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Recovering from an unknown OmniFocus encryption passphrase

Why am I seeing this prompt?

Right now, your account contains an encrypted OmniFocus database that cannot be accessed by resetting your Omni Account password.

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.
  • Account 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 Omni Account, you specified an account name and account password. By default, the encryption passphrase for OmniFocus data stored on Omni Sync Server matches that account password. You can also choose a separate encryption passphrase to increase the security of your database. Whether the encryption passphrase is the same as the Omni Account password or not, the only way to change your encryption passphrase is through a copy of OmniFocus that’s already syncing with the server.

Resetting your account 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 the passphrase.

Is my data lost?

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

  • You have no local OmniFocus data on any device.
  • You don’t know/can’t guess the existing passphrase.

Recovery methods

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 might have used.

Try syncing a device that isn’t asking for the passphrase

For most people the encryption passphrase is the same as the account password. However if you’ve just reset or updated your account password, it may be in a transitory state where the encryption passphrase has not yet been updated to match the new account password.

If you have OmniFocus on another device that is syncing, then simply prompt a sync on that device. When you do that, OmniFocus on that device will ask you for the new account password. When you provide the new password and OmniFocus syncs, that device will update the encryption passphrase to match. Now try syncing the copy of OmniFocus that had been asking for an encryption passphrase, and you should be able to sync without seeing that prompt.

Delete the data on the server

The encryption passphrase is embedded in your data on the server, but your local data is unencrypted. If the encrypted server data (and with it, the forgotten passphrase) is deleted, when your local data is synced, the system will encrypt it using the known Omni Account password and write it to the server.

NOTE: These steps delete all customer data stored on Omni Sync Server for an Omni Account, including OmniPresence synced data. If you are using OmniPresence to sync your OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner or OmniPlan files, please make sure that you have a separate backup of those synced files before proceeding.

  • To delete the server data, please follow these steps:

    1. Open a web browser and sign in to your account at
    2. Once you’re logged in, click Edit by the Account section.
    3. Click Reset Data.
    4. In the confirmation screen that appears next, click Reset Data again.
    5. Pick the device with the most up-to-date copy of your OmniFocus data, and sync it to the server.

Replace the server database with a good local database

OmniFocus needs your encryption passphrase to decrypt and download data from the server. Since the local data isn’t encrypted on your Mac or iOS device, you can move that data up to the server and overwrite the old encryption info.

  • Pick the device with the most up-to-date copy of your OmniFocus data.

    • If using OmniFocus 3 for Mac:

      1. Click Cancel to dismiss the encryption passphrase prompt.
      2. Choose File > Replace Server Database in the menu bar.
      3. Click Replace in the confirmation prompt.
      4. Click Cancel to dismiss encryption passphrase prompt again.
      5. Click Replace without backing up, and wait for the sync to finish.
    • If using OmniFocus 3 for iOS:

      1. Tap Cancel to dismiss the encryption passphrase prompt.
      2. Navigate to the Home screen or sidebar and tap Settings button in top-left corner.
      3. Tap Sync under the Database section.
      4. Tap Replace Sync Database > Replace Database.
      5. Tap Cancel to dismiss the encryption passphrase prompt again.
      6. Tap Replace without backing up, and wait for the sync to finish.
  • Your current account password and encryption passphrase should now be linked again.

  • Now sync your other copies of OmniFocus.
    • You may then get a prompt asking “Replace your database and start syncing?” or “Keep data from [device] or sync server?” If so:
      • In OmniFocus 3 for Mac, click Sync.
      • In OmniFocus 3 for iOS, tap Keep Sync 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.

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: May 5, 2022

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