How to Password Protect Notes on Mac OS X

Mar 24, 2016 - 11 Comments

Password protect notes on the Mac to lock them down

The Notes app is an excellent place to store clips of useful information, and now that you can password protect notes within the Mac app, you can securely keep more personal information within the Notes app of Mac OS X as well.

This is a great feature available to new versions of the Notes app, and it allows for a convenient place to maintain all sorts of data you want kept in an additional locked layer away from prying eyes. Whether it’s a little diary, a list of login details or email addresses, insurance information, or whatever else you can imagine that is best left with a password to protect it and lock out peepers, the Notes app for Mac offers this functionality.

How to Lock Notes with Password Protection in Mac OS X

  1. Open the Notes app on Mac OS X if you haven’t done so already
  2. notes-icon-mac

  3. Create a new note as usual, or select an existing note within the app
  4. Click on the Lock icon button in the toolbar of the Notes app
  5. password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-2

  6. Choose “Lock This Note” from the drop down menu
  7. password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-3

  8. Now enter the password you want to use to lock all locked notes in Notes app (this is separate from the general user login password, though you can use the same password if you want to)
  9. password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-4

  10. When finished reading, adding to, or editing the note, you can now lock it with the aforementioned set password by clicking on the Lock icon button and choosing “Close All Locked Notes”, or by quitting out of Notes app
  11. password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-5

This immediately locks the note(s), like so:

password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-6

Once you have either Quit the Notes app, or chosen “Close All Locked Notes” from the Lock menu, all notes that have been locked will now require the password to access them again. It’s important to remember to quit the app or close the locked notes like this in order to set the password protection on the notes in question. It’s also important to remember that unlocking one locked note unlocks them all, and locking one note locks all other locked notes. Currently, a different password can not be assigned to different notes.

The video below demonstrates locking a note with a password, unlocking the note, and removing the password from a locked note:

The proper password now must be entered before the lock(ed) notes can be accessed within Notes app again. Without the correct password, the notes content will remain locked and inaccessible, multiple failed entries will show the password hint if one was offered, however.

password-protect-notes-mac-os-x-7

Do keep in mind that even if you choose to password protect a note, this should not substitute for broader security measures on a Mac. All Mac users should have password locked screen savers that activate quickly upon inactivity, and should strongly consider using FileVault disk encryption on the Mac as well, particularly if the computer is new enough to support the feature without any performance hit (most modern Macs with SSD drives are fine).

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Another great feature of password protecting Notes is that if you use iCloud Notes to sync them, those password locked notes will also sync and carry over to any Apple ID related iPhone or iPad, where they will also be password protected as well. To be able to password protect a note in Notes for Mac, you’ll need to be running at least OS X 10.11.4, and to sync with an iPhone or iPad those devices will need to run at least iOS 9.3, as earlier versions do not support the feature.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Security, Tips & Tricks

11 Comments

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  1. Bill Boak says:

    I tried to lock a note; but “lock this note” is grayed out. Also Notes—Set password is grayed out also.

    • Paul says:

      You may be trying to create a locked note with an iCloud Note that has not been upgraded yet.

      In the Notes app, go to the “View” menu and choose “Show Folders”

      Click under the “All On My Mac” section so that you are creating the secure notes on your Mac only.

      You can secure iCloud Notes as well but they must be updated first (I don’t know why Apple does this), same thing with drawing and iOS Notes too.

      • avenged110 says:

        They do that because older software (say, syncing iCloud notes with 10.9) wouldn’t work correctly with these features. You have to switch your iCloud account which disables notes sync on anything lower than iOS 9 & 10.11 in order to use those options.

  2. Robert Damato says:

    What version of notes are these changes.
    On view i don’t see show folders.
    and no lock icon Button

    • Tony says:

      From the article: “To be able to password protect a note in Notes for Mac, you’ll need to be running at least OS X 10.11.4, and to sync with an iPhone or iPad those devices will need to run at least iOS 9.3, as earlier versions do not support the feature.”

      New versions only.

  3. STEVE says:

    WHAT TOOL BAR? I’M RUNNING YOSEMITE AND THERE IS NO TOOL BAR EVEN IN FULL SCREEN (YES, IT’S CHECKED)

  4. BillyX says:

    Fantastic write up on how to pass word protect Notes!

    Does anyone know how to sync notes from a Mac to iOS device without using iCloud?

    In the past Apple provided syncing of Notes via iTunes, but that is no longer an option.

    I’d like to sync sensitive notes that are only on my Mac to notes that are only on my iPhone and realize that I can drag the note from the Mac to iCloud, then from iCloud to my iPhone. The password protection is an added layer of privacy, but doesn’t provide encryption. Additionally, I do not want my sensitive notes to ever live on iCloud, even if it’s temporary.

    Anyone figured out how to sync notes “On My Mac” to notes “On my iPhone” without using iCloud?

    Thanks!

  5. Dina says:

    After I enter a password to lock Notes, I am getting this error:

    “That’s Not The Correct Password”

    • oablo says:

      That means you are entering the wrong password, you need to use the password that you used to lock notes to unlock the notes. It has to be the same password to lock and unlock.

  6. FMMac says:

    I have notes synced with Gmail, but none of the Notes can be locked. Why?

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