How to Transfer Contacts From a SIM Card

by Jeff Grundy

The Subscriber Identity Module, commonly referred to as a SIM card, is a portable postage-stamp-sized memory chip inside your cell phone that contains your wireless subscriber account data as well as names and numbers in your phone book. If you change carriers, but want to keep your present cell phone, you may need to transfer contacts from the SIM before inserting the module from the new provider. Transferring contacts from a SIM is relatively simple, and you can move them to the phone itself or back up the phone book on a module to a computer for safekeeping.

Copy Contacts from SIM to Phone


Press or tap "Menu" on the phone, then select the "Contacts," "Phonebook" or similar option.


Select the "Options" or "Sub-menu" key or icon in the Contacts or Phonebook menu, then choose "Load Phonebook," "Select Phonebook," "Select Contact List" or another similarly named option. On the next screen, select the option that enables you to load and view contacts on your SIM card only, such as "Load SIM Phonebook" or "Open SIM Contacts." Depending on your phone, you may or may not have to press or tap the "OK" button to load the SIM phonebook.


Select the "Options" or "Sub-menu" options again after the phone displays the contact list or phonebook stored on the SIM card.


Press or tap the "Copy to Phone Contacts," "Copy to Phone," "Copy All Contacts to Phone" or other similarly named option, then select "OK" if prompted. The phone copies all of the contacts stored on the SIM to the memory card or internal memory device installed in the phone.

Transfer Contacts a Computer


Open your Web browser and navigate to the mobile phone support website for the manufacturer of your phone. Click the "Phone Software" or "Downloads" link on the site to go to the section dedicated to software designed to connect your phone and computer.


Download the "Sync," "PC Tools" or similarly named application for your phone. Depending on the manufacturer, there may be several of these types of applications available for various cell phone or smartphone models. Therefore, ensure that you download the application designed for use with your particular model phone. Save the phone utility application to a folder on your computer.


Open Windows Explorer by clicking Start, then "Computer" or right-clicking the Start button and clicking "Open Windows Explorer." Navigate the folder where you saved the phone application, then double-click the setup file to launch the installation wizard. Follow the onscreen instructions to install the application for your phone and restart the computer if prompted.


Connect the USB data cable to your cell phone or smartphone and the computer, then wait a few seconds for Windows to detect the phone and install the appropriate driver. Windows may or may not require a third-party USB driver for your phone. However, the phone application you installed should have created a driver folder. In most cases, Windows can find the driver folder and install the needed files automatically. If for some reason, though, Windows cannot find a suitable driver, you may need to download one from the manufacturer support website.


Launch the phone application on the computer, then wait a few seconds for the program to detect and verify the phone connection to the computer. After the program detects the connected phone, click the "Sync," "Synchronize" or "Update" button in the program window to synchronize data on your phone with the application. The type of information synced between the computer and phone varies by application, but virtually all mobile phone utility programs synchronize contacts and messages by default. With some applications, you may have the option of syncing audio, photo and video files as well. The application syncs data on the phone with the PC and creates a local list of contacts from the SIM card on the computer.


Click the "Contacts," "Manage Contacts," "Phonebook" or other similar option in the phone application to view the list of contacts imported from the SIM and saved on the computer.


  • check With some cell phones, you may need to enable or configure the USB connection before Windows can detect and initialize the phone for use with the computer. Some phones prompt you automatically when they detect a USB connection, while with others you may need to configure the settings manually in the "Network" or "USB Connection" section of the Settings or Options menu. When syncing with an application provided by the manufacturer, do not use the "USB Mass Storage" or other similar option, as this simply enables the memory card in the phone as a removable hard drive in Windows. Select the USB connection option labeled "Synchronize" or with the name of the phone sync application.


  • close Charge your cell phone battery completely before transferring contacts to a computer. Syncing data between your phone and a computer requires a lot of power and may drain the battery if not fully charged. If the phone shuts down due to a dead battery during the transfer process, it could corrupt data on both your computer and the SIM card.

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About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images