Best practices for syncing notes in OneNote

No matter what version of OneNote you use, your notebooks are designed to be saved and synced automatically by the OneNote apps themselves, which means you should never need to manually move files like you might be used to with traditional files in File Explorer on a Windows PC or in a Finder window on a Mac.

However, even when OneNote handles all of the syncing of notes between your computer and your devices, there are a few best practices you can keep in mind to make sure you have the best experience.

Know your storage limit

OneNote stores your notebook sections as individual files. Both OneDrive and SharePoint have file size limits that can impact the maximum size of your OneNote sections. For example, on a personal OneDrive account, the free storage limit is 10GB. On SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, the storage limit is configurable by the administrator, but it will typically have a limit of 15GB or less.

These limits determine how large your notebook sections can get, so you’ll want to make sure that you don’t reach or exceed this limit. Although it can be hard to tell exactly how much content has been added, especially if you've shared your notebook with other people, you and your collaborators can keep some obvious file sizes in mind — for example, by not inserting multiple video files that are several gigabytes in size into the same section, or generally not overloading sections with unnecessary media content. You can still reference such content by inserting a link to it instead of directly embedding the content in your notes.

If you do reach your file size limit, OneNote will notify you. You can then consider splitting up a large notebook section into multiple ones or purchasing more storage. If you're using OneNote at work, you can request more storage from your OneDrive for Business or SharePoint administrator.

Force a manual notebook sync

OneNote will automatically store pending changes to your notebooks whenever you are offline and then sync those changes as soon as a network is available again. Many unexpected sync problems can usually be resolved by forcing a sync as soon the network is available again.

Here’s how to manually force notebook synchronization in the different versions of OneNote:

OneNote for Windows 10

Right-click the notebook name in the Notebooks list, click Sync, and then click Sync This Notebook.

OneNote 2016 for Windows

Right-click the notebook name in the Notebooks list, and then click Sync This Notebook Now.

OneNote for Mac

Control-click the notebook name in the Notebooks list, and then click Sync This Notebook.

OneNote for iOS

Pull down the Notebooks list with your finger to initiate a sync. A progress marker will appear at the top of the list.

OneNote for Android

Tap and hold on the notebook name in the Notebooks list, and then tap Sync Notebook.

Resolve misplaced sections

If your notebook appears to be missing pages or an entire section, this can occur when such content was never fully synced before the notebook was closed where the changes were originally created. To resolve this, open OneNote on the original computer or device where the “missing” notes were first added or revised, and use the preceding steps to force a sync.

For example, if you created a new section on your laptop but can’t yet see the changes on your desktop computer, go back to your laptop, open OneNote, and then use the preceding steps to force sync the notebook.

Learn more about resolving misplaced sections in OneNote.

Switch to the new OneNote for Windows 10 app (Windows users)

If you’re a OneNote 2016 user, moving to the new OneNote for Windows 10 app is the best way to ensure you’re getting the latest and greatest version of OneNote. This app already enjoys the fastest and most reliable sync services and is the only Windows app that is getting the most frequent product, feature, and security updates.

Learn more about the differences between OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote 2016.

Manage shared notebook use

When using a shared notebook at the same time as other authors, you can achieve a better collaboration experience by having users make notebook additions on separate pages or in their own sections. If too many people are editing the same part of the same page at any one time, this can sometimes create temporary page conflicts.

If you're using OneNote’s Class Notebook features in a large classroom, consider the following:

  • Separate students into small groups (no more than 6 students per group).

  • Create a separate section for each group of students. For example, if there are 4 groups of 6 students, create 4 sections.

  • Have each student create their own page or have each of them edit in different places on the page.

  • Avoid adding large file attachments (100 MB or more).

Look for sync improvements

We have been rolling out reliability and speed improvements to OneNote sync services that are already available to users on OneNote for Windows 10, OneNote for Mac, OneNote for iOS (iPhone and iPad), and OneNote for Android.

These improvements already work with OneDrive and will soon be coming to SharePoint.

See Also

Move a OneNote notebook to OneDrive

Resolve misplaced sections in OneNote

What’s the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016?

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