Along with Night Shift mode, having the ability to password-protect notes in the default Notes app is one of the big new features in iOS 9.3. Individual notes within the Notes app can now be secured with a password, and Touch ID users can gain even faster access to password-protected notes.

Securing notes in iOS 9.3 is a simple exercise on the surface, but it’s not always entirely straightforward. Have a look at our full video walkthrough and tutorial for all of the details.

How password-protected notes work

Although there is generally only one password associated with password-protected notes in iOS 9.3, notes are secured on a note-by-note basis. In other words, the same password is used for every secured note, but you must manually select the notes that you wish to lock down, as they are unsecured by default.

Keep in mind that the first line in a note, even if secured, can still be read when viewing your list of notes in the Notes app. Therefore, it’s important that the first line of the notes you create don’t include sensitive data.

Video walkthrough

How to lock a note

Before completely securing a note, you’ll first need to add a lock.

Step 1: Open the Notes app.

Step 2: Compose a new note.

Step 3: Tap the Share button in the upper right-hand corner and tap Lock Note in the actions section of the Share Sheet.

Step 4: If this is your first time adding a lock to a note, you’ll be presented with a screen for establishing a password and its corresponding hint. You’ll also find a switch for enabling Touch ID if you’re using a Touch ID-enabled device.

Step 5: Once the Lock is added, tap the Lock button in the upper right-hand corner to lock down that note, and any other note with a lock. If you force close the Notes app or lock your device, you’ll have to verify your password or use Touch ID first.

Securing Notes iOS 9.3

How to lock all notes quickly

The Notes app allows you to lock down all notes that have locks applied to them right from the main list of notes.

Step 1: Open the Notes app.

Step 2: Switch to the main notes list view, which can be a folder containing multiple notes.

Step 3: Tap the Lock Now button at the bottom of the Notes app interface.

Securing Notes iOS 9.3 lock all

How to unlock your notes

Step 1: Open a note with a lock applied.

Step 2: Tap View Note and enter your password to unlock the note, or use Touch ID. If you don’t have Touch ID enabled, then the password text box will display immediately. If you do have Touch ID enabled, then you’ll first have to tap the Enter Password button if you wish to use a password instead of Touch ID.

Unlock Note iOS 9.3

Unlocking a note unlocks all other notes in the Notes app. If you force close the Notes app, or Lock your device, password-protected notes will be locked automatically.

How to remove a lock from a note

Once you unlock a note, you can remove its lock altogether.

Step 1: Open the note that you wish to modify.

Step 2: Tap the Share button in the upper right-hand corner.

Step 3: Tap Remove Lock in the actions section of the Share Sheet.

Remove Lock secured notes iOS 9.3

How to change the Notes app password

Step 1: Open Settings → Notes → Password.

Step 2: Tap Change Password.

Step 3: Enter the old password, a new password and hint, and tap Done.

Change Notes password iOS 9.3

How to reset the Notes app password

What if you forget your Notes app password? You can reset it.

Step 1: Open Settings → Notes → Password.

Step 2: Tap Reset Password.

Step 3: Enter your Apple ID password and tap OK.

Reset Notes app Password iOS 9.3

Keep in mind that notes that already have a password are not affected by this change. Therefore, if you don’t remember the old password for notes that are already secured, you lose access to those notes.

How to migrate an old notes password to a new notes password

If you reset the Notes app password, the new password that you create only applies to notes that you secure going forward. Therefore, it is actually possible to have multiple passwords securing multiple notes inside of the Notes app.

Migrate Notes app password

This can, admittedly, become confusing. Thankfully, Apple has included a provision to let you migrate notes using the old password to the new password, however, this only seems to occur on the first attempt of accessing the notes with the old password.

Step 1: Open a note that is secured with the old password.

Step 2: Unlock the note with the old password.

Step 3: Tap Update on the Update Password dialogue pop-up.

Deleting password-protected notes

You can delete password-protected notes just like unsecured notes. In fact, there’s nothing preventing you from deleting a secured note at all. Securing notes in iOS 9.3 is all about keeping an individual note’s contents secure, not about preventing intentional or accidental deletion.

Accessing password-protected notes on OS X

If you’re running OS X 10.11.4, you’ll be able to view password-protected notes on your Mac. Since Macs lack Touch ID, you’ll need to rely on the Notes app password in order to interface with password-protected notes on a Mac. Users running versions of OS X older than 10.11.4 will not see password-protected notes at all. Secured notes are also visible on iCloud.com and rely on your password for access.

Secured Notes OS X 10.11.4

Conclusion

The Notes app update in iOS 9.3 might seem simple on paper, but as you can see, it can get surprisingly complex. Much of that complexity is due to the fact that you’re securing notes individually, instead of the app itself.

I’m not sure if I agree with Apple’s approach, and I think it would have been better if Apple allowed us to lock down the entire app instead. Or, as some have suggested, a dedicated folder for password-protected notes would have been ideal as well.

What are your thoughts on iOS 9.3’s Notes app refresh? Do you use password-protected notes on your iPhone or iPad?