Salvaging OneNote Notes

Recently my employer switched Office 365 tenants and the migration process they used caused some issues.  One of which was that OneNote notebooks that had been synchronized via OneDrive were no longer synchronizing properly.

The only place I had access to these important notes was in the OneNote App on my work machine.  They failed to synchronize.

Luckily, it’s not hard to recover from this kind of problem, though depending on the number of notes you have, it can take some time.  These steps generally work as a last resort for any kind of OneNote notebook corruption.

The first step is to create a new notebook in a place that can be synchronized.

I recommend a OneDrive (Personal notes) or SharePoint (Team notes) location depending on whether the notes are primarily for personal use or shared with a colleagues.

Open the new notebook in the same OneNote app that contains the notes you wish to move.  To make it even easier, drag the new notebook to the top – and make sure it’s a different color than the existing notebook – I like to make the old one red and the new one green to represent notebooks I’m going to stop and start using.

Now open two OneNote copies side-by-side.  You can use <Windows> + <Left Arrow> to snap one window to the left, then select the other window and snap it to the right.  You can also select it manually and use <Windows> + <Right Arrow> to snap it to the right.

Now open the new notebook on the left and the old notebook on the right.

Sometimes, you can just right click a section and select Move/Copy.

This will open a dialog to select the new notebook, then click the Move button.

Since my notebooks had gotten out of sync, I got the following message.

Microsoft OneNote
The sections you’re moving have not all been synced. Make sure you are online adn fully synced before you move sections between notebooks.
[ OK ]

Microsoft OneNote
Something went wrong and we can’t move that section.
[ OK ]

Since that didn’t work, create a matching section in the new Notebook, then select the section in the old notebook and click the top page in the list.

Then scroll to the bottom of the page list and hold <Shift> while clicking the bottom-most page.

Right-click Move/Copy and browse to the matching section in the new notebook and click the [Move] button.

The old section will now be empty so you can right-click on it and select Delete Section so you are de-cluttering as you move along.

While it is repetitive and can take a bit of time, when you’re done, you’ll have all of your notes rescued in a new notebook.