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Recovering your OmniFocus encryption passphrase

You’re probably reading this if you’re unable to log into OmniFocus. This article will help you get back up and running, but before we begin:

1. Don’t panic.

2. Don’t reset the password.

3. Don’t delete the app.

Right now, your account contains an encrypted OmniFocus database which cannot be changed from our website. In other words, resetting your password will not give you access to your OmniFocus database.

Your OmniFocus database is encrypted to protect your confidential information from unauthorized access as it makes its way to and from the server. Your data is protected using an encryption passphrase that only you know, and is never shared with The Omni Group. (For a general overview of OmniFocus encryption, see our OmniFocus encryption FAQ.)

There are two key terms to understand while reading this help document:

  • Encryption Passphrase — the key used to encrypt and decrypt your OmniFocus database while in transit and at rest on the server.
  • Sync Password — your login credentials for signing in to the sync server, either in an app or your account management page.

When you originally created an account on our Omni Sync Server to sync OmniFocus, you specified an account name and sync password. By default, the encryption passphrase matches that sync password. You can also specify a separate passphrase to increase the security of your database. Whichever encryption method you’re using, the only way to update your encryption passphrase is by using a copy of OmniFocus that’s already set up and syncing with the server.

Resetting the password or deleting the app can make it more difficult or impossible to regain access to your data. Now that you better understand what these prompts are asking for, let’s walk through some methods for recovering this passphrase.

Find and try your stored password

By default, OmniFocus will encrypt your database using your sync password — this is listed as “Passwords are linked” in the OmniFocus Encryption settings. If you’ve recently changed your password, you’ll still need to enter the original encryption passphrase at least once in order to update your encryption details. Your device may still be storing a copy of your old password that you can refer to. This is easiest done from an iOS device, but still possible if you’re only using a Mac.

  • On an iOS device:

    1. Open the OmniFocus Settings.
      • In OmniFocus 3, tap the Settings gear icon on the Home screen.
      • In OmniFocus 2, reveal the secret bar (by pulling down on the Home screen or sidebar) and tap Settings.
    2. Tap Sync Method > Omni Sync Server > Account > Reveal Stored Password.
    3. Authenticate using your device’s passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID to view your existing sync password.
  • On a Mac:

    1. Open Keychain Access.
    2. Search for entries with a filename like|your_account_name|Omni Sync. Older password entries will have a filename like (your_account_name).
    3. Select the keychain and choose File > Get Info.
    4. Select the Show password checkbox.
      (Requires your keychain password.)

Sync a device that isn’t asking for the passphrase

Syncing a different device using the new sync password should update the encryption passphrase. If that’s successful, try syncing the problematic device again. This time, enter your new sync password as the encryption passphrase.

Try other passwords

There’s no harm in guessing! There’s no limit to the number of times you can enter an incorrect passphrase, so try any other prior passwords you think might have been used.

Use a known good device to replace the server database

OmniFocus needs your encryption passphrase to decrypt and download data from the server, but your data isn’t encrypted locally on your Mac or iOS device. If you still have access to your data on any device, you can move that data up to the server and overwrite that old encryption info.

  1. Pick the most up-to-date working device that you’ll use to establish a new sync database. Only do this once from a single device; other devices will switch over to this data in step 2.

    • If using OmniFocus for Mac:

      • Cancel the passphrase prompt.
      • Choose File > Replace Server Database > Replace.
      • Cancel the passphrase prompt again.
      • Click Replace without backing up, and wait for the sync to finish.
    • If using OmniFocus for iOS:

      • Cancel the passphrase prompt.
      • In OmniFocus 3 on your iPhone or iPad, navigate to the Home screen and tap the Settings icon. In OmniFocus 2, swipe down on the OmniFocus home screen to reveal the Secret Bar and tap Settings (on iPhone), or drag down on the home sidebar (iPad and iPhone Plus) to reveal the Secret Bar, then tap Settings.
      • Tap Replace Sync Database > Replace Database.
      • Cancel the passphrase prompt again.
      • Tap Replace without backing up.

    OmniFocus asks for the passphrase the second time to decrypt and save a local backup of the data that’s being replaced. You can cancel to continue without backing up.

    Your password and passphrase should now be linked again.

  2. Sync your other devices. If prompted, choose Keep Sync Database.

Set aside encrypted data and sync new data to the server

If the above steps to replace the server database don’t work, you can manually set aside the server data.

Restore from a backup

OmniFocus doesn’t encrypt any local data (including backups and archives).

Time Machine, iTunes, and iCloud backups might also contain unencrypted OmniFocus data.

Is my data lost?

You have only lost access to your data if all of the following are true:

  • Your OmniFocus database is in the encrypted format.
  • You have no local OmniFocus data on any device.
  • You don’t know the passphrase.

Let us help!

Even if you’re pretty sure your data is unrecoverable, please contact us! Our Support Humans are resourceful and knowledgeable. We’ve helped more than a few customers who were sure there was no hope left. Include your Omni Sync Server account name or email address to help speed things along.

Last Modified: Jul 17, 2019

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