How to fix Apple Notes not syncing via iCloud – Yalla Match

Tim Brooks

Apple Notes is a free note-taking solution with some very powerful features, but sometimes you may find that notes refuse to sync between iPhone and iPad Mac. The problem could be due to the way you organized your notes, or it could be a bigger problem that makes you scratch your head.

First: Make sure iCloud Notes is enabled

In order for notes to appear on other devices, they have to sync via iCloud. To do this, you’ll need to make sure Notes is enabled in your iCloud settings, and verify that you put your notes in an iCloud account and don’t store them locally on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

To check if iCloud sync is enabled for the Notes app on your iPhone, open Settings on your iPhone or iPad and tap on your name at the top of the list. Choose “iCloud” and scroll down until you see the notes. Make sure the toggle next to the app is enabled.

Enable Note in iCloud Preferences on iOS

You can do this on your Mac under System Preferences (or System Settings) > Apple ID. Choose “iCloud” from the sidebar and make sure there is a checkbox next to the Notes app. You’ll need to do this on all devices where you want notes to appear.

iCloud Preferences on macOS 12

It’s also worth checking if you have enough iCloud storage available to sync Notes. Your device will likely warn you that it’s running low on space, but you can check manually by looking at the colored iCloud Storage bar in this list on either device. If you run out of storage, you’ll need to buy more.

Related: How to check your remaining iCloud storage

Next: Verify that you’re putting notes in iCloud

With Notes enabled in iCloud, launch the Notes app and look at the top-level folders screen (iPhone or iPad) or the sidebar (on a Mac). You should see a section titled “iCloud” but you might also see another section titled “On My iPhone” or “On My Mac” as well.

If your notes are stored on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, they won’t sync between devices. You will need to transfer it to iCloud for this to work. To do this on your iPhone or iPad, tap on a folder and then use the “…” context menu button in the corner of the screen to “move the note” to your iCloud account. On a Mac, you can simply drag and drop the folder into the iCloud section.

iCloud Notes on macOS

You can also do this for notes the same way, either by opening the note and swiping it using the context menu or by dragging it on your Mac.

To make sure that new notes go directly to iCloud by default, check that the Default Account option is set to iCloud in Notes settings. Access this on an iPhone or iPad under Settings > Notes or on a Mac by launching the Notes app and then clicking Notes > Preferences in the menu bar at the top of the screen.

The default Notes account on macOS 12

You may need to wait a while for the notes to sync, especially if you have a lot of image files or large attachments in your notes. We recommend giving it a few hours and checking back.

Related: How to quickly add links, photos, and media to Apple Notes on iPhone and iPad

Update your devices to the latest version

Now that you’re confident that you’re doing everything right, you can rule out human error. Sometimes iCloud services do not behave as they should and one of the reasons for this could be due to outdated software.

Software update on macOS 12

For best results, make sure your devices are running the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS before changing anything else. You can do this on an iPhone or iPad under Settings > General > Software Update, or on a Mac under System Preferences (or System Settings) > Software Update.

Test your connection and disable any VPNs

Sync problems with iCloud can be explained by a connection issue. If you’re using a VPN, consider turning it off to see if that helps resolve upload or download issues. You can do this using your VPN provider’s app, or any third-party app you use (like Tunnelblick on macOS).

With your VPN disabled, test the problem again by uploading or creating a new note. You can also try restarting network devices such as routers or modems to see if that helps.

Kill apps and restart devices

You can kill the Notes app on iPhone by detecting the app switcher and clicking on the Notes app. On a Mac, right-click on the notes icon and select “Exit” or press and hold the option key to force quit the application if it is not responding.

Force quit Notes app on macOS 12

At this point, it is also worth considering whether iOS, iPadOS or macOS is to blame. A simple restart of each affected device will rule out problems caused by the system process not working properly and taking only a few minutes even on older devices.

Related: How to Force Quit Apps on Your Mac When They Are Not Responding

Problems encountered while migrating to Apple Notes

If you are switching to Apple Notes from another note-taking app such as Evernote or One Note, you may encounter issues with the initial sync. Moving from Evernote involves exporting your notebooks one by one to ENEX files, then importing them to Apple Notes as folders.

Unfortunately, Notes on macOS doesn’t seem too fond of large uploads like this. Sometimes the upload is only partially completed and when you check your collection on iPhone or the web at iCloud.com, not everything uploads successfully.

The first thing you should do is be patient. From experience, we’ve seen a folder of about 150 notes that take a few hours to show up correctly on all devices. When the notes finally appear, compare the collection on your iPhone with the collection on your Mac to make sure that you include attachments like photos.

Fixing the mess left by an incomplete export can take a long time, but there’s no need to lose data. If folders you have loaded on your Mac refuse to appear, you can take them offline by dragging them to the On My Mac section (make sure this is enabled under Notes > Preferences in the menu bar at the top of your screen).

Can "On my Mac" Notes account

Once all of your notes are safely stored on your Mac, disable Notes in iCloud on your Mac under System Preferences (or System Settings) > Apple ID by unchecking the box next to Notes on the iCloud tab. You can then turn the feature back on and wait for your Mac to download any notes that are still in your iCloud account from other devices.

At this point, be patient. This stage basically gets your Mac in sync with everything else, so you’ll want to wait until all your devices get the same library of notes before moving forward. Once done, you can start moving folders back to iCloud by dragging and dropping.

Since the Mac app doesn’t seem too fond of large transfers, you may want to move slowly and load the folders one by one. As you go, make sure that the changes appear on your other devices and on iCloud.com. If you run into problems, you can always drag your folders back to the On My Mac account to keep your data safe.

Be patient with the Mac app

Based on first-hand experience and anecdotes posted online, it appears that Apple Notes for macOS is slow to push changes to the server. There’s no “Sync Now” button you can use to upload and download changes, and the little spinning fan next to the “iCloud” account label appears randomly.

This includes both new notes created on the go and large uploads that started when notes were moved to Apple’s cloud ecosystem. There is not much that can be done about it other than to be patient before getting too frustrated because things are not showing up where they are supposed to.

Unlock locked notes in Apple Notes

Fortunately, you can use iCloud.com to see your notes and get an instant overview of what’s going on. This eliminates the possibility that the iPhone app is not working properly by fetching the latest version of your notes and displaying them in the web interface.

We saw evidence of three versions of the Apple Notes library while a large upload was complete. The “full” library as loaded from a Mac, a partial library not fully downloaded on the iPhone, and the “real” image of the current upload status on iCloud.com.

Disable Notes in iCloud (But Be Careful)

You can always clear the list by removing iCloud Notes from one device and letting it download again. However, this is quite risky, as any notes that are not uploaded to iCloud or stored locally on your device will be lost. You must be careful when doing this to ensure that no data is lost.

On a Mac, you can use a tool like Exporters to get a copy of your notes in markdown formatting before doing anything too drastic (unfortunately you can’t restore the Notes library this way, but at least you get a copy of your notes and any attachments). On the iPhone, there’s not much you can do.

Great Apple Notes (when it works)

Unfortunately, Notes isn’t quite as bulletproof as some of its competitors when it comes to cloud functionality which is a shame because the app is a compelling alternative to Evernote with a lot of powerful features that a lot of note-taking apps charge money for.

You can use it to draw or jot handwritten notes, scan documents, collaborate with others, and even organize with smart tags and folders.