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The iCloud storage experience really differs depending on your platform or device. Each method has its limitations – but the one that gives you the most control is your Mac.
Understanding what is actually saved in your iCloud account and how to access it can be a little complicated, particularly if you’re seeing that dreaded notification that you’re running out of iCloud storage.
So here’s how to access, manage, and upgrade your storage.
Manage iCloud on Your iOS Device
When it comes to managing your iCloud storage on your iOS device, you can delete any backups made from your iPhone, including photos. You can also control which apps and file types will be backed up to your iCloud account.
Files and Photos
The new iOS 11 Files app provides a nice easy way to access your personal iCloud storage.
While you can choose whether to save photos, notes, contacts and more in your iCloud Drive from your iOS device, you can’t browse your iOS backups. The photos that are synced to your iCloud Drive should already be available right there on your phone.
Manage and Upgrade Storage
To manage your iCloud storage, go to Settings on your iPhone or iPad. Tap your name at the top of the screen and then tap iCloud.
You’ll see how what how much of your iCloud storage is being used for backups, photos, and documents.
You may also save app data in iCloud. You can toggle on and off which apps are using iCloud – including both native Apple apps and third-party apps.
Tap Manage Storage > Backup and you can delete any backups saved to iCloud – this includes backups from any iOS or Mac devices on which you use the same iCloud account, as well as data backed up from individual apps. If you do choose to delete a backup for any of your iOS devices, this will also turn off backup on that device.
To upgrade storage on your iOS device, go back to the Manage Storage screen and tap Change Storage Plan. If you’re running out of space in iCloud, you may see an Upgrade link instead.
Manage iCloud in Your Browser (also Android)
To manage iCloud in a browser, go to iCloud.com where you can log in to your account.
When you log in to your iCloud account click the iCloud Drive button and you can view, download, and delete backed up photos and see any files you’ve manually saved to your iCloud Drive. Deleting files from your iCloud account will delete them from all your devices.
You can view and edit Pages documents, download text files, and more. Using the menu at the top, you can create new folders, upload, download, and delete files, and share your files with others.
When you log in to iCloud, click the Photos button to view your backed up photos. This will include any iOS photos saved you to your cloud storage, as long as you have the option enabled on your iOS device.
You can view your iOS albums, change the thumbnail size in iCloud Photos, and upload photos directly from your computer.
A major drawback to using iCloud in your browser is that there’s no way to batch download or delete photos you’ve backed up to iCloud. You can download individual photos or select multiple photos by holding down the Control button on Windows or Command on a Mac.
Manage and Upgrade Storage
It’s not possible to upgrade your iCloud storage from a browser.
Manage iCloud on Your Mac
Managing your iCloud storage on files on your Mac is a much more disjointed experience, but it’s also the one that gives you the most control over your backups and storage. Your files, photos, and storage management are each in three different places on your computer.
If you want to see the files saved on your computer, you can do that in your Mac finder. Open Finder and you should see a folder in the navigation menu called iCloud Drive.
You can see all the same files viewable in your iOS Cloud Drive. You can interact with these files and folders the same way you would any other file or folder on your computer.
You can see all cloud files, but will have to download them on to your computer in order to open them.
To view photos synced to your iCloud drive from all your Apple devices, open up the Photos app that comes preinstalled on your device.
When you first open the app you will be prompted to confirm that you want to use the app. Like in your browser, you’ll be able to view and manage your photos and albums. You can add or drag photos to albums, drag photos from your desktop or finder into albums, and delete photos from albums and from the app.
The Mac Photos app also has basic photo editing features including enhancements, cropping, rotating, and filters. All edits will be synced across your devices.
Manage and Upgrade Storage
To manage your iCloud storage on your Mac go to System Preferences > iCloud. You can see which Mac apps are linked to your iCloud account as well as the same breakdown as to how your iCloud storage is being used. You can delete backups for each of your devices, as well as backups from individual apps.
To upgrade your storage, go to System Preferences > iCloud > Manage and click Change Storage Plan or Buy More Storage.
Manage iCloud on Your Windows Computer
To manage your iCloud storage on a Windows machine, you’re going to need to download iCloud for Windows. Like on the Mac, you can see how your storage is being used and can delete existing backups, and can access the various features of iCloud in different places.
You’ll have to make sure you have iCloud Drive checked in the iCloud app on Windows when you first install it in order to access your iCloud files in Windows Explorer. You may have to restart your computer for the files to show up.
After you’ve restarted, you can access the iCloud Drive folder one of two ways. You can open it right there in Windows Explorer – a folder will be available in the Quick Access navigation menu. Or or you can click on the iCloud app icon in the System Tray and click Open iCloud Drive. You’ll see all the same files and folders as you would on your Mac or in a browser.
If you toggle iCloud Drive off you will be asked if you want to delete your files from your Windows machine.
You have a few options when it comes to how your Windows machine handles your iCloud photos. You can toggle on and off several features including syncing photos with your computer and all devices, keeping the high efficiency original, and photo sharing.
When you turn the photo option on in iCloud, a new folder will be created on your computer which you will also find in your Quick Access menu in Windows Explorer. In this folder, you’ll have two folders – one for downloads and uploads. You can manually copy photos into the Upload folder to copy photos from your Windows computer to your iCloud storage.
When it comes to downloads, you’ll be given the choice of downloading all photos or selectively downloading by year. These photos will also be organized in your iCloud folder on your Windows computer by year.
You can toggle iCloud Photos off and the photos will no longer be synced.
Manage and Upgrade Storage
You can manage and upgrade your storage the same way Mac users can. The app shows you the breakdown of your iCloud storage use on the main window. Click on the Storage button in the app and you can delete iOS and app backups, and can also upgrade your storage by clicking the Buy more storage button.
Time to Upgrade?
One thing can do is to just upgrade your storage since Apple’s upgraded prices are extremely affordable now. You can get 50 GB of storage for $0.99 a month, 200 GB for $2.99 a month, or 2TB for $9.99 a month. The latter two plans can be shared among members of your family sharing plan.
While the iCloud experience is somewhat disjointed, once you get the hang of just where everything goes, you can make great use of some pretty cheap storage space.
If you’re an avid Apple fan and find yourself using mainly Apple devices, this is a great option for keeping all your data and backups in one place. That said, if all you’re after is online storage, Dropbox Plus will get you 1TB for $9.99 monthly or $99 annually. But know that you can access iCloud from your Android.
Have you found that you had to upgrade to paid storage plan for your Apple devices? Do you use iCloud for anything more than backing up your iOS contacts and settings? How do you like the iCloud experience across devices? What do you want to see change? Let us know in the comments.