How to Recover Deleted or Lost OneNote Files on Windows and Mac

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recover onenote pageMicrosoft OneNote is an exceedingly popular note-taking program that serves as a hub where users can create and manage research, memos, journal entries, and more. People often store crucial documents on OneNote, and it’s not uncommon for them to be accidentally deleted or lost due to unforeseen events.

On the plus side, there are many ways to recover OneNote files, and we’ll go through some of the most reliable methods in this guide.

Reasons that Lead to Loss of OneNote Files

There are several scenarios that could cause the loss of your OneNote files. Below are some of the most common ones faced by users:

Reason Description
🧍‍♂️ User error These are data loss scenarios caused by the user’s actions and include accidental deletion, premature formatting, file overwriting, etc. Users can potentially recover deleted OneNote files and ones lost through formatting by using a data rescue program similar to how they can recover deleted Word documents. But it’s worth noting that formatted files can only be retrieved if a “Quick” format was done and not a “Full” one.
🔄 Synchronization error OneNote utilizes an auto-synchronization feature when storing files within Microsoft OneDrive, whether it’s online or offline. If there’s an error with the syncing process, it could cause the OneNote file to be lost unless properly backed up.
💿 Drive failure In addition to cloud storage, Microsoft OneDrive also allows users to store their files locally by saving them on the storage device where Windows is installed. If someone primarily syncs their OneNote files locally or exports them onto their computer drive, then those files are at risk of being lost in the event the drive fails. When it comes to mechanical drive failure, the best course of action is to seek the help of a data recovery specialist.
🕷️ Malware attack Viruses and malware can affect data in several ways, such as through loss of files, corruption, and unauthorized access to confidential information. Both local and online cloud storage are susceptible to malware attacks, meaning your OneNote files are at risk of being affected as well.

Is it Possible to Recover OneNote Files?

It’s certainly possible to recover lost OneNote files, but it really depends on what caused the data loss to begin with. For example, accidentally deleted files can be restored through backups or third-party recovery programs. The same goes for formatted files, as long as it was a “Quick” format.

However, damaged drives with OneNote files on them are typically beyond the scope of a data recovery program and often require professional expertise.

How to Recover Lost or Deleted OneNote Files

There are many different ways you can potentially recover missing OneNote files depending on the situation, so we’ve listed out the most effective methods along with step-by-step walkthroughs on how to accomplish them.

Keep in mind that the majority of these methods are applicable to both Mac and Windows operating systems.

Method 1:Use Data Recovery Software

Utilizing first-rate data retrieval software is a quick and reliable way to recover deleted OneNote pages or ones that have gone missing on your storage device. Disk Drill is a particularly effective choice on account of its polished interface, fast scans, and superior rate of recovery. It’s also fully compatible with OneNote files, as well as the majority of storage device file systems.

It even comes in a free trial version that includes all of the program’s features along with a 500 MB recovery limit for Windows users. The latest versions of Disk Drill work with Windows 10/11, though you’ll need to go with an older version for previous iterations of the operating system. There’s also a Mac version for Apple users.

Here’s a quick and easy guide on how to recover OneNote files using Disk Drill:

  1. Download Disk Drill and install it on your computer.
  2. Launch the app and select the storage device that contains your lost OneNote files. Click “Search for lost data” on the right side of the window to continue.
    select storage
  3. After that, Disk Drill will start searching your storage device for the missing files. Note that the duration of this process depends primarily on the size and type of your storage device. Click the “Review found items” button to proceed.
    scanning drive
  4. Once you get to the results screen, you can use the search bar in the top-right corner to look for files using a file name or file format. Keep in mind that OneNote files typically use the .one format, though they can be exported in the form of documents as well, such as .doc and .pdf. When you find the files, select them by ticking the checkbox next to their names and hit “Recover” to head to the next step.
    choose files
  5. Next, you’ll need to select the destination of your recovered files in the pop-up that appears. This has to be on a different drive than the one you’re recovering from. Click “Next” when you’re ready.
    choose recovery location
  6. Upon clicking, Disk Drill will now try to restore your selected OneNote files for you. Finally, if it succeeds, you’ll be met with a completion screen and a button labeled “Show recovered data in Explorer.”
    recovery complete

Method 2:Recover Files from OneNote Recycle Bin

Pages and sections deleted within the OneNote app can be retrieved through the Notebook Recycle Bin. Bear in mind that any deleted notebooks or pages only remain in this section for a maximum of 60 days unless emptied manually.

Here’s how to restore deleted pages from within OneNote:

  1. Run the OneNote app.
  2. Next, select “History” near the top of the window, and then click on the recycle bin icon.
    onenote history recycle bin
  3. Locate the page or section you want to restore, then right-click it and select “Move or Copy”.
    onenote move copy
  4. After that, select the notebook you want to move/copy the page back to and then click the “Move” or “Copy” button.
    onenote move copy deleted

Method 3:Recover from Local Backups

Another way for recovering OneNote files is from local backups on your computer. In case you’d created any prior to the data loss, here’s how to recover OneNote files from backups:

  1. Run the OneNote app.
  2. Click “File” from the upper toolbar.
    onenote file
  3. Next, select “Open Backups”.
    onenote open backups
  4. Head to the location your backup is located and double-click it.
    onedrive select backup

Method 4:Search for Backups in OneDrive

Similar to the OneNote Recycle Bin, the platform has another feature that lets you retrieve deleted pages/notes from OneDrive. Simply follow the steps outlined below to accomplish this:

  1. Open an instance of OneNote in your browser of choice.
  2. Select “View” near the top of the page, followed by “Deleted Notes”.
    onedrive deleted notes
  3. After that, locate the note/page you want to recover, then right-click it and select “Restore”.
    onedrive restore deleted note

Method 5:Recover from OS-Specific Backup Options

The last method we’ll go through is utilizing backup features built into Windows and Mac operating systems, which are File History and Time Machine, respectively. This option is useful for retrieving lost OneNote files that were saved on your computer.

File History

This is a Windows tool that creates backups on a scheduled basis and allows users to choose from different versions to restore. One thing to consider is that this method requires users to have set up the feature prior to the data loss.

To get started, simply follow these steps:

  1. Type “file history” into your Windows taskbar search feature and select “file history” from the list.
    search file history
  2. Next, click “Select drive” from the left side of the window.
    restore personal files
  3. Navigate to where your OneNote files were last located before they were lost. From there, select the ones you want to recover and click the rounded green arrow button near the bottom. Your OneNote files will be restored to the same location they appeared in File History.
    file history select files

Time Machine

Similar to File History, Time Machine is a built-in Mac utility that automatically creates backups of files, folders, and settings. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Head to Go > Applications from the “Finder” toolbar.
    finder applications
  2. Launch “Time Machine”.
    launch time machine
  3. After that, navigate to where your OneNote files were last located, then highlight the ones you want to retrieve and click the “Restore” button.

Conclusion

OneNote is an incredibly handy platform for organizing notes and records, but it’s not exempt from the different data loss scenarios that may occur. But if you were unfortunate to encounter such a situation, OneNote files can be retrieved using a data recovery program, built-in tools, and OS-specific utilities.

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Emma Collins is a content writer who has been writing tech tutorials & how-to guides relating to her wide interests in technology. She's been writing articles on Windows, Android, iOS, Social Media, Gaming, and more as a tech writer for over 5 years.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.