Restoring a deleted note in Apple's notes app
31 August 2014
I recently deleted a note on my Notes app on my apple laptop. As someone who is a paranoid keeper of backups, and usually commits all my work to a repository like git, I don't worry much about accidental deletion. But Apple's notes app doesn't have any form of version control, and it's all too easy to delete something by accident. I have a daily rsync backup and run time machine, but googling couldn't uncover a simple way of getting the note back. So in case someone else needs to do this, here's what I did.
First I needed to find where Notes stores its data, googling
around told me that it was in
However doing a restore from Time Machine didn't help, because
iCloud helpfully overwrote the restored version with one that was
up to date. The data is also really mangled, so I couldn't easily
just find the text I needed with a text editor.
So I did this:
- I grabbed my old apple laptop which I rarely use
- I went to my daily backups and extracted the notes data folder from the path above and put it on the old laptop
- I disconnected the laptop from the internet (so iCloud wouldn't jump in and try to be helpful)
- I moved the existing notes data folder to the desktop and replaced it with the one from my backup
- I fired up the notes app, copied the text I needed, emailed it to myself, and quit the notes app.
- I restored the original notes data folder, and put the laptop back on the network.
In hindsight, however, it may have been easier to just disconnect my main laptop from the internet, restore from time machine, copy the text I needed from the notes app, and then reconnect. But I don't have the inclination to try to see if that works.
I don't store anything important in the notes app, preferring Evernote, or files in the safety of a git repository. I wish people who build software applications would make versioning a regular part of their feature set, once you get used to it, it's hard to live without it.
1: This stack exchange implies that some data may be elsewhere too, although I found what I wanted in the path I gave.