Find my lost notes in OneNote 2016 for Windows

If you can't find some of your OneNote 2016 notes, it doesn't mean they're gone. Notes can end up in one of several places. Here are a few ideas to help you find your notes.


  • If you’re using a computer running Windows 10, you might not be aware that there are two versions of OneNote: The desktop app, OneNote 2016, and a version that's deeply integrated with Windows 10 and is simply called OneNote. Launch OneNote 2016 to see if your notes are there before following the steps below.

  • You can change the default version of OneNote if you prefer.

Step 1: Use the Search feature

The quickest and easiest way to find anything again in OneNote is by searching for it. OneNote can find words in text, handwriting, pictures—even audio and video recordings.

  1. In the search box in the upper-right corner, select the arrow to the right of the magnifying glass icon, and in the list that appears, choose All notebooks.

    Note: If you prefer using keyboard shortcuts, you can press Ctrl+E to expand your search to all notebooks.

  2. In the search box, type a keyword or phrase.

    Use Search to look for notes anywhere in OneNote.

  3. As you type, OneNote begins returning page results that match your search word or phrase. Choose a search result to retrieve the matching note.

  4. When you’re finished your search, press Esc.

Search for words in audio and video clips

OneNote can recognize spoken words in audio and video recordings if Audio Search is turned on. This option is turned off by default because it slows down searching.

To turn on Audio Search:

  1. Choose File > Options > Audio & Video.

  2. Under Audio Search, select the Enable searching audio and video recordings for words check box and click OK.

Step 2: Re-open closed notebooks

If your notes are stored in a notebook that you've previously closed, you'll need to re-open it so those notes are included in your searches.

  1. Choose File > Open.

  2. Under Recent Notebooks, choose the notebook you'd like to open.

  3. Look through the sections and pages of your reopened notebooks, or perform another notebook search.

Step 3: Check the Quick Notes section

If you upgraded to OneNote 2016 from a previous version, some of your notes may have been collected in a special section called Quick Notes. Prior to OneNote 2013, this section was called Unfiled Notes. In either case, check to see if such a section exists in your default notebook.

  1. Open the Notebook pane by clicking the name of your current notebook, shown on the left side just underneath the ribbon. (Skip this step if you have the Notebook pane docked to the screen.)

  2. At the bottom of the Notebook pane, choose Quick Notes.

  3. In the Quick Notes section, choose the section tabs at the top or the page tabs on the right to browse through any notes that OneNote may have collected here.

Note: Typically, random notes stored in the Quick Notes section are included in an all-notebooks search. However, if you've moved this section to another notebook that's since been closed, it won't be included in the search results.

Step 4: Manually sync shared notebooks

If you’re working in one or more shared notebooks that are stored on OneDrive, OneNote may not be syncing correctly to such shared locations. Syncing shared notebooks manually will help you figure out if there’s a problem.

  1. Open the shared notebook where you expected to see your missing notes.

  2. Choose File > View Sync Status.

  3. In the Shared Notebook Synchronization dialog box, make sure that the Sync automatically whenever there are changes option is selected.

  4. Choose Sync All.

If you see any error messages for any of the shared notebooks in your list, click the Get Help button next to each to begin troubleshooting the problem. Unless you resolve any sync errors, you won’t see notes others have added to the shared notebook, and you won't see notes that you've added from other computers or devices.

Step 5: Check your OneDrive folders

If you suspect that your notes are on OneDrive and searching for them in OneNote hasn’t worked, try to locate them in your OneDrive folders directly, without using OneNote.

  1. Sign in to your OneDrive account from the OneDrive home page or using the OneDrive app for Windows 10.

  2. Browse through your document folders and open notes, documents, and other files to search for the information you’re looking for. Check other documents and file in case your notes are there instead of in OneNOte

Step 6: Check the Notebook Recycle Bin

If you've tried all the steps above and you still haven't found your notes, perhaps you—or someone else with access to your notebooks—deleted them. Fortunately, OneNote automatically saves notes for a limited time after they have been deleted from shared notebook so you can try to recover them.

  1. Open the shared notebook where you expected to find the lost notes.

  2. Choose History > Notebook Recycle Bin > Notebook Recycle Bin.

If you find your deleted notes here, you can recover them by moving the pages back to their intended locations:

  1. Right-click the tab of any page that you want to recover, and then choose Move or Copy.

  2. In the Move or Copy Pages dialog box, choose the notebook section where you want to move the page, and then choose Move. If you want to move the page to a section in another notebook, first click the + (plus) sign next to that notebook in the list, and then select a section within it.

  3. Repeat steps 1-2 with any other pages that you want to move out of the Notebook Recycle Bin.

More help

If the suggestions in this article didn't help you recover notes that you’re sure you lost, consider reporting the issue on the OneNote forums on Microsoft Answers. Another customer may have run into the same issue or a member of the OneNote product team may be able to help.

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