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Recovering your OmniFocus encryption passphrase

Your OmniFocus encryption passphrase starts out the same as your sync account password. (Let’s refer to them as passphrase and password.) But the two can get ‘out of sync‘ if the password changes. Syncing OmniFocus with a new password updates the passphrase. But this only works on a device that isn’t asking for the passphrase.

(You can also manually set a separate passphrase to unlink it from the password. But that won’t help if you’re having passphrase trouble.)

(Encryption and a new database format were introduced in OmniFocus 2.6 for Mac and OmniFocus 2.15 for iOS.)

No one at The Omni Group can see or recover a passphrase or password for you. To get syncing again when you don’t know the passphrase:

Don’t uninstall OmniFocus or delete any data

The data on your device is not encrypted. (Encryption happens as data leaves the device.) OmniFocus asks for the passphrase when it needs to decrypt the data on the server. If you can cancel the prompt and still see your data—or can see data on another device—you can get up-and-running! (Even if you can’t see data, keep reading!)

Don’t reset your password

Resetting your sync account password does not reset your OmniFocus encryption passphrase. But it can make recovering a forgotten passphrase more difficult. (Or in rare cases, impossible.) If you haven’t already, don’t do it now.

If you need to change the password, you can. Just don’t do so trying to get around a passphrase prompt—because it won’t work.

Try the stored password

If your password has been changed, the passphrase might still be the old password. And might still be stored on your device. (Viewing the stored password is easiest on an iOS device.)

  • On an iOS device:

  • On a Mac:

    • Open Keychain Access.
    • Search for “ (accountname)” (with the parentheses but without the quotes).
    • Select the keychain and choose File ▸ Get Info.
    • 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 password should update the passphrase. If that works, try syncing the problematic device again. This time, enter the new password as the 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.

Replace the server database

OmniFocus needs the passphrase to decrypt the server database. If you have good local data, you can send new data to the server.

  1. Choose the device whose database you want to keep. And send its data to the server. (Only do this once from a single device. Other devices will pull the new data from the server 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.
      • Reveal the Secret Bar and tap Settings ▸ 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 replacing the server database (described above) doesn’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?

Losing access to your data only happens 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: Mar 13, 2018

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