group members and click the Email button (in the communicate group) to open an email message addresses to the selected contacts.

Outlook.com supports only one contacts folder.

Calendar and Contacts
Attachments on appointments and contacts are not supported in Outlook.com. If you add an attachment to an appointment or contact in Outlook, it's looks like it disappeared, but is just hidden.

Rich text formatting is not supported in the Notes fields.

Sync Errors
If you receive sync errors, check the Sync errors folder in your Outlook.com data file. The sync error messages can help you understand what the problem is. It's safe to delete the sync error messages after you review them.

Task Support
The Outlook connector doesn't sync Tasks, Outlook 2013's EAS account type will. If you create tasks (or notes, or journal items) in your Outlook.com data file, they are stored only in the Outlook.com data file. If you make a new profile or delete the data file, you'll need to move the contents of those folders to a local pst file first, or lose them.

Data Files
An Outlook.com data file is tied to the account that created it; you can't use it on another computer or with a new profile. You also can't move it.

The Data File dialog in Account Settings may list the Outlook.com account's data file as not available. This is normal and won't affect your ability to select it as the default data file or the use of the account.

You cannot set an Outlook.com data file as the default when you have an Exchange server mailbox in your profile.

Published April 20, 2012. Last reviewed on January 22, 2015.

  • Hollie

    How do I transfer Outlook contacts to another exchange (vmware Zimbra)?

  • Diane Poremsky

    are you going to be using Outlook with zimbra? If so, export to a pst file and import into the zimbra profile. Otherwise, you'll need to know what format zimbra can import - most apps support CSV - and export in that format.

  • Anna

    I do not like the new Outlook. You have lost several of my contacts.
    In the smilies you need a cross.
    I cannot see all my all my contacts to choose from to send who I want to, and groups in e-mail.
    How is this better?
    This is not saying me time, and now I cannot send to groups as needed.

  • Diane Poremsky

    This is a Hotmail account and the contacts aren't syncing down to outlook? That is a "known issue" and should be fixed by the end of Dec. I don't know when it's expected - updates tend to come out in the last week but the holidays might effect it.

  • j.mcdougall

    I can open outlook, but I can not open my messages, what do I do?

  • D Poremsky

    What exactly happens when you try? What version of Outlook?

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    Assuming you have the account set up as an Outlook.com Active Sync account, do you have actual contacts in Hotmail or are you signed into Skype, Facebook, Gmail etc? Contacts from other sources won't sync down to Outlook.

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    If you are on Outlook 2007, you are either using POP3/IMAP or the Outlook Connector. If you want to sync calendar & contacts, you need to use the Connector.

    If you are using the connector (it's labeled MAPI in Account Settings), try removing the account, uninstalling the connector and reinstalling the connector.

  • Rick2101

    Sorry, I had it backwards. I have Outlook 2013, I used to have 2007 and everything was fine. I upgraded to 2013 and Windows 8.1 and everything changed. I did have Outlook connector in 2007, now I am not sure what I have. Thank you.

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    If you upgraded or used auto account setup to add the account to outlook, it should be set up as an EAS aka Exchange Active Sync account.

    Are their contacts in the Outlook.com contacts folder in outlook? Or do you need to move them from another file into that folder?

    Right click on the outlook.com contacts folder and choose properties - look on the outlook address book tab. It is enabled as an address book?

    If there are contacts but you don't see them when you click To, open the Address book (button on home ribbon) and click on it's Tools, Options - you can change the order address books display from this dialog.

  • Rick2101

    What is Outlook.com?
    I have my Outlook email open and along the left side I have the folders pane. The top section has all my Outlook folders. The section below that has my Hotmail account but it doesn't open, something about an error and it refers to something called MAPI. Below that is another Hotmail account but is followed by a (1) it does have my Hotmail folders listed.

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    Outlook.com is the email service formerly known as Hotmail (and later, Hotmail Live).

    You have Outlook 2013 - so go to File, Account Settings. Look on the email tab. Is the Hotmail account listed twice? If so, delete the one that doesn't have the 1 behind it. If it's not there, look on the Data files tab & delete it.

  • Rick2101

    I went to file - Account Settings, but I do not see a email "tab" I do see a rectangular box with a triangle and if I click on the triangle it does show 3 accounts. One is the Hotmail (1) Exchange ActiveSync, one is POP/STMP and the last one is Hotmail MAPI. If I understand you correctly I should delete the MAPI account, Is that correct? Deleting stuff makes me nervous.

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    Correct, remove the MAPI account.

  • Rick2101

    I attempted to remove the MAPI account and a warning came up that said offline cached content will be deleted. Is that important? When I followed the link in the warning it said something about backing up .ost and .pst files, I did not really understand what that is. I tried to file those files but the only file that has AppData is under NULL. Are these files important? Should I make a copy somewhere? Thanks for helping with all this confusing stuff.

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    In this case, you can safely ignore the warning - everything is on the server and this is just a rouge account that should have been automatically removed when you upgraded.

  • Rick2101

    I removed the MAPI account. When I open Hotmail I still do not see my Outlook 2013 address book. All I see is a folder named People, and it does not contain all my contacts that I have listed in Outlook 2013. What am I missing? Thanks again for helping.