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 – 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
  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’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.


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

  1. Thanks brother. A very good guide indeed. Helped me get my father’s 800+ contacts back 🙂 .
    Also about Noki, I tried the trial and it did not support Arabic text and showed them as random gibberish

  2. Nice instructions! One more interesting utility: – it can handle cdb file as database and has some export funtionality, but still in not completely usable format. Your vcfs made by emulator are surely better. I would love to add export cdb to vcf directly to nbuexplorer, but internal structure of cdb is something terrible 😦

  3. Hi,

    i had the same problem, was not able to retrieve data from backup.arc from my e72.
    followed the complete steps but it in vain….

  4. Hi Vivek,
    I was following your instructions in order to retrieve my lost contacts’ list on my Nokia N95 8GB but suddenly encountered the following problem:
    Every time I open Symbian Emulator in order to execute point 6 according to your instructions, it shuts down automatically after a few seconds! Could you plz help me resolve this issue?
    Btw I’m running Windows 7. Could it be that S60-SDK-0548-3.0-f.3.215f is not compatible with it?
    Thanks in advance,

  5. Hi Vivek,
    My Nokia 5800 went crazy and I gave it for repair. Before that, I took backup of all files in .ARC format. Now I have a temporary Nokia E5 with me where I need to get these contacts from the backup files of Nolia 5800. I tried PC suite, but it won’t recognise the file. Also, tried this method. After modifying the .ini file, when I go to emulator and press contacts, it says corrupted.

    Can you please help!

  6. Is there anyone interested in testing NbuExplorer/dbshell integration which allows extracting contacts from contacts.cdb directly in NbuExplorer? You can find my email address in NbuExplorer’s readme…

    • Hi Petrusek!
      I am interested in testing your NbuExplorer/dbshell integration which allows extracting contacts from contacts.cdb directly in NbuExplorer.

      I have a Nokia E-63 having Firmware version 510.21.010, 28-03-2011, RM-437, © Nokia E63-1 (27).

      My contacts (5234 of them) are in ‘Backup.arc’ file which is not getting restored on the phone.

  7. Hi Vivek Kapoor!

    First of all a genuine thanks for your blog “Recovering contacts from Backup.arc on Nokia Series 60 3rd edition devices”. I am thanking you even though I have not recovered my contacts as yet (But I am sure I will) with a little help from all of you.

    I have a Nokia E-63 having Firmware version 510.21.010, 28-03-2011, RM-437, © Nokia E63-1 (27).

    My contacts (5234 of them) are in ‘Backup.arc’ file which is not getting restored on the phone.

    I followed your instructions on the above referred blog and reached till point no. 5 “It’ll ask you for a location – you may select “Desktop”. Keep that file safe – it has all your contacts”.

    Since, my device is a Symbian “S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 1, S60 Version Number 3.1 & Symbian OS Version Number 9.2”, the compatible SDK (Emulator) is “S60 3rd Edition, Feature Pack 1” which I downloaded from website.

    Before installing the Emulator, I installed the following in Chronology as given:-
    1) ActivePerl 5.16.3 Build 1603 &
    2) CSL ARM Toolchain (arm-symbianelf) 2005-Q1C.

    Now when I open the Emulator, its screen comes up & automatically closes in about 5 to 8 seconds.

    I have done the following:-
    1) Re-installed it several times.
    2) Switched Off the Windows Fire Wall.
    3) Clean the system thoroughly for infections etc.
    4) Scanned the system for Viruses & Malwares.

    Still the problem persists.

    Kindly help so that I can proceed ahead.

    • @Istrike09 – it has been a while since I’ve done any recovery. What I can suggest is to try out what Ashish (in one of the comments earlier) has done. Using a different Symbian Emulator and running it on Windows 7, he was able to retrieve all contacts from backup.arc file. It indeed is a cumbersome process but it has worked till now.

  8. Hi Vivek!
    Thanks for your advice I installed “Nokia Symbian Belle SDK v1.0 – 9th Jan 2012”.
    At least the Emulator is now working.
    Hence, the following Emulators of Nokia do not work for Windows 7 Ultimate:-
    1) S60-SDK-0548-3.0-f.3.215f (3rd Edition, Feature Pack 1).
    2) S60_sdk_v22_cw_26 (2nd Edition, Feature Pack 2) and
    3) S60_SDK_3.1_CPP_v1.0.1_en (3RD EDITION, 18.01.2006).
    Hope it might help somebody in the future!

  9. Hello, what if I no longer have my nokia phone but would like to restore those contacts on my samsung phone, is there any way I could access them?

  10. Hello vivek, i have got a strange problem.
    Iam using Nokia N73ME. I had taken the Phone backup on my SD Card and formated the phone using *#7370#.
    So it went to default settings now when i tried to restore from the backup that was not happening. My phone use to restart but the data that was backed up was not restored.
    So is there a possibility to retrieve all the messages and contacts and calander entries back to my phone from the backup that i have taken, If yes then how can i do it.

    As of now i used that backup.arc file via NBUExplorer and have exported the contacts but i have get those contacts transferred via blue-tooth and then add in the contacts, but i am still not able to get the messages at all.

    Please guide me on this.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s