How to restore notes saved on your Mac

Apple’s Notes app stores local copies of your Notes on your Mac. Here’s how to find them.

Apple’s Notes app lets you save notes locally and to iCloud. For both types of notes, macOS creates a local copy and stores them for the Notes app to use. If for some reason you need to find them, or if for some reason you need to restore the thumbnail images for notes, you can do so locally on your Startup Disk.

You can do this if you accidentally deleted a note or want to recover a cached thumbnail from a long-deleted note. You can also use local files if you want to reinstall macOS or set up a new Mac, although in the latter case it’s probably best to sync all notes to iCloud and then sync again to the new Mac. to download it all.

Trying to move existing local Notes data to a new Mac by copying local files may work, but you may only get partial results and there is a chance of data loss using this method.

To view local and iCloud notes in the macOS version of the Notes app, first click the sidebar icon in the top-left corner of the main window to reveal Notes in the sidebar, then click the small hidden scrolling arrow next to the two. “Notes” under the point iCloud: header and below On My Mac.

Click the sidebar icon, then the hidden arrow to reveal notes.

The little spinning arrow next to the two elements is hidden until you hover over them, a strange violation of Apple’s own human interface guidelines.

When the Notes items appear in the sidebar, click each to display iCloud or local notes on the right side of the main window.

You can also create new folders by clicking the small one New folder “+” icon in the lower left corner of the main window. The new folder is created in either the iCloud or On My Mac sidebar, depending on what the default account is set to. Notes->Settings window from the main menu.

Notes also lets you share notes from other Internet services like Google, Microsoft Exchange, OneNote, Yahoo!, and more.

Go to add an internet account Notes->Accounts from the main menu. This opens the macOS settings panel from which you can click “Add Account” button on the right to add a new internet account.

local notes

For local notes, the Notes app stores everything:

~/Library/Group Containers/

In this folder you will find local notes preferences stored in a subfolder in /Library/Preferences/ Many of the settings in this .plist file are private to Apple and may or may not be modified.

Thumbnails for some, but not all, saved notes are also stored in the ~/Library/Group Containers/ folder, but in the /Thumbnails/Recent folder. This is where the .png and .json description of the thumbnail are stored.

Notes removes these thumbnail caches occasionally when it sees fit, but that is not documented.

A much larger cache of thumbnails is also stored in ~/Library/Group Containers/, but in a folder named UUID in the /Accounts folder. This folder contains a folder named “Previews”, which in turn contains .png files, each named after a unique Notes-generated UUID.

This folder can get quite large, and it’s not clear what logic Notes uses to empty it when you delete individual notes in the app. To save disk space, you can go ahead and manually clean up old files that are no longer in use.

In the same /Accounts subfolder, there is also a folder titled Media. This is where Notes stores anything you might want to put into your individual notes: large images, videos, links, and more.

The Notes logic used to clean up this folder is also undocumented by Apple.

There is another subfolder in /Accounts called “LocalAccount”, but strangely it doesn’t seem to store much, local or otherwise. iCloud items and media are never stored here, but to date we haven’t seen any local personal notes stored here, no matter how long they’ve been around.

invisible files

Also, the ~/Library/Group Containers/ folder holds an invisible preferences file To view this file, you need to show hidden files in the Finder, which we discussed earlier.

This file contains some metadata used by the Notes application. mostly just UUID settings and some POSIX user and group ID data.

Local database

In ~/Library/Group Containers/, you’ll also see some lock files that are used while Notes is running, and which are deleted or unused when it exits. There are several other files and folders such as state, database backup files, and temporary files. You can ignore most of them.

But the really important file is called “NoteStore.sqlite”. This is a local SQLite database file that stores all the notes and information associated with them. SQLite is an open source standard, and the NoteStore.sqlite file can be viewed by any database application that can read .sqlite files.

Easy-to-use free SQLite viewer applications include Liya, DBeaver, and DB Browser for SQLite. If any of your notes are password protected, you will need those passwords to view the databases.

Most of the information in the database file is simply a reference to the media on the disk, so it may take some searching to find what you’re looking for.

iCloud Notes:

For Notes stored in iCloud, most note data is stored on Apple’s iCloud servers in a remote database using the CloudKit framework and API. If you have an Apple developer account, you can view some of this data through the CloudKit web interface.

When you add a new note in the Notes app under the iCloud heading, the Notes app automatically syncs them to the iCloud servers using CloudKit (actually a background daemon). cloudy performs the synchronization).

In macOS Ventura, iCloud stores partially mirrored iCloud Notes data locally:

  1. ~/Library/Containers/
  2. ~/Library/Containers/Notes/Data
  3. ~/Library/Containers/Notes/Data/Library/Notes

However, most data in iCloud Notes is sent to iCloud servers.

In ~/Library/Containers/Notes/Data/CloudKit you’ll find one or more folders named UUID, each containing a database and other folders. You will also find a “cloudd_db” folder. These are mostly local caches of CloudKit databases, records, and indexes used to speed up access to Notes data, but they may or may not contain some records.

There are also folders for the Notes Quick Look extension and Spotlight indexing in the ~/Library/Containers/ folder.

Notes iCloud syncing has been a contentious issue for users for years, and Apple has yet to fully address the issue, although Notes syncing across devices seems to have improved somewhat in recent years.

The biggest sync problems occur when a large number of notes are stored in the Notes app, or when one device hasn’t synced for a long time and the sync data for a particular device is very out of date.

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