How to Never Lose a Note in Your OneNote Notebooks

Tina Sieber 07-04-2016

OneNote is the perfect note-taking app 5 Reasons You Should Take Notes with OneNote Anywhere Few things are as important as the ability to take good notes, especially for students. OneNote is perfect for notes on coursework. We think you will find it's great for organizing other information, too. Read More , available on all your devices, and even the most advanced features, like OCR and notebook sharing, are free. But when you lay all your eggs in one basket, how can you be sure they won’t get corrupted? OneNote won’t let you down.


Here we show you how OneNote handles notebooks 6 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List Are you making the most of your OneNote to-do list? Apply our tips for better OneNote checklists. Read More , how backups are managed, and how you can restore even deleted notes.

How to Save OneNote Files

Like all proper “always online” applications, OneNote doesn’t feature a save button. Files are automatically cached, saved, and synced on a pre-defined schedule. Per default, OneNote saves your notebooks to OneDrive or — if you choose to create a local notebook (which is not available on OneNote for Mac The Essential OneNote for Mac Guide Microsoft OneNote is a free note-taking app for Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Here's everything you need to become more productive. Read More ) — your Windows Documents folder. You can change both the default save location and the location of individual notebooks.

To change the default location, go to File > Options > Save & Backup and Modify… the Default Notebook Location. You can also select new locations for your Quick Notes Section and the Backup Folder. Click OK in the bottom right to save your changes.

OneNote Save

To change the location of an individual notebook, right-click the notebook name while it’s open or go to File > Info and click the Settings button next to the respective notebook. Choose Properties, click Change Location…, and Select a new folder destination. Note that Notebook Properties is also where you can rename your notebook’s Display name or change its Color.


OneNote Notebook Properties

Sync Your Notes

When you’re logged into OneNote with your Microsoft account The Pros and Cons of Using a Microsoft Account with Windows A single Microsoft Account allows you to log into a wide range of Microsoft services and apps. We show you the pros and cons of using a Microsoft Account with Windows. Read More , your notes are automatically saved and synced to OneDrive, unless you saved them locally. You can manually trigger syncing like this:

  • Press SHIFT + F9 while you’re working in a notebook.
  • Right-click the open notebook’s name and select Sync This Notebook Now.
  • Under File > Info, click the Settings button and select Sync.

OneNote Sync Notes

Sometimes, it can take a while for a notebook to sync, for example if you imported a multi-page document or have made many complex changes since the last synchronization. You can check the progress here:

  • Click the View Sync Status button in the top right under File > Info.
  • While inside a notebook, right-click the notebook name and select Notebook Sync Status…

OneNote Sync

In the Shared Notebook Synchronization window shown above, you can sync any of your other open notebooks by clicking the Sync Now button next to the respective notebook or make them sync by clicking the Sync All button.

Stop Notebook Synchronization

When you’re working on a shared notebook, you may want to work in private, without anyone seeing your draft. Previous versions of OneNote had a Work Offline feature, but this has been removed. In the latest version of OneNote (Office 2016), you can choose to Sync manually by selecting the respective option under Shared Notebook Synchronization mentioned earlier. You’ll have to remember to switch back to automatic syncing again.

Once you open a notebook stored on OneDrive, which requires synchronization to load, you can enable individual sync by clicking the respective notification.


OneNote Sync Disabled

The only way to permanently stop OneNote from syncing to OneDrive, is to store all your notebooks locally and log out of your Microsoft account. Go to File > Info > Account and click Sign out.

OneNote Sign Out Microsoft Account

If you prefer working with another cloud service, like Dropbox or Google Drive Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More , you can change the notebook’s save location to that service’s folder on your computer.


Backup Options

OneNote can automatically back up your notebooks in intervals between 1 minute to 6 weeks. We recommend to set the automatic backup to at least once a day. To change this setting, go to File > Options > Save & Backup and choose your preferred interval from the drop-down menu. Confirm your changes by clicking OK.

OneNote Backup Options

You can also use the respective buttons to Back Up Changed Files Now or Back Up All Notebooks Now.

Recover Deleted Notes & Restore Backups

Your backups are stored in individual folders for each notebook. You can browse to the storage location on your disk drive and open the .one files to access your notebook’s sections (tabs). It’s easier, though, if you use the Open Backups shortcut provided in the top right under File > Info.

OneNote Backup Folder

When you open a section from your backups, it will reside in the temporary Open Sections notebook. Like Open Sections, you may discover a Misplaced Sections notebook, which may happen when you work on a section while someone else deletes it. From there, you can copy the section to one of your regular notebooks. Right-click the section, select Move or Copy…, pick an open notebook from the list, and click Copy.

OneNote Move Notebook Section

Note that the destination notebook needs to be open and displayed in the All Notebooks list.

Delete a Notebook

OneNote wasn’t designed to let you delete any of your notebooks easily. In fact, the desktop version has no delete option for notebooks at all. Before you attempt to delete a notebook, right-click its name in OneNote and select Close This Notebook.

OneNote Close Notebook

To delete a locally saved notebook, browse to the respective location on your computer and delete the entire notebook folder. To delete a notebook stored in OneDrive, head to your OneDrive folder on the Web, find the OneNote file (typically under Documents), right-click it, and select Delete.

Note that you can delete individual sections from your notebooks (right-click the section and click Delete), but a copy will be kept in the OneNote_RecycleBin folder for 60 days. To access those backups, open the notebook, right-click its name, and select Notebook Recycle Bin.

OneNote RecycleBin

Once you’re done viewing those files, you can remove them; right-click a section and select Empty Recycle Bin.

May All Your Notes Always Be with You

When you aren’t afraid to store your notes online Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote and OneNote are amazing note-taking apps. It's hard to pick between the two. We compared everything from interface to note organization to help you choose. What works best for you? Read More , OneNote and its multiple layers of online (=offsite) storage and local backups have you covered when disaster strikes with. For 60 days you can even go back and restore what you deleted yourself. If you diligently sync your notebooks, you should never lose a single thought 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote OneNote is one of Microsoft's most underrated apps. It's available on almost every platform and can do many tricks you wouldn't expect from a note keeping app. Read More you recorded in OneNote.

Have you ever accidentally deleted or lost anything in OneNote? Let us know how you were able to restore it or how you managed to break all of OneNote’s precautions.

Related topics: Data Backup, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. norman robillard
    March 31, 2020 at 9:23 am

    for OneNote 365, u need to:
    click on file, options
    click on SAVE & Backup
    backup all notebooks Now
    click ok in successful message box.

  2. MNK
    February 24, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    I am in school and use OneNote 2016 on my local drive for all of my lecture notes. My university gives me a special OneDrive account with more memory. OneNote automatically uses the "onedrive account" to do backup. And for some reason, OneNote gets confused which OneDrive account to use. Basically, if I am logged into my Microsoft account, it uses the microsoft one, if I am not, then it uses the university's OneDrive account. I have the program do an automatic backup each day.
    Well, last semester, the Windows 10 software became corrupted. We are at the Microsoft store and literally blue screened right there. I had backed up my local to a flashdrive and of course I had the backups on the OneDrive account. This is when we discovered that OneNote was confused on which OneDrive to use.
    When everything was loaded back up and we pulled in the backup, it picked the wrong OneDrive or something like that. We could not get it to pull from the right OneDrive. Because the "path" was wrong, the blank notebooks overwrote the full notebooks. We tried to use the local files from my flashdrive. We could see them but not open them. Again, the 'path' was wrong. In the end, everything was overwritten to old stuff or unattainable.
    We found out that a testing software that my university uses and is a requirement for me to use, doesn't work well with my computer (Surface Pro) and Windows 10 together. It has again corrupted the Windows 10. I have to go and get the computer wiped again.
    How do I prevent losing my notebooks this time? So when I get new Windows 10, I will have to put Office back on. Because I get Office 365 through my school, I will be signed into my school and Microsoft accounts at the same time. How do I prevent OneNote from bringing in the wrong files again? BTW, I started to get the daily backup to also have a backup set on DropBox. Will it work to let OneNote do it's thing and then bring up the backup from DropBox? or will the 'path' be wrong again?
    Also, I have tried to 'synch' the files through 'Share'. Is that the same as OneDrive? Is there yet another place things are being backed up? and if so is this a cache set that is only temporary? If it is a third place (not local, not onedrive microsoft or onedrive university's) is there a way I can use it?
    So frustrating! I need this to work. I am in a professional graduate school and do not have time to spend hours on trying to keep up with my 10 classes worth of notes. Please help.

  3. I.G. Romov
    December 15, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    To add insult to injury, re my previous post of One Note simply losing new notes to an existing notebook, the last backup was taken in 2014!!! Clearly the backup mechanism fails as well as OneNote's ability to retain new data. The very fact that this section is full of lost noters is indicative of a very serious bug in the software; at least in the 2010 version. I strongly suspect Windows upgrades have something to do with it.

  4. I.G. Romov
    December 14, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Entered a bunch of data over a period of time into OneNote 2010. This data was incrementally added after some data entered quite some time ago. OneNote faithfully showed newly entered data. Opened tab one day to see only old previously entered data. Poof!! All the new data nowhere to be seen. Looked everywhere. This has never happened in all my use of OneNote and is most depressing. Will not use again.

  5. Tori King
    December 7, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I lost all of my one note files. I was working on it and it just disappeared. One Note had created a virtual hard drive on my computer and saved to that location. I found the folders under "Favorites" ( I did a search for one of the folder names.) When I restored it to my hard drive it brought everything in twice, and now it is really messy with lots of folders being stored all over in my documents folder. If it weren't so valuable, I would delete and restart.

    • Tina Sieber
      December 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Hey Tori, it sounds like you were able to restore your notebooks after losing them, is that correct? The result sounds incredibly messy, but at least you didn't lose anything.

      I would bring all the notebooks into one location, point OneNote to it, use OneNote to check whether they're identical, and delete duplicate ones. If you can find a better solution, I would love to hear about it!

  6. drutgat
    August 8, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    The best, clearest and most helpful article on OneNote I have found.

    Many, many thanks.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 8, 2017 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you for your feedback, much appreciated!

  7. Kenneth Daniels
    June 7, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I am constantly finding that all the data in my Onenote disappears and the only way for me to get it back is to resync it with OneDrive. This can happened several times a day. OneNote is open and I'm looking at it and all of a sudden everything disappears.

    Very very frustrating.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm

      Kenneth, I only just saw your comment from back in June. This sounds like a nasty bug. Have you found a solution to it, yet?

      I'm assuming you're on a Mac. If not, can you try to store your notes locally on your computer (not possible with OneNote for the Mac)? You could also try to uninstall and reinstall OneNote.

      Did you try a hard-wired internet connection, rather than WiFi? Maybe your connection is dropping out and that's why you keep losing your notes. Although the files should be stored in the OneNote cache, locally (Mac and Windows), so this shouldn't happen. Maybe try to empty the cache.

      • Kenneth Daniels
        August 8, 2017 at 7:20 pm

        Hi Tina,

        Well, as mysteriously as the problem started it stopped. This was happening on a hard wired Windows 7 Laptop and was very frustrating. But for some reason (and I hope that I'm not jinxing anything) the problem has stopped and not re-occurred. Perhaps there was a update that fixed the problem.

        As far as the configuration of OneNote I am just using the default setup.

        If the problem starts up again I will add a note to this thread.

        Thank you for replying to me and have a great day.


        • Tina Sieber
          August 8, 2017 at 8:05 pm

          Thank you for the update, Ken! Fingers crossed it's won't happen again.

  8. Michelle
    May 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    OneNote 2013: My default Notebook location was C:User\name\Documents\OneNote Notebook. I copied all my notebook files to OneDrive because IT had to re-image my laptop. I could navigate to OneDrive and see and open all of my notes and then handed my laptop over to IT. When I tried to sync my files from OneDrive, only the folders were there with no files (no content). Am I out of luck or is there a way to get my onenote files back?

    • Tina Sieber
      May 17, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      This is tricky. Moot point, but why didn't IT prepare a backup of your system!?

      Did you make sure that OneDrive synced from your computer to the cloud before you handed the laptop over? Maybe the files were in the OneDrive folder locally and hadn't synced yet. Or vice versa, maybe the files are fine in the cloud and OneDrive hasn't synced back to your laptop yet.

      Did you set the default Notebook location of your new OneNote installation to where OneDrive now stores your files locally now?

      That's all I can think of. Hopefully, the files didn't get lost in sync or are still syncing.

  9. Kenneth Lim
    March 2, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Any ways to recover unsync notebooks?
    I sign out one of my accounts in the onenote app and it did not warn me that all the associated files would be deleted.
    The problem is that the current notebook which im using has never been synced as there was some issues.
    Once i've signout all my notebooks were gone.
    Anyone knows how do i access the llocal data stored in my PC?

  10. Douglass Carmichael
    February 11, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    i created a file in a nptebook, a wek later went to find it, used dearch, there it was, but when clicked on it onenote closed with the standard error message thee was a problem and onenote closed.sorr...

    any way to get the text back? I looked in delted paes, not there.

    • Tina Sieber
      February 12, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I have no real suggestions beyond the article above.

      Do you sync your notebooks with OneDrive? Maybe you can restore an older copy there.

  11. Heather
    December 10, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Help! I only use one note on my android. I was using my notes this morning without difficulty then at some point everything changed to read only. I asked hubby to take a look and he signed out and back in again and everything I have created recently is gone (only stuff from years ago remains). I checked one drive and it took me to one note online and they and they aren't there either. They aren't in the recycle bin. I went on to the desktop version and selected the backups but it only shows the ones from today as we tried "syncing" to bring things back...there weren't any older options at all. I also checked under edits to pages and it only shows stuff from years ago and doesn't mention these missing pages at all. My understanding was that an update may have happened but I still don't understand how anything I've done recently is gone but everything from years ago is still there. Any help appreciated.

  12. Frank Long
    November 17, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    If it were only this easy!

  13. Sam
    September 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    OneNote has been an absolute nightmare. I lost everything, EVERYTHING. Itm for some unknown reason, decided to restart itself while I was sharing some notebooks, and when it decided it was done, it erased every. single. PDF. All my notes for veterinary school- gone. Poof. Nowhere to be found. They're not in back ups, they can't be accessed from OneNote desktop, OneNote 2016, OneDrive, OneNote online, etc. Customer service was absolutely horrendous- they transferred me to a "higher up" who was sending me GOOGLE LINKS to troubleshoot, and, wait for it, they were for OneNote 2007 and OneNote 2013. No one can figure out what happened, or why my PDFs are gone, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. All my notebooks are in place, but only 3 of them will even let me open them to see that the PDFs are gone- the rest are "loading" or, in the case of OneNote online, tell me they haven't been synced. But when I sync my notebooks, it tells me it's already done.

    In short, the whole "never lose your notes" thing is absolute crap. I did lose my notes, I don't know how, and now I'm in big trouble for my midterms. Which are next week. And I'm a veterinary student and have seven midterms.

    • Tina Sieber
      September 27, 2016 at 11:08 am

      I hear your frustration and unfortunately, I don't have more advice than what I've covered in the article above. Hope you will find a solution and if you do, I'd appreciate a link or a quick comment. Thank you and best of luck!

  14. Sam
    September 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    So yeah, I'm not a big fan of OneNote because it literally lost every. single. thing. that I had done in it. I've been using it for weeks, and yesterday it decided to restart itself, and all my PDFs that I had attached to my pages (that I had drawn on, made edits to, etc.) are GONE. They're not in OneNote desktop, OneNote online, OneNote 2016, or OneDrive. I can't even access the majority of my pages- they're just constantly "loading" and it doesn't matter how many times I try to sync, nothing happens. The back ups aren't working, I can't find copies of my notebooks anywhere, I contacted customer support and they were absolutely no help whatsoever- they transferred me to a "higher up" who was sending me GOOGLE LINKS to troubleshoot, and the best part was that the links were for OneNote 2007 and OneNote 2013. If anyone has any ideas at all, please do share. Otherwise I'm going to warn everyone away from OneNote (which, also, has caused nothing but problems at my work, where we use it for files as well) and will share my horrid experience everywhere so that people have a fair warning as to what can happen, despite all their assurances. If it's fixable, fine, wonderful, amazing, but I'm at my wit's end and midterms start this week so I'm a little on edge.

    • Tina Sieber
      September 27, 2016 at 11:05 am

      What a terrible experience!

      I would highly recommend asking your question in a dedicated OneNote forum or on the Microsoft Community forum. You're more likely to get a fast and helpful response there.

      The article above is all I know about recovering notes in OneNote. Sorry and good luck!

  15. Cliona
    August 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Hi, I wonder if you can help please?
    I opened OneNote 2010 this morning, as every morning, and all Notebooks and contents opened as normal for a few seconds and then disappeared! A message says 'There are no sections open in this notebook or section group'.
    This is the second time this has happened - last time, which was less than a week ago, I was able to recover my Notebooks (3 of them) by doing a Sync (took quite a while as they downloaded one by one from OneDrive), today however when I try to Sync nothing is being recovered. I have gone to OneDriveLive and the Notebooks are there and I assume they are still in tact on my home PC and Mac.
    I'm using Windows 7 on a PC. Thanks for any advice as I've spent most of the morning trying to sort this out.

    • Brett
      August 18, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Cliona- I had the exact same problem yesterday, and could use help! -Brett

    • JohanG
      August 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      I also had this problem. I tried to close the Notebook and reopen and sync, but just as you it only said 'There are no sections open in this notebook or section group'. The notebook is still on OneDriveLive though, just as for you. Microsoft, what is happening here?

    • Claire
      August 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      I am having this problem as well!

    • Stefan
      August 18, 2016 at 5:07 pm

      Wow, this happened to me yesterday also... Sounds like a server side issue?
      I've tried restoring my backed up notebooks and notes to the shared/online notebook and it keeps syncing back to a completely blank notebook!
      Help is much needed!

    • Scott
      August 18, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      This happened to me yesterday. I was able to watch my notes disappear as the day went on. I found they were still on OneDrive and was able to download them locally. Today I was able to uninstall -> reinstall One Note on my iPhone and iPad and the notes are back. I have not figured out how to get them back on my Windows 7 PC as of yet.

    • Gary
      August 18, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Yip, there's definitely a Gremlin in the works, as all my notes on my Windows notebook are gone... disappeared before my eyes, leaving me with a note saying "There aren't any sections here'

      Panic stations! Checked online and was relieved to see my notes on OneDrive and even on my Mac, but I still haven't figured out how to get them back on my Windows PC.

      Anyone found a solutions?

      • Tina Sieber
        August 18, 2016 at 8:36 pm

        Also this Microsoft Answers thread might be interesting, but the Reddit thread mentioned above will probably be updated first.

    • Tina Sieber
      August 18, 2016 at 8:35 pm

      Please check this Reddit thread for the most current information. A OneNote product manager is on it and will post a solution there.

      • Cliona
        August 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm

        In OneDrive I have selected the notebooks and Open/Open in OneNote and they are downloading now to my computer. Hopefully the loss doesn't happen again and that they get it sorted soon. Thanks for the help everyone

  16. S Beumer
    July 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    It seems I experienced a loss of my notes/note-updates due to the app-update from OneNote iOS on 8th July. At Thursday 7th of July I updated some notes on my iPad without internet connection. Today I come to the conclusion that all my notes from Thursday are gone. I also cannot find the notes in the browser based OneNote-Online (the most recent version is not to be found in versions) or my iPhone. I suspect that the app-update from Friday deleted my notes from July 7 before they could be synced with Onedrive.

    Is this possible, or is there an other explanation? Is there a way to restore my writings from Thursday July 7? Many thanks in advance!

    • Tina Sieber
      July 11, 2016 at 11:12 pm

      It sounds like you've already checked all the options. If you've followed the article above and haven't been able to find your notes or restore them using the automatic backup, then I'm afraid I'm at my wit's end too. That sucks! I hope you can restore them from memory.

      • S Beumer
        July 12, 2016 at 8:36 am

        I'll try :-) Many thans for your reply. I hope this is not an error that occurs every app-update...

  17. George
    June 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    What a great OneNote 101. I have accidentally shutdown an online account and thought I had lost all of my notes. Did not realize that backup was setup and had been backing up locally.

    This saved from trying to rebuild a few years of work. I alway backup my system but had not realized OneNote did the same.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 26, 2016 at 2:20 am

      Glad this article helped you, George!

  18. KarenWSSA
    June 17, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    I need to keep ALL of my notes until I delete a specific entry. They build on each other and I need to have access to everything, at any given time. The automatic archiving is sending me off the deep end. I don't want to babysit all my notes, I just want them there when I need them, without any automatic archiving. Help before I have to change my file method please!

    • Tina Sieber
      June 20, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      I'm not aware of an automatic archiving feature in OneNote. What am I missing?

      Do you mean the automatic backup? That shouldn't delete any of your notes, but you can use it as a kind of archive, as long as you don't overwrite old backups.

      • KarenWSSA
        June 21, 2016 at 10:38 pm

        Yes, thank you. I mean auto backup.

        I'm attempting to understand how to keep notes from moving to "Unfiled docs" after 60 days as they then disappear. As this occurs, I then don't know which version of my saved notebook is most current because files roll off at intervals based on when they were last updated. At least that's the way I understand it. I may be out in left field...

        • Tina Sieber
          June 21, 2016 at 10:53 pm


          in OneNote 2016, unfiled notes are kept indefinitely. You can move unfiled notes to your notebooks.

          The 60 day-rule applies to edits or deletions. You can restore files and undo changes for that long. Unless you're deleting your unfiled notes, they shouldn't ever disappear.

  19. Alan
    June 1, 2016 at 7:13 am

    I updated a Notebook while working offline on Surface Pro 4. When I went back online, the Notebook is showing a sync error and I cannot see my changes anymore. Help !!

    • Tina Sieber
      June 1, 2016 at 10:07 am

      Alan, which version of OneNote are you using?

      When you edit offline, a copy of your notebook is kept in the Local Settings folder. The changes could still be saved to the cache. Assuming you haven't made changes elsewhere in the meantime, just try to sync the notebook manually again, as described above.

      Also, did you check the Backup folder described above?

  20. Herman
    April 24, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    OneNote looks okay, but on my Lumia 920 Windows(!) Phone (8.1) it will not sync!
    And for some use 1N is okay/better than EN (Evernote) perhaps, but EN is more complete. And more with the latest update 6.0 for Windows (with colorlabels for example).
    I really don't understand how MS cannot make good apps for his own OS...

  21. Shatrughan
    April 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    I lost all of my notes which I was created in my android phone by onenote apps while I sync in my desktop pc with windows 10. I used onenote which was install with office 2010. When I sync, all my quick notes gone. Even from oendrive saved location, the new saved sync notes on onedrive location are those which are existed in my desktop pc but all android notes are gone. After that I left to use of onenote for my any notes. And I am much happy with my samsung notes apps.