It’s one of the most annoying states your dear OneNote can run into: The infamous “OneNote needs a password to sync this notebook” error. Apparently this is a real issue as you can see here, here and here. It renders your OneNote application essentially useless and drove me almost crazy – especially since it happened to me on my Windows Phone which added another level of complexity to the whole scenario. Nevertheless, I managed to solve it.
The really frustrating part is that a pretty obvious feature of OneNote seems to be badly broken here. OneNote already knows that the session is somehow broken and offers you a convenient button to resolve this. But when you click on it you get to an interstitial screen that either leads nowhere, gives you an error or makes the software crash altogether.
Phone vs. Desktop
Although I did this on my phone you will be able to perform the same steps on your PC. Especially the OneNote store app has the exact same functionality (and probably a shared codebase).
Step 1: Backup your data.
I noticed late what was going on and I lost a few notes. Nothing too bad but I don’t know about your case. Bear in mind that my solution will not keep whichever changed you might have staged on your device. So copy everything not synced to a temporary text file or a word document.
Step 2: Make sure you’re properly signed in.
One thing I made sure in the process was that I have an active session in the Microsoft account in question. I don’t know if that’s absolutely necessary, but I guess it didn’t hurt.
Hit the windows key and search for “account” or go into your general settings if you’re on a Windows Phone in order to get there. If your account happens to be out of sync both your computer and your phone will say something like “attention required”.
Step 3: Remove your account from OneNote.
Head over to OneNote’s settings / account section. I did this on my Windows Phone but I checked and both the desktop and Windows Store have a similar menu page.
Now you need to sign out. This is essential since it will remove all the content associated to that account from your local notebook.
Step 4: Sign in again.
Once you’ve completed step 3 you can sign in again and OneNote will start synchronizing your notes. Depending on the size of your notebooks this might take a while. So bring some patience..
I did that about a week ago and so far my OneNote has been working correctly again. The error didn’t show up again. So – fingers crossed.