Where are Notes Stored on Mac?

Jan 15, 2020 - 11 Comments

The Notes icon for Mac

Want to access Notes data on your Mac? Wondering where Notes are stored on the Mac? This article will show you where Notes are stored locally on a Mac and how to access that data. This of course assumes you use the Notes app, with or without iCloud, and if so all Notes will be kept on the Mac locally, including locally kept notes, and caches of notes from iCloud. This stored Notes data includes all Notes texts, images, graphics, drawings, doodles, media, movies, videos, and any other data stored and kept in the Notes app.

This article is aimed for more technical users aiming for direct Notes data access. The vast majority of Mac users can access their Notes by simply launching the “Notes” application on the Mac and finding their notes data there.

Accessing the raw Notes data can be helpful for many purposes, whether you want to manually recover Notes, manually backup Notes data, manually restore Notes data, or access Notes data directly from MacOS or Mac OS X for any other purpose, be in for backups, digital forensics, curiosity, or anything else.

Where Notes Data is Stored Locally on Mac

The path to where Notes are stored locally on the Mac is as follows:

~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/

For iCloud Notes, you may look at the following location:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/

To access these Notes locations, use the handy Go To Folder command from Finder:

  1. From the Finder, pull down the “Go” menu
  2. Choose “Go To Folder”
  3. Enter the following path exactly then click go to jump to that folder
  4. ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/

  5. This folder contains all of your Notes that are stored locally as well as iCloud notes that are cached locally on the Mac, if you wish to backup or recover this data this is the folder you will be working with
  6. The actual Notes data is in a file called “NoteStore.sqlite”, the text data is stored a SQL Lite database file, whereas all media from Notes are stored in the various directories within this folder, including “Media”, “FallbackImages”, and “Previews”

Notes data stored locally on Mac

Notes Location on Mac from iCloud Notes

Notes that are exclusively kept in iCloud may be found at the following locations on the Mac instead or in addition to the previous location:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/Data/CloudKit/

Along with:

~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/Data/Library/Notes/

You can also access the parent directory but you will find many aliases and symbolic links there, which is common with iCloud data (as you may have encountered before if accessing iCloud Drive data from the command line on Mac or through Finder Go To Folder too).

You might notice some overlap depending on where you keep Notes and if you use both iCloud and local notes, or sometimes keep the same Notes data in both locations.

It’s important to acknowledge that if the Notes are password locked then the data within the SQL file will be encrypted and likely inaccessible without the Notes password.

Accessing the Notes data stored within the NoteStore.sqlite will require a SQL app to query the database, you can use the command line or a third party SQL Lite application to do this if you need to.

At the command line, this can be done with the ‘sqlite’ command, or for users who prefer a GUI to navigate SQL the freely available SQLiteBrowser.org is an option.

Again this applies to all notes data that is stored locally on the Mac, whether by caching from iCloud or by literal local Notes data.

Notes.app vs Stickies.app, where Stickies notes are stored

Remember, the Notes app is different from the Stickies app (sometimes referred to as Sticky Notes). If you are looking for Stickies app notes data, that is found in a different database file at the following location:

~/Library/StickiesDatabase

You can access that directory location through the user library, or through the aforementioned Go To Folder command.

If you know of any other Notes locations or relevant data, or another way to access stored Notes data on Mac, let us know in the comments below!

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

11 Comments

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  1. jiminy says:

    its to keep you locked into the apple ec0system. most people cant handle sql databases and this keeps them buying more macs

  2. jimmy says:

    its to keep you locked into the apple ecosystem. most people arent savvy with sql to migrate their notes should they wish to free themselves so this acts as an incentive to keep consooming the apple product every 4 years when your mac breaks down from logic board failure

  3. FM says:

    Files are files.
    “This article is aimed for more technical users aiming for direct Notes data access. The vast majority of Mac users can access their Notes by simply launching the “Notes” application on the Mac and finding their notes data there.”

    What a convoluted POC! I would prefer to put them in a hidden “Library” tucked in another “Location” outside the MacOS User Finder, …if I wanted to do that. I would prefer to have the OPTION to do that myself. …if I wanted to do that.

    The file EXTENSION tells the file to open the Application I WANT to open. Where I keep the file SHOULD BE MY OPTION. Hand holding should be limited to your own children, not a computer’s operating system.

    • Paul says:

      This is the way Notes app functions in MacOS. If you want to have a fuller feature set with direct file access with saving, importing, specific file save locations and destinations, etc, then using a different application is probably what you’re looking for. You might try Pages, TextEdit, Word, etc

  4. Hereward says:

    I’m trying to retrieve a specific historic folder/topic in my Macbook Pro’s notes app in my Apple time capsule. I don’t want to overwrite my current notes folders/topics. I’ve tried using the ‘Go to’ function to open the Library folder but when I do it opens my existing Library folder on my MBP.

    Any solutions?

  5. Stephen says:

    Thanks/ Found NoteStore.sqlite. Opened with DB Browser for SQlite. Found table ZICNOTEDATA whic has the same number of records as in my notes. It has a field called ZDATA which continas binary data labelled as a “BLOB” which is large enough to contain my notes.
    BUT when I export it it is binary and garbage.
    Tried export table as csv and json but still garbage.
    Ideas ???

    I want to extract a file from my time machine and get back and old note that I mistakenly deleted and then deleted from recently deleted with a thumb slip on my phone……

    (Think I will use Google Docs or Dropbox document for notes because they have better recovery and backup options.)

  6. abulurd says:

    Note:

    – ‘recently deleted’ is not an option that is available by default.

    – when files are recently deleted, they can only be recovered within a specific time frame (between 30 and 40 days)

    – when the database is kaput, there’s no ‘recently deleted’ and you won’t be able to recover

    – notes can be cleared out when a mail account is removed in the mail ‘Internet Account’ settings (just happened to me on Catalina 10.15.4). The entire database is empty. The file is still there but contains no information.

    The techniques described above were not attempted yet.

    I’m not using Notes anymore. I can’t have notes just disappear for random reasons. That’s just nonsense.

  7. Faizan says:

    Hey, nice tip. It can be good for backup purposes, as in my case. Thanks for it.

  8. Jonathan Schor says:

    I hate to be dense, but why are these things so hidden? If it is for security reasons then I might understand. If it is just to keep us in ignorance then I do not understand.

    From up here in snowy New Hampshire

  9. Who Kuni says:

    I have a MacBook Pro 15-inch 2017 running macOS Catalina Version 10.15.2 and there is neither of the following:

    ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/
    ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/

    E.g. ~/Library/Containers/ doesn’t exist on my mac. Can you suggest somewhere else that it might be found thank you.

    Who Kuni

  10. Kevin Poulter says:

    Can you have two note files? Despite the excellent index in notes, a totally different file would be handy.

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