Recovering contacts from Backup.arc on Nokia Series 60 3rd edition devices

I have a Nokia E61 (Symbian Series 60 3rd Edition – v9.1). I usually take backups on my memory card in the phone (I’ve three of them) and restore them in case it’s necessary. However, today when I tried to do it, it wouldn’t restore and always ask for a “Restart” after flashing “Restoring…” screen for a split second. I tried all my other backups made during last 1 year and it just won’t work. I even hard-reset/formatted the phone by pressing *,3 and call key and then starting the phone, assuming that maybe there’s some issue with the firmware. It just didn’t work. I’d my latest backup available on my memory card and I couldn’t use it. After spending more than a few hours, I managed to retrieve information, more importantly my contacts.

Credit goes to

Here’s how I retrieved all the Contacts. It assumes you have a Backup.arc with you. If you’ve taken backup on the memory card and view the contents of the memory card on computer, you’ll see a Backup/ folder in which the Backup.arc would be there. If not, tough luck.

  1. It works only on Windows. I used Windows XP.
  2. Install NbuExplorer from http://nbuexplorer.sourceforge.net – it requires .Net Framework 2.0 which I downloaded from Microsoft website, so install the framework prior to opening NbuExplorer.
  3. Install Java 1.4.2 and Symbian SDK. As of now I’m not too sure that Java 1.4.2 would be necessary at all. For Symbian SDK, you need to be a member of Nokia Forum – the version that I downloaded was S60-SDK-0548-3.0-f.3.215f.zip
  4. Now open NbuExplorer and point it to the Backup.arc file. It should show the contents in it including pictures, sounds etc.
  5. You need to locate the file having the name Contacts and ending with the extension .cdb. In my case the name was DBS_100065FF_Contacts.cdb and it was under C: -> private -> 100012a5 within the NbuExplorer interface. Once you locate it, right-click on the file name and select ‘Export selected file(s)’. It’ll ask you for a location – you may select “Desktop”. Keep that file safe – it has all your contacts.
  6. Now close NbuExplorer and start Symbian Emulator. It would open a Symbian interface – you need to add a new contact in there. You can add anything. We just want it to build a contact database of its own which we’ll eventually replace with our own contact database. Once done, close the Emulator.
  7. Next step is to replace the contact database created by the emulator by our actual database which has our contacts. In my case I went to C:\Symbian\9.1\S60_3rd\Epoc32\winscw\c\private\100012a5. The file DBS_100065FF_Contacts.cdb was already present. I replaced it with my actual file which I’d retrieved via NbuExplorer.
  8. We’ll add a memory card to our Symbian Emulator. For that edit the file epoc.iniwhich is located in C:\Symbian\9.1\S60_3rd\Epoc32\Data and modify the following values so that they look like the following
    _EPOC_DRIVE_E \epoc32\winscw\e
    _EPOC_LocDrv_1 E: FAT
  9. Let’s start the Emulator now. If you go to contacts, if all goes well you should be seeing all your contact listing. Hurray! Step 1 done.
  10. Now we’ll need to transfer the contacts to the memory card. Mark all contacts and then select “Copy to memory card” from within the emulator interface. It should say that it has copied them to the memory card.
  11. Now go to the “e” drive created via epoc.ini, that is, in C:\Symbian\9.1\S60_3rd\Epoc32\winscw\e. There would be a folder called “Others” inside which there’d be “Contacts”. If all goes well, you should see a lot of .vcf entries inside it. Those are your contacts. Copy them to an actual memory card of the phone – in the same directory (Others\Contacts). Now put the memory card in your phone.
  12. In your phone, open “Contacts”, and then select the option Copy -> From memory card. The contacts would be copied. For me it retrieved all information with precision.

I had evaluated Nokisoft.com’s Noki Explorer application. There were two things I wasn’t sure of, (a) it retrieved 30 contacts in the trial version, but the data that was retrieved was not complete; and (b) it seemed to be a tad expensive for one time use. Nokisoft’s explorer may be easier to retrieve contacts – that you can decide.

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