getting contacts from an .nbu file

Need to get contacts out of a Nokia phone and into something else? There are various standard things – the “switch mode” on the newer ones may help. But the PC Suite client (which still only seems to exist for Windows) doesn’t let you export data from the phone as anything but a .nbu (Nokia Back Up) file. This clearly isn’t good; but the other day I had to get contacts out of a Nokia 6500 with no screen.

So I reboot in Windows, hook up the gadget by USB cable, and run the software client, then backup the data on the phone to the computer. Opening the .nbu in a text editor, you’ll find a lot of base-64 encoded data (that’s any photos you backed up), but towards the end of the file…are all contacts that were saved to the phone’s persistent memory, in standard vCard format, just separated by a line containing two tabs, a plus sign, and a letter. Like this:
+ x
BEGIN:VCARD
VERSION:3.0
N;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE;CHARSET=UTF-8:;Alice;;;
TEL;VOICE:001111111
END:VCARD
  x BEGIN:VCARD
VERSION:3.0
N;ENCODING=QUOTED-PRINTABLE;CHARSET=UTF-8:Anne;;;;
TEL;VOICE:002222222
END:VCARD

(Phone numbers changed to protect the guilty)

If you just split out the vCards from the file, whatever you try to import them with will choke after the first contact. Get rid of the lines containing the funny characters and tabs, however, and you will find that a perfect multiple import is possible. Depending on how many contacts you have, you may want to do this with a scripting language, or just find and replace.


  1. To open / convert Nokia .nbu file, you can try Noki at http://www.nokisoft.com.




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