Contacts won't sync with iCloud

Here’s a somewhat odd situation.
An iCloud account contains 200 contact cards. Whatever I try, I can’t get the Contacts app on a MacBookAir (High Sierra) to load these contacts.
I tried to use another WiFi hotspot (to avoid that the ISP plays up), to no avail.
I signed out and signed in to iCloud on the MBA, nothing.
I went as far as setting up a new user on the MBA, logged in to iCloud w/o problem, still nothing.

Any good ideas will be most welcome.

Are you syncing those contacts with a much newer Apple device as well? I’d wonder if there’s an issue with connecting High Sierra with something like iOS 14.

I have noticed extremely slow syncing of Contacts on devices when a contact was recently updated on a different device. In my case, “recent” means within a minute, “extremely slow” means about 10 minutes, and I believe the update was performed on a 2015 MacBook (Mojave) and the slow sync was on a MacBook Air M1 (Big Sur, of course), but it could have been the other way around, or the slow sync might have been on an iPad Air 4th gen (iOS 14 of some flavor). In any event, I was tearing my hair out wondering what to try next when the update just appeared (after several minutes and I believe two closings and openings of Contacts on both the first and second devices). I did not sign out and into iCloud; I stayed signed in.

So, my suggestion is leave Contacts in front for an inordinate length of time. I have little confidence in my suggestion working, but all it costs is time. Good luck.

Two observations I have made might be relevant, one very recent, the other longstanding.

My long-standing observation is that macOS has a large and seemingly growing class of errors, at least performance that seems in error to longtime Mac users. This class of errors is software objects do not complete updating themselves, including the user interface, as a part of processing new data. While (“traditional”) Mac users see this as a glaring bug, my wife tells me such performance is considered normal in the standard Windows experience. Years ago, Apple rapidly expanded their workforce, and also hired outside contractors as beta testers. The tight conformity which was a primary virtue of the Mac user Interface, as an aspiration as well as in the product, was lost in the process. In my long experience as a beta tester, this seems to explain many many anomalies which I consider errors.

My recent observation was of a bug which seems to be yet another specific example of this large general class of errors. I added a folder of files to a folder on my iCloud Drive that has long been shared with my wife. The new files appeared soon on her iPhone, but after a couple of hours still not on her Mac. She restarted, etc., no improvement. Then for some unrelated reason, on her Mac she added a file to that same shared folder. Apparently as a consequence, the files I had shared suddenly appeared. It seems that changing the content of the folder on iCloud Drive did not trigger an update event which would sync iCloud Drive in the cloud with iCloud drive on her Mac. Adding files to iCloud Drive on her Mac was necessary to trigger the expected update.

You can check to see if your issue is another specific example of this general class of errors. While logged in to iCloud on your MacBook Air, edit your Contacts. If my guess is right, your editing will trigger a sync, and your missing records will soon appear.

A possibility is that the extremely low syncing observed by Will M actually was no syncing at all until some seemingly unrelated event triggered the sync process.

This corroborates my conjecture that Apple software development has fallen victim to the business goal of rapid development by unexperienced developers under the direction of product managers that do not understand that “It just works” is not just a marketing phrase but should be considered a corporate goal. A goal which seems to be lost (or at least greatly diminished).

Though I have never worshipped at the altar of Steve, I truly miss him.


Thank you for articulating so well an idea (your “long-standing observation”) that had not completely risen to the level of my conscious thought, as well as providing an explanation for why.

It was long enough ago (memory is the second thing to go) that I don’t recall for sure, but it does seem like I might have edited something in a different contact. Certainly your conjecture is possible.

Well put.

This topic is about contact syncing via iCloud, so no more posts complaining about general Apple software quality here. That’s a different topic.

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Sorry about that.

Less off-topic: in my experience, Notes will sync promptly on either macOS and iOS devices, whether the change was made on a macOS or iOS device. When I got impatient with Contacts, it was because I didn’t see the same behavior there. Apparently there are different algorithms for detecting changes or a different schedule for synchronization with the different apps using iCloud storage (with Calendar falling between Notes and Contacts, again in my experience).

After a long time maybe a final comment on this problem. The end is bad as we can’t resolve it, the user has given up, and so have we, the supporters.
We went through a 6 hour long support phone call with Apple, spread over two days and even they could NOT fix this problem. Apple Support were willing to continue to try other steps, but I think one has to pull out at some point. You simply don’t know if you are 5 mins away from the solution or 5 hrs.
During the phone call we established that Calenders, Notes, iCloud Drive were all working as expected. Lots of logging in and out from iCloud and a full re-installation of an iPhone, the full works.

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Sorry to hear. That sounds very frustrating.

I wonder if Apple really has no opportunity to ‘reset’ cloud services on their backend for a customer experiencing such issue. I cannot imagine they absolutely don’t. OTOH after 6 hours of their (and your) expensive time this would likely have been the cheapest way out had they had that option.

I’ve always had this feeling that of all the things Apple does, cloud and cloud services was always their weakest showing. Maybe it’s just not in their DNA as Silicon Valley likes to phrase it (ad nauseum). They don’t want to be seen this way (we’re now a services company /humph), but perhaps they’re still after all at heart a personal computer/device company.

Although this time it was not resolved, I can confirm that I too have got into the habit of triggering the same way @kineyd9Tpurduol describe to get things to sync between Macs, iPhone and iPad. This is typically something I will do before traveling into the wilderness (Yes I can be on internet via iPhone for months and to hold costs down I try to collect all I might need before I leave.)

Well, you’ll find it interesting that one of the attempts Apple asked me to do, was changing content in a shared folder in iCloud Drive. Initially this change did not show on another Mac, but doing what @kineyd9Tpurduol described triggered at least this function.
No luck with the contacts though.