Having problems getting iCloud to sync your data between two instances of the same app? You’re not alone, and many developers have expressed their frustration at the problems that have plagued iCloud since its introduction with iOS 5.
Fortunately there are a lot of things you can try in order to get your Mac OS X and iOS apps syncing with Apple’s servers, so don’t be afraid to try them all.
iCloud Drive Issues
Apple recently upgraded iCloud from its previous incarnation as an invisible storage medium only used by developers and apps, to a fully-fledged cloud storage platform like Dropbox or Google Drive. This transition caused issues for some users, but fortunately the fixes are easy to apply.
You should ensure that you upgrade to iCloud Drive on all devices at the same time. Just because you clicked upgrade on your iPad, doesn’t mean your Mac has been upgraded also. You’ll need OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 to enable iCloud Drive on your devices, and once you’ve done so you’ll have Finder access to this folder too.
Upgrade to iCloud drive on iOS by going to Settings > iCloud or System Preferences > iCloud on Mac OS X.
Restart & Wait
iCloud can take some time to kick in when you make a change, up to 10 minutes according to some. You might find that your problem resolves itself with a bit of patience, but while you’re at it you can also try restarting all affected devices. You also may want to plug your device in, sometimes I find that photostream won’t always sync to iCloud until my phone has power.
Check You’re Using the Right Account
It might sound obvious, but if you’re not using the same iCloud account on both devices then you’re never going to have any success getting them to sync. Head to Settings > iCloud on iOS or System Preferences > iCloud on OS X and check which account is currently associated with the device. You can only have one iCloud account active at any given point, so make sure they match up.
One help document I read suggested that having multiple iCloud (@me.com, @mac.com and @icloud.com) email addresses in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars can cause issues, so you might want to try disabling any extra iCloud email accounts to see if that helps (but it probably won’t).
Make Sure iCloud is Working
Sometimes companies experience downtime, and while most planned outages will occur at night when you’re asleep; there’s no accounting for catastrophic failure or human error. To check Apple’s current iCloud status, head to Apple’s System Status screen and look for the green dots. Any currently-reported issues should appear at the very bottom of the screen.
Check Your Settings
Before doing anything too drastic, it’s always worth backing up your mobile devices in case of data loss — and we’d recommend doing so before you fiddle with too many options. Here are some things you can change in your Settings (iOS) or System Preferences (OS X) in order to remedy apps that won’t sync:
Ensure iCloud Is Enabled For Your App
The instructions for this vary depending on whether or not you have upgraded to iCloud Drive yet. If you have, on your iOS device head to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive and make sure the app you’re trying to sync is listed and on. You can also try toggling this on and off in a bid to restart the sync process.
Apps that have access to iCloud Drive on OS X will appear under System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive Options.
App Cellular Access
iOS creates a settings panel for each app, found by going to Settings and scrolling to the bottom of the list. If you’re having trouble syncing while on a cellular network but not on Wi-Fi, you may have disabled cellular access for the app you’re using under these settings.
Date & Time Discrepancies
Things can really go wrong when your iPhone’s date and time aren’t current, and many apps will simply refuse to connect to the Internet at all. In order to avoid these problems you can set the time to automatically update, which will keep your devices in sync and avoid any related issues.
On iOS head to Settings > General > Date & Time > Set Automatically. On OS X you can do this from the System Preferences > Date & Time > Time Zone.
Check You’ve Got The Right Folder
If you’re using an app that allows you to customize which folder you use to store data, ensure that the paths match up in both instances. Digital journaling app DayOne is one such app that allows you to do this, so make sure that your various iOS and Mac apps are looking for data in the same location.
More Extreme Measures
If none of the above has helped, you might want to take the next step and start deleting things. Before you attempt any of these you should back up your phone with iTunes.
Backup & Restore Your Device
If you’ve got a rogue iOS device which won’t access or sync data, you might want to try backing it up, resetting the device using the Restore option in iTunes and then restoring the backup you made. Once you’re finished your device will be identical to how you started, except you’ll need to authorize your various accounts again (email, Facebook and so on).
Reset iCloud Data
If you haven’t yet upgraded to iCloud Drive, you can reset all iCloud data (which is just as scary as it sounds) by logging into iCloud.com and going to Settings > Data & Security > Reset Your Documents. There’s no option to do so if you have upgraded though.
Don’t Use iCloud
Many applications give you the choice over whether or not to use iCloud, and if you can avoid using it you’ll avoid many of the issues that have plagued the service. Apps like DayOne and 1Password both allow you to use Dropbox, and much of the time using third party solution for data storage provides you with more space and less hassle (you can still use other iCloud features, like Find my iPhone and email).
This isn’t a solution for all users, but the issues with iCloud are something that has prompted many other developers to integrate third party syncing solutions.
Finally: App Specific Support
If you’ve got an app that uses data syncing to transfer between different versions and instances, there’s a good chance the developer has created help documentation that can help you overcome your issues. Much of the time developers can pin-point exact files and folders you should delete in order to solve your issue.
Have you had any problems with iCloud and iCloud Drive? What did you do to solve them?