How to recover a damaged EndNote library

In this article we look at how to recover a damaged/corrupted EndNote library. 

We recommend saving your EndNote library locally on your computer. Many save their library on a shared network drive, and this is ok if you do not experience any glitches in your network, but if you do experience damaged libraries please save locally instead. Some save to a cloud storage service like DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, etc. This is something we do not recommend, and which often lead to damaged libraries after a while. If you need to save your library in a cloud storage service, save and open/use your library locally, and copy your library files (.enl and .DATA folder) to cloud storage after use/closing EndNote. Then if you want to use the library on another computer, copy from cloud storage service to your local computer, and open and use from your local computer.

If you need backup and sync of your library between different computers we recommend using EndNote online. With an EndNote online account (free to EndNote X7 users) you can backup, sync and share groups in your library with other users. You can also access your library ( from any computer with internet connection.

Here is a training session for EndNote online:

Please note that an EndNote library consists of a file (.enl), and a .DATA folder with the same name as your library file. They are always stored in the same folder on your computer. So if your library is named "My research library", then somewhere on your computer, in the same folder, there should be a file, "My research library.enl" and a folder "My research library.DATA". Both the file and the folder is your library, and must be copied/transferred together. The file contains your reference data, while the .DATA folder contains your PDFs and attachments (they are saved in the PDF subfolder inside your .DATA folder), and groups, index, term lists, etc.

Here are the methods for recovering a damaged/corrupted EndNote library

For some of the steps described below you need to see file extensions (.enl, .docx, .pdf, etc.) on your system. Here is a link to an article describing how to show file extensions in Windows 7 and 8! You can also google: "show file extensions" to find instructions on how to do this on your specific system.

1. EndNote: Tools > Recover library

This method is the first you should try. Open/start EndNote (without any libraries), and choose Tools > Recover library, and open your damaged .enl library file.

2. Backup from your EndNote online library

This method only applies to those who have created an EndNote online account and synced the library - before the library got damaged.

  1. Open EndNote and create a new, empty library. You can name the new library whatever you like. (EndNote: File > New)
  2. Sync your new, empty library with your EndNote online account. (EndNote: Tools > Sync)
  3. Hopefully, your new local EndNote library will contain all your previous references and attachments.

3. Create a new .enl file from your .DATA folder

  1. Create a new, empty folder.
  2. Copy your (damaged) .DATA folder to this new folder.
  3. (Windows) Open Notepad, and choose File > Save as, and save a (empty) Notepad file to the new folder, with the same name as you .DATA folder + .enl. Eg. If the name of your .DATA folder is "My research library.DATA", save as "My research library.enl".
  4. (Mac) Use the Applications / Text Edit program to create a new, blank text file then just save it into the folder you created in step 1. Give it the same name as you .DATA folder, e.g. if the name of your .DATA folder is "My research library.DAT", give the text file the name "My research library". Then navigate to the new folder (via Finder), and click the text file. Press Command+I on your keyboard at the same time, and in the Name & Extension field, rename the text file and extension to the name of the original .enl file, e.g. "My research library.enl". Press OK.
  5. Start EndNote, and choose Tools > Recover library, and open your newly created text file. Hopefully, EndNote will be able to recreate your EndNote library.

Note (Mac)!
If you've saved your EndNote library as a package file (.enlp extension), you'll need to extract the package library's internal .enl file and Data folder before recovering:

  1. Quit EndNote.
  2. Use Finder to navigate to the folder where your .enlp library file exists.
  3. Hold down the "control" key on your keyboard while clicking the package library file. Choose "Show Package Contents" from the resulting menu.
  4. Now that you're looking at the contents of your package library, drag and drop the .enl file and .Data folder from this Finder window and place the two library components elsewhere, such as your Desktop.
  5. Proceed with the library recovery process as listed above by selecting the .enl file that you dragged out of the package library.

4. Create a new .DATA folder from your .enl file

  1. Create a new, empty folder.
  2. Copy your library file (.enl) to this new folder.
  3. Double-click/open the .enl file you copied in the step above. Click OK to have EndNote create a new .DATA folder for this .enl file.
  4. Close EndNote.
  5. Copy the PDF folder from your old .DATA folder to your new .DATA folder.
  6. Open the new library by double-clicking the new .enl file. If you can not open the library/it is also damaged, one or more of your PDFs are corrupted. You should try deleting the latest ones you added to your library before your library got damaged (and probably delete PDFs that are over 100 MB in size). If you can open your new library, proceed to step 7.
  7. Copy the 3 misc files and the db file from the old .DATA:rdb folder, to you new .DATA:rdb folder.
  8. Open the new library by double-clicking the new .enl file. Hopefully, your data, attachments, and groups are successfully recovered.

There is a 5th method also. When a library does not recover with the usual methods in some cases you can take the same library to a MAC computer with EndNote installed, and it will recover it. So if you have access to a MAC in the future you could also try that.


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Read more here.


Warm Regards,
Alfasoft EndNote Team