Q&A: Looking for an old phone number

Q I need to find an obsolete phone number in my Contacts. I recently deleted the number, but it should be in my Time Machine backup. Where do I start looking?

A Perhaps the simplest way to do this is manually.

Contact’s database is stored in ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook, and is typically named something like AddressBook-v22.abcddb. Move the current file to a safe place, then copy across an older version from your Time Machine backup, which you expect contains the phone number. Open Address Book and it should reappear. Once you have retrieved it, reinstate your current database, and all should be well again.

Bento used to be able to do smart things with this and other databases before it was killed.

Comments In almost all cases, Time Machine backups are excluded from Spotlight search (which is just as well given the large number of copies of documents which it could contain), although it is sometimes still worth trying Spotlight just in case it comes up with anything useful.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 28 issue 21, 2012.