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I have both a macbook running 11.1 Big Sur and iPhone running iOS 14.

I have lots of notes that I'd like to locally backup just in case. Ideally I can export them to a folder so I’m sure they are backed up clearly.

Is this possible without third party apps?

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The format of the Apple Notes data is undocumented and liable to change with macOS updates. It is not safe to rely on copying a single file elsewhere particularly where this contains Apple Notes's iCloud data.

If you want to continue using Apple Notes there is little choice but to rely on Apple's iCloud and Time Machine to correctly store and backup your notes.

But if you want to take control of your notes data I suggest you use a different app. This is what I have done because I did want to take control of my notes.

I have exported all my notes out of Apple Notes to markdown files using Exporter (also jmh's recommendation) and now use Typora to edit my notes knowing that each note is now a single text file and, in some cases, images.

So that I can access my notes on my other Mac, I store all the markdown format notes in my iCloud Drive. But not entirely trusting iCloud, I also copy all the notes to a local folder for which I can control backups.

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  • I have no idea how time machine works though, do I need to set it up manually ? – stackexchanged Jan 18 at 7:49
  • That is another question or, better, a google search to find out how to use Time Machine. – Gilby Jan 18 at 8:08
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The locally stored notes are stored in a database at ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/ while iCloud notes are stored here: ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/

How to access the directories are described in this OXDaily link. https://osxdaily.com/2020/01/15/where-notes-stored-locally-mac/

There is a free app called Exporter, available from the AppStore, which will extract each note and save it as a markdown file. MacDown and other apps will display the notes on the screen.

There is also a way to export all your Notes as pdfs using a script. I don't know much about this but found it on the internet. The script and a description are given at https://macmost.com/export-all-of-the-notes-on-your-mac-using-a-script.html

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  • So basicly I backup the file "NoteStore.sqlite" and if one day I want I can put it back there and it will replace my current icloud notes, or I can do that on another account and all my notes would appear there, right ? The article says that they can be in different folders at the same time for icloud notes, quite confusing, apologies. – stackexchanged Jan 17 at 23:40
  • Is that info current? On macOS 11, I have ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/, but ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/ does not exist. I suspect that ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/ has both local and iCloud notes. – Gilby Jan 18 at 2:45
  • Don't rely on just keeping NoteStore.sqlite. At a minimum keep all of ~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.notes/ and ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/ (if that exists on your Mac). Don't rely on it to be the same after any macOS update and, I fear, you might lose all your notes in iCloud if you muck about with it. – Gilby Jan 18 at 2:49

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