Security options for OneNote

OneNote is a member of the Office family you already know. With OneNote you can take notes, draw, record audio or video and many more. There are currently two versions of OneNote:

  • A UWP app that comes pre-installed with Windows 10
  • A full desktop app that comes with your Office suite installation.

Both can do more or less the same. The UWP app has a slightly more modern interface.


This is the UWP app modern interface:

This is the interface of the Office desktop application:


By default, a OneNote notebook has one owner but OneNote has excellent collaboration capabilities. Sharing a OneNote notebook is very easy. When you start working with other people you need to start thinking about security. Who will be able to see the content of the shared notebook?


There are a few ways to store and share your OneNote notebooks:


Store your OneNote notebook locally

This is the easiest way to work in OneNote. Nobody will be able to get access to the content but this is very dangerous because when your system crashes you lose all the data. When you store your notebook on a local disk (or even on a removable disk like a USB drive) you can’t share it with other users and collaborate in real time. I would not advice to do this.


Store your OneNote notebook on OneDrive (or OneDrive for Business)

Storing your notebooks on a cloud drive like OneDrive or OneDrive for Business is more secure. You can access your content from any device and you by default the only one that can access it. When you store your notebook on a cloud drive you can easily share it with others. When you use OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, this sharing is fully integrated. This is not the case when you want to use another cloud drive like Google Drive or DropBox.


Store your OneNote notebook in an Office Group or a SharePoint library

When you have an Office 365 subscription you can create SharePoint sites and Office Groups. These two team workspaces use more or less the same technology in the back. When you create a SharePoint team site or an Office Group a notebook is created. In an Office Group all the members of the group have permissions to edit the notebook. From within the notebook you can share it with other co-workers. Depending on the settings you can even share the notebook with external people. This is an option set by the system administrator of the Office 365 tenant.


More options?

There are a few more options the secure the notebook. When you store it in a SharePoint library, an Office Group or a OneDrive folder you can set custom permissions to the notebook. For example, you could set contribute permissions for your team and set read permissions for the manager.



Another way to secure a notebook is by adding a password to a section. Password protection in OneNote is designed to help keep your notes safe from prying eyes. Whether you use OneNote for class notes at school, meeting notes at work, a personal diary or blog at home, or personal information about yourself or your friends and family, passwords play a crucial part in controlling access to those notes. You can find more about using passwords at the Microsoft support website. When you use passwords you must know that a password is stored in an encrypted way and when you forget the password it can’t be recovered in any way. Passwords can only be set a section level, not at notebook or page level.


You can add some layers of security to a OneNote notebook. Starting with storing it on a local, or shared cloud drive and share the notebook from within the UWP or desktop application to adding passwords to certain sections.