Lately I have seen a lot of questions in different Forums about copying or moving your OneNote Books. That kind of surprises me because I’d like to access my notebooks everywhere and on any device. It will come as no surprise that most of my notebooks are centralized in OneDrive. Every notebook accessible on every device. But I know where the questions come from. Not everybody uses OneDrive and many users also like the ability to store their notebook locally. Now what to do if you get/buy a new computer, laptop or tablet. How do you move your notebooks from your old PC to your new device?
My notebook should be movable
In the early days of OneNote the USB thumb drive was hot. Everything you wanted to save you would put on a thumb drive. How many of those do you still have lying around? If you are still very attached to these thumb drives you can still create your notebooks on them. You can then share the notebook via USB.
Create new notebook on USB
This is fairly straight forward. Create a new notebook and when asked where to save it choose Computer and browse to your Thumb drive in the directory and click create.
Now you notebook will be saved on the USB device. You can swap it with any pc, laptop or tablet you want. There is an important thing you need to know about this technique because it will be syncing your changes. Every now and again you will see the synchronization icon appear on the notebook. You know by now that you don’t have to save your work in OneNote that will be done automatically.
Downside to using USB drives
The downside to using USB drive will be that you must always have the usb drive around. If lost all your work is lost.
Copying your notebooks from one pc to another
This is the interesting part. When Microsoft OneNote is installed on your device it will create a folder called “OneNote Notebooks”. As one might expect this is the place where OneNote stores all your newly created notebooks by default.
Now from that directory look at the contents and you will see that every folder is called exactly the same as your notebooks in OneNote. If you want just one notebook to be copied then copy the complete folder and put it somewhere accessible to your other pc. This might be our good old thumbdrive, a shared location or someplace else. On the new pc, laptop or other device make sure that same folder, as mentioned earlier, is present. Paste your copied folder back into this folder on your other pc. Open OneNote and choose File – Open and choose the default location for your OneNotebooks. Now comes the hard part. What to open? Well if you go to the folder you will see that the ‘Open’ button still stays greyed out. You actually have to go one level deeper to open the file you need. You will have to look for a file that is something called:
Open Notebook.onetoc2. Open this file and your OneNotebook will be opened on the new location.
Does this work all the time?
Nope, you still have to take into consideration the fact that various versions are out there. If you have multiple versions of OneNote you might know that not all versions are compatible. You will encounter the most issues when opening 2010/2013 versions in OneNote 2007.
So what do I do when a have multiple notebooks I want to move / copy?
Seeing the answers in the forums most of them reflect directly to the technique as described above. Of course not eveyone is happy with that. One reply stated: but I don’t want to move 50 notebooks that way because that means that I have to open 50 notebooks manually! So there’s a challenge….
The following section describes working with registry keys. If you have no experience in working with the registry keys it’s recommended not to try this! Seriously making changes to the registry can cause your system to become unstable if you don’t know what you are doing!! Be warned and follow at own risk!
Opening multiple notebooks at one time
So here we go (reminder, don’t do this if you have no experience in working with the registry). As usual I have a different situation. I have multiple pc’s, laptops and tablets. On one of my tablets I have a clean install of Office with OneNote. So here are the steps I took to open all my notebooks from my Windows 8.1 pc on the HP 500 tablet with Windows 7 / Office on it.
- Open the application regedit.exe on the source machine and find the following key –
(reminder: 14.0 = office 2010 15.0 = office 2013)
- Export this key to a file on a flash drive (right click and choose export)
- You will be asked to specify a file name and a folder for the file. Give the file the same name as it had on the source machine – OpenNotebooks.
- The .reg suffix will be attached automatically by the Export operation. You can actually export it directly to the flash driveIt should look something like this:
- Move the flash drive from the source machine to the target machine
- Using Windows Explorer, find the file that you exported to the flash drive
- Double click on it and Windows will place the new file in the appropriate Registry location
- You should now be able to open One Note and all the old folders and pages should be there
Thanks to the “WesternGuy” for sharing this tip!
(I would caution anyone who tries this solution, or any other solution that requires working with the registry to BACK IT UP first, just in case)
It’s that easy?
Yes and a little no. You do have to take into consideration the following aspects.
– If you have multiple Office versions installed you have to check the correct registry key. Remember the version number /14.0/ = 2010 /15.0/ =2013
– Make sure the registry key in the target folder has the same setting (again version number is important here!)
– When you double click the .reg file and you get the message that the key has been added successful open OneNote and you will see that not alle books are directly synchronized. Some of them may require a password before they can be synchronized!
Moving ord copying OneNote books can be done. My preference would be to do it manually and copy just the folder to the designated “OneNote Notebooks” folder in the target machine. Sure you have to open your notebooks one by one but at least they are there! The second tip is only applicable if you know what you are doing. Most of the times this will be IT-Guys who have nothing with OneNote and just want to get things done as quickly as possible 🙂 I have to say if you have multiple notebooks – like for instance The WesternGuy – then this tip will do the trick fast for you! To end this one final tip: Just put your books in OneDrive and they will be accessible from anaywhere on any device. That’s the most effective!