iPhone and iPad Mac

What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work?

Tim Brookes 28-03-2017

Apple provides you with 5GB of free iCloud storage when you register an Apple ID, which isn’t much considering how expansive the service has become. It can back up your devices, keep your photos and videos in the cloud, and even operate like a standard cloud storage service in the form of iCloud Drive.


If you’re already confused then you don’t need to be. Here’s what iCloud Drive is, what makes it different to Apple’s other services, and how to access it on your iPhone, Mac, Windows, and even Android device.

What Is iCloud Drive?

iCloud is Apple’s name for its cloud storage services which incorporates a few different things:

So iCloud Drive is only one part of the larger iCloud ecosystem, and it most closely resembles the bog-standard folder format used by nearly every other cloud storage provider. There are a few caveats to the service which make it unique, as is often the case with Apple’s products.

What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? icloud drive finder

You can save documents to iCloud Drive within apps, especially Apple’s own apps like TextEdit and Pages. Files can be saved anywhere to your cloud storage, but also appear in an app-specific folder. This makes for a compartmentalized approach to cloud storage, which still provides a degree of control over folder structures and organization.


Unfortunately, Apple’s approach also means that sharing is rather limited. Unlike Google Drive, you can’t set permissions for folders or individual files and share them with others. You can still collaborate on projects stored in iCloud, but the nitty-gritty of it is handled by the app (for example Pages).

What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? icloud storage buy

You’ll need an Apple ID, and thus an Apple device, in order to have access to iCloud Drive. You only get 5GB of free storage per user, not per device; with the option to upgrade if you need more. If you intend to backup your iPhone and store a few files, you’ll almost certainly need to buy more iCloud storage at some point.

Are There Any Limits?

Storage space is the biggest limit you’ll face, as your 5GB won’t go far, but it will give you a taste of what iCloud can do for you. Once you run out of space, Apple will bombard you with notices to upgrade your cloud storage. You can disable device backup under Settings > iCloud > Backup on your iOS devices to stop this.


What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? icloud backup ios

There are no limits on the types of files you can store and sync via iCloud Drive. Apple says that you can store anything on iCloud drive “as long as it’s less than 15GB in size and you don’t exceed your iCloud storage limit.” You can then access these files on any device, though you’ll need an app that can make use of them (like VLC for playing MP3 files The Best iPhone Music Apps and Alternative Music Managers for iOS What's the best music app for iPhone? Here are the best paid and free options for listening to music on iOS. Read More , or a comic book reader for .CBR archives The Best Apps to Read Comics on Your iPad Here are the best iPad comic readers that let you read your comics and grow your comic collection using your iPad. Read More ).

While syncing any type of file to your mobile devices is all good and well, keep in mind that the process can take a while. When you upload a file to iCloud it is sent to Apple’s servers first, then downloaded on any other devices afterwards. For local transfer purposes, keep in mind that AirDrop is still the quickest solution AirDrop Not Working? Fix It Fast With These Tips Is AirDrop not working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac? Here are several troubleshooting tips to fix AirDrop on your devices. Read More .

Accessing iCloud Drive

You’ll need to activate iCloud Drive before you can use it. On an iPhone or other iOS device, head to Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive and check the option to turn the service on. If you’re using a Mac then you can check the iCloud Drive option under System Preferences > iCloud. Windows users can download iCloud for Windows.


What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? icloud drive iphone

Once enabled you can access iCloud Drive using the home screen shortcut on your iPhone or iPad, from the Finder sidebar on a Mac, or via the iCloud for Windows add-on. This will give you a simple folder view, where you can open files and upload new ones.

You can also access iCloud Drive by logging in at iCloud.com and selecting iCloud Drive from the list of items. This is great for Android or Linux users, or anyone using a shared computer. You can even upload files via the web interface from compatible browsers.

On macOS, some apps will suggest iCloud Drive as the default saving location for documents. A good example is Apple’s word processor, Pages. If you want to save or load to iCloud, make sure you specify it in the app you are using. On a Mac, you can quickly move files to iCloud Drive simply by selecting the right option from the document title drop-down box (pictured below).


What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? move to icloud

When using an iOS app, you’ll have to look for the iCloud option when saving or loading. Apple has been pushing developers to adopt its cloud storage platform for years, so many apps include this functionality now.

Should You Use iCloud Drive?

Your decision to shun or embrace Apple’s cloud storage very much depends on your workflow, and what other devices you frequently use. It’s harder for Windows or Android users to fully immerse themselves in Apple’s ecosystem when the technologies do not integrate in the same way they do on macOS or iOS.

What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? icloud drive web

There’s also the small matter of space. While Google gives you 15GB of Google Drive space and free storage for photos and videos, Apple only provides 5GB. If you want to use iCloud Photo Library or have cloud-based backups then you’ll need to buy more storage, and anything left over will give you some room to move.

Unfortunately iCloud does have its issues, so many that we’ve got an iCloud troubleshooting guide for solving common issues iCloud Drive Not Syncing? How to Solve iCloud Sync Issues If you have issues with iCloud Drive, don't despair. Here's how to resolve iCloud syncing issues and get it working again. Read More and help for fixing your iPhone to iCloud backup problems iPhone Won't Back Up to iCloud? 9 Fixes to Try Trying to back up your iPhone, but finding that your iPhone won't back up to iCloud? Here's how to fix iCloud backup issues. Read More . Some developers have complained about the problems, while others provide options to use Google Drive or Dropbox instead.

Ready to Rock

We’ve just produced a guide to restoring lost iCloud Drive files How to Restore Deleted iCloud Drive Files If you delete a file on your iCloud drive, how do you restore it? The answer depends on what device you're currently using! Read More , so be sure to check that out if you’re having problems. Otherwise tell us what you think of iCloud Drive. Do you use Apple’s cloud storage? Do you have any more questions about the technology? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.

Related topics: Cloud Storage, iCloud.

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  1. Dave M
    November 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Very helpful article, thank you. Just wanted to suggest updating the screenshot of the pricing, as Apple has significantly lowered the cost of all the tiers.

  2. Gérald Lechault
    September 7, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    After a huge problem with Sierra (iCloud password not usable anymore on my iMac while working perfectly on other devices), I had to reinstall my system from scratch. Now, iCloud is doing its job and syncing my files, and comping the selected ones to my HD.
    However, I cannot find a way to make sure that the 100% of them has really been synced, before making a Time Machine backup (as the original problem also screwed up my TM disk...).
    The question is: do you know how to do this, or should one only rely on the little wheel next to the iCloud Drive icon ?

  3. Krysten
    March 21, 2016 at 4:35 am

    im having huge problems with icloud.. i have PAID of hundreds of songs of iTunes, but wont sync onto new phones or devices "it says that the original file cant be found" it cant be found as its in the cloud. some songs sync some dont.. also every time i get a new phone or upraded the software on my computer and sync the phone with the computer, it says that its a new computer and you can only allocated 5 computers, iv only ever ran my iTunes account of this one computer, so far its counted my computer the same computer 4 times! who knows what will happen next time!!!

    highly recommend not to use the cloud if we have a choice. nothing but faults and who do you goto to get it fixed or talk too???

    • Shikhar Rao
      January 24, 2018 at 11:29 pm

      The answer to your last question is an Apple Store. Schedule an appointment and talk to the geniuses at the Genius Bar. They're your best chance at fixing the problems you're facing.

  4. bonnie
    February 22, 2016 at 1:51 am

    is there a way to delete a pictures of a iPhone and not from a iPad?

  5. Paul
    May 1, 2015 at 5:19 am

    Hi Bakari, great article, thanks.

    Am having a MCB air with 250G storage and iCloud (got a 200 gig account) and iPhoto came as a great relief to free up some storage space. I also moved some backup folders and movie files to iCloud in separate folders. However I noted that apart from taking space from my iCloud account these files are still stored on my MCB storage under user/name/library/mobile documents/com~apple~clouddocs.

    Do you know why this is and how can i change settings so it keeps the file only on iCloud?

    Thanks for your help man - Paul

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 1, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Paul, it's difficult for me to troubleshoot these kinds of questions, because I'm not an Apple technician. You may have some files still on MacBook Air that needed to be cleared out. An app called CleanMyMac may be useful. But again, I'm not sure, so you should also raise your question on the Apple support site, and with the developers of CleanMyMac. As for keeping files only on iCloud, the new Photos settings allows for Optimize Mac Storage to save some space, but other than that, you need to disable iCloud Photo Library on your MacBook Air and use My Photo Stream. Hope this helps.

  6. Karen
    April 26, 2015 at 2:16 am

    Thanks for an interesting article. However, I am having iCloud issues. I have just recently bought the iPad Air 2 to replace my iPad 3. In the first day it jammed while trying to upgrade it to the new IOS so I could down load my last backup. When I got it back fixed from the dealer, I couldn't download my backup. While I have most things stored elsewhere, I have one group of photos that I hadn't copied. I understand the biggest issue is that I have 5000 odd photos. But I am now very wary of trying to download again. I have managed to go through about 30% of our monthly data allowance in two days as I think the download froze or something, and it's not cheap in New Zealand. I've just upgraded to unlimited data and am going to try once more to download. If it doesn't work then I'm afraid I might be turning off iCloud and using iTunes or not bothering as the majority of my stuff is stored elsewhere. I get very frustrated. And after jamming the machine once, am worried about doing so again. I have been wishing I'd kept my iPad 3, although, my IT Tech brother assures me it's a cloud problem not the iPad itself. He doesn't like Apple and the iCloud, and wants me to avoid cloud storage, even though it makes using iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air so seamless.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 27, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      Karen, I'm sorry, but it's difficult advise you on these issues without talking with you directly about the issues you're experiencing. I suggest that you either call Apple or take your device to an Apple Store, if you have one nearby, so they can help you troubleshoot the problem. I have no iCloud to be buggy and slow, but again it is difficult to advise on your particular issue. You might also copy and paste what you wrote above in the Apple support forum iCloud. Often times they have expert users who can address the questions you raise. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

  7. Diego J.
    March 11, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Hello Bakari Chavanu,

    Very nice explanation, I would like to know if it is possible to place my external HD linked to icloud?
    Because when I place my docs in the icloud drive it overload my mac and I can't put all my docs.

    Thanks for your attention,

    Diego J.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      March 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      Diego, hmmm, I'm not sure. Have you tried it? How do you plan to link it?

  8. sam trotter
    March 3, 2015 at 10:12 am

    im doing this for the banter.

  9. gogetgil
    February 22, 2015 at 9:03 am

    truly a useful site, thank you Bakari. I will catch up again when Apple has something worked out for the photo storage. It is indeed ridiculous, For now, I keep using Google Drive for storing photos in a cloud. Works perfectly. And as long as you don't install google drive on your mac, there are no duplicates. Just remember to not delete the photos in google drive..... Best.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, gogetgil. I agree, in many iCloud is sort of a mess. Even after I wrote this article, I still had questions about how it functions. And now that they're stripping away iPhoto and Aperture, it's going to get even weirder in terms of managing photos. Most people, including me, are not very good at managing photos, and I'm afraid that iCloud Photo is not going to be of much better help. But we'll see.

  10. Abe G
    February 8, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    just disable my iCloud drive for my Mail, continued to have issues with "find an email someone just sent, open another one, the first disappears into unknown placed and removed not only from all my devices but also the server of my email provider (not apple email account). Additionally, receive on my MAC and not on my devices, or visa versa or never receive replies at all.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 19, 2015 at 4:44 am

      Abe, I too have been having issues with my mail not showing up on my iOS device. I'm not sure what they problems is. I need to investigate some more.

  11. Kellie
    February 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you Bakari, I thought it might be something like that - roll on upgrade!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 3, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      Yeah, the iPhone 5S and 6 are definitely worth the upgrade, IMHO.

  12. Shaun
    February 1, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I have the iPhone with music in it now when I go onto iCloud and I listen to my songs am I using up my data I only got a certain amount of gb so r they being used

  13. Maria
    January 27, 2015 at 9:46 am

    It is possible that my photos and other document here in my iphone 6 will automatically share or store in my iphone 5s which is this iphone 5s was now on my sister in hongkong and im here in canada?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 2, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Maria, I don't think those photos will automatically share on both devices. If both phones share the same iCloud account, I think the photos should show up on both apps. Have you tried taking pics to see what happens?

  14. Kellie
    January 24, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I have a 4s and I've recently started using iCloud to back up my photos as my phone was at max storage. I selected 'optimize iPhone storage' to hopefully make more space on my phone. It all worked great - no more storage full alerts. However now the videos in my photo gallery won't play! The seem to load forever and nothing happens. Do these have to be downloaded from iCloud everytime I want to watch one? They don't play when connected to wifi or 3G. What's the problem here?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 2, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Kellie, you're working with a slightly older phone, so there be a problem. If you live near an Apple Store, you might take it by there and let them check it out. Sorry I can't be of more help.

  15. Simon
    January 24, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Can I firstly thank you all for your illuminating contributions.

    This thread has really helped to inform my decision on how to chose between iCloud Drive and Dropbox for my offsite storage strategy.

    Dropbox wins hands down because of the storage space saving offered by the selective sync facility - see https://www.dropbox.com/help/175.

    Just one question - I have a Carbon Copy Clone of each of my machines on an external hard drive, plus networked Time Machine backups on my Time Capsule. If I have data in Dropbox that I don't want to congest and sync with my local storage, how do I best retain a local copy just in case North Korea is planning to disable Dropbox for eternity? Or put another way, if I have files stored externally on a local drive, what's the best way to back these up using offsite storage?

    Your opinions would be gratefully appreciated.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Simon, if I'm understanding you correctly, you can open Dropbox preferences on your Mac, and under Account > Change Settings, disable Dropbox folders you don't want to sync to your local drive. The files will of course remain in your Dropbox account in the cloud.

  16. Rick Utes
    January 20, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Is everyone happy with this? I had Photo Stream which stored all my photos in the cloud for free and I used it. It was great. Apple cancelled it and now there is a version i should pay for. I had iWork cloud storage for no additional cost, but now Apple is forcing anyone that wishes to continue having these docs stored with access in the cloud to pay for iCloud Drive once you get over 5gb. I moved my photos to Flickr where i get a TERABYTE for free and I guess I'll be off to google docs. We have all had a hand in making Apple wealthy beyond imagination. I feel iCloud Drive should be free.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 22, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      Rick, yep that seems to be the case. I’ve been having to delete or disable apps on my devices that use iCloud so that I don't go over the 5gigs. If I shoot a video with my phone, that automatically fills up my iCloud account. I don't feel like paying Apple a yearly fee to use iCloud. I'm still using 8 gigs of Dropbox for free, and that service is a lot better than iCloud. I definitely agree with you that iCloud Drive should be free, or that we should receive at least 15 or 20 gigs of storage for free.

  17. Abigail
    January 20, 2015 at 5:54 am

    Hi, I turned auto back up on my iphone 4s and backed it up! Can I delete photos off of my iphone now since they are backed up and if I have them in Google auto back up can I delete them off of my phone? Will I still be able to see them in both places? I m so confused by all of this! Once they are in the cloud can I make copies of them by sending them to a disc or flash drive? If so, how? Thank You!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 22, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Abigail, are you referring to photos stored on your iCloud account or Photo Stream? If you backed them up by copying them to a Google cloud service, they should remain there. Photos backed up to your iCloud should also remain there. However, if you backed them up to Photo Stream, they won't remain there forever. To be on the safe side, be sure to back up your photos to a disc or flash drive before you delete them from your phone.

  18. Ashish Shukla
    January 12, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Hii, Thank for sharing this Valuable information.

    I have one question. If i have stored 10 Excel file on i cloud drive. How can i view that excel file on my Ipad air???

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 14, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Ashish, you need to check and see if there's iOS app that supports and open Excel files. I believe there may be. Just do a search for Excel in the iTunes App Store.

  19. Miro
    January 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    I've read this article searching for the answer to my question: is there any possibility to view and manage my contacts from address book on iCloud? All I see is just an opportunity to switch on/off sync of the contacts, but it's not what I need. Guess that this new service doesn't do that yet.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 14, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Miro, I think you can only manage your contacts, which are synced between your devices via iCloud, in the Contacts app. There's no actual address book on iCloud. Hope I'm understanding your question correctly.

  20. Emily
    January 10, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I am trying to open an icloud photo sharing invitation from a friend.
    I have clicked on subscribe from the email.
    I am signed into icloud.
    I have googled to try and problem solve - and everything shows an' icloud drive' icon in system preference/icloud. I don'y have the icloud drive icon.

    The message I get when I try to subscribe to this photo sharing invitation is ' icloud photo sharing is not available on this device'

    What is the problem here? Can you help?
    Thank you

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 17, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      Emily, I think at one point, Apple took down the iCloud photo sharing, but I read that it's back up. What device are you using?

  21. Irina
    January 6, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Hello Bakari,
    I tried to recovered my photos from I Cloud and if I am not mistaken, it looks like I have to pay to get to them. Is there any way to actually see what kind of pictures I have stored in there? Please let me know if I am mistaken. Thank you in advance for your help.
    Thank you, Irina

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 17, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      You photos should be stored in the iCloud on your device. You tapped on the Shared folder in your iOS device?

  22. Andrea
    December 28, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Hi Bakari,

    Is there any way to move the iCloud drive folder from my SSD to the second HD that i have installed on my MBP? I don't have enough space on my SSD.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 30, 2014 at 12:46 am

      You should be able to locate the iCloud folder in the Finder of your Mac, and then move or copy the contents to your second HD. Hope I'm understanding you correctly. The iCloud folder should be the sidebar of a Finder window.

  23. cathy
    December 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    How do I get all of my photos moved from my phone over to my iPad air? I have I cloud on both. I thought it would do it automatically but it doesn't. Help!!!!!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 30, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Your photos should sync to both devices if you have enabled iCloud on both of them. If you want to save photos to your iPad, you need to copy them to a folder on your iPad. I don't think photos that get synced to the cloud get automatically saved to other devices.

  24. Carri
    December 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Hello, so I feel like I have a really silly question that I can't find an answer for. Here it goes..
    -I hook my iPhone to my Mac at least a few times and week and back it up to iTunes as needed
    - I use iCloud (which I'm still learning about, but i think its starting to click) mostly for syncing my notes, contacts, my calendar, mail, photo those kinds of things between my computer and phone
    My iCloud is pretty well full and I realized that a big part of that is my iPhone backup. So anyway my question is if i delete that backup will it wipe everything so ill have to restore from iTunes and re-sync everything between the devices am I risking losing anything?

    Thank you for you time in reading this and helping!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 23, 2014 at 1:17 am

      Carri, if I'm understanding you correctly, yes, if you wipe your iCloud, you will need to restore from iTunes. But I'm not sure why you need to wipe your iCloud account. Some apps you really don't need to back up to iCloud. For instance, Evernote has it own database, so there's no need to back up your Evernote data to iCloud. This article may help you some as well: Manage Your iCloud Storage Rather Than Paying for Yearly Upgrades Hope this helps some.

  25. Melissa
    December 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Is iCloud useful if I only have one apple device? With dropbox, I could access my dropbox from any computer. With iCloud, if I loose my macbook for instance, can I recover the files I put on iCloud from another device on which iCloud was not synched to my macbook? I want to use iCloud as a backup.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 23, 2014 at 1:21 am

      Yes, you definitely should use iCloud if you only have one iOS device. Dropbox is good, but iCloud is useful for backing up your photos, notes, calendar events, Mail, and other default items. Check out this article as well about iCloud storage: Manage Your iCloud Storage Rather Than Paying for Yearly Upgrades

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 23, 2014 at 1:22 am

      Also, Melissa, iCloud is, well, a cloud account. So stuff backed up on it will always be available unless you delete it. So if you lose data on your MacBook or iOS device, you can retrieve it from your iCloud account.

  26. John C
    December 19, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hi. following a hard drive failure on my iMac I have had to reinstall everything from scratch. However there are many safari bookmarks on my iPhone which I would like to transfer to safari on my mac. Is this possible with iCloud or dropbox? A walk through would be appreciated.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 23, 2014 at 1:11 am

      John, your Safari bookmarks, if I'm understanding you correctly, should have been backed up on iCloud. When you reconnect your phone to iCloud, it should sync with Safari on your Mac.

  27. Eric
    December 10, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    How does iTunes work with iCloud? I have all of my tunes on my iMac 27" currently running Mt Lion. I will soon have an iPhone 6 (16GB) and cannot store more than 4GB of music due to my other needs. I thought I would be able to pay 0.99/mo and use the icloud for my music. From what I understand from above, the tunes will be stored on both my iMac and my iClound drive. If I have 15GB of music will this need 15GB of storage if I sync my iTunes on my phone to the iCloud? Should I expect problems with playing the music on the phone? And lastly, will this concept work better with Dropbox?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 18, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      To get all your iTunes music on your iPhone, you'll need to use iTunes Match, which does not stream music from the cloud. Apple makes users download/copy music files to their devices. You can sync music with your device, but unfortunately in my experience that syncing process does not always take place wirelessly as advertised. With a wired USB connection to your iTunes, songs and playlists can be synced to your iPhone. You can also upload songs to Dropbox and download them to your iPhone. Hope this helps some.

  28. Gabriel Heller
    December 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks for your reply. Do I understand you correctly? Even if I don't want to open the third party file in iCloud Drive, if it's not supported by Apple I cannot even download it directly from the Drive?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 12, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      Gabriel, I'm not sure I understand your question. If you have a file in the Mac iCloud Drive, you should be able to open it on the Mac as long as there is a supporting app for it. Have you tried doing that on your Mac?

  29. Gabriel Heller
    December 6, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I have set up iCloud Drive on two Macs, an office iMac and an 13' Air. I noticed that files created in third party apps, such as Scrivener or Nisus Writer, and stored in iCloud Drive in one computer cannot be downloaded from Finder on a second computer. It's not clickable, and I cannot copy it on my desktop. I have to go to the icloud.com website to download such files.

    Is that how iCloud Drive supposed to work? Other storage systems make it much simpler, such as Dropbox or Sugarsync, both of which I'm using. I can just drag files, no matter what software they were created in, and I can access those files from any other machine.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 6, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      Gabriel, I'm finding that iCloud Drive often takes an hour or even a day to update and sync files. I think third-party files have to have iCloud Drives support in order for them to work. I still need to do some more testing with it. Thanks for your questions and feedback. And most definitely stick with Dropbox.

  30. elaine
    November 29, 2014 at 8:53 am

    All of this surely reinforces my initial (thought it would be temporary) decision NOT to enable the iCloud when I got my new phone. Frankly, I think I may be sorry I upgraded from my 4s to the 6. I wasn't happy when I saw the direction things looked like they were headed. I've been more or less with Apple for over 20 years. Every time Jobs left the helm, things went sideways. I did upgrade my iPhone 4s to the 6, but as I tend to jump at least one iteration on all my hardware, never being the first to jump on the ship... I thought it would be safe playing the waiting game; but I thought I'd better have at minimum 64 GB on the phone, for all the photos, etc. but in the end figured that was maybe not enough and went wild with the 128 GB phone. SURELY that can hold all photos, podcasts, audible books and documents with no problems... I have the iPad secretly known as 3 (the retina display), 64 GB is not enough, but it's what I have to manage, and I am constantly moving things around with Dropbox! Dropbox is my friend. Yes, I did pay for iTunes Match, but it's not my friend... using cellular bandwidth to download my music from the cloud instead of letting me keep it safe inside my capacious new phone. Okay, to be fair, even with 128 maximum GB storage, my phone can't hold all my music, but a good chunk of it would be nice! Have no iPad air yet, though I've wanted one. But we can't get everything we want, where would we put it? And I debate this iCloud deal in my head, and think, well... for now, let's just back up the phone on the laptop. I've got the room, I can back up some stuff to Dropbox, photos, and docs... other stuff on Evernote that I use like a little file cabinet for stuff I don't need every day. Okay, I thought, I have two devices with iOS8, insisting on the iCloud, suppose I need to upgrade the OS on my laptops to Yosemite, in order to have across the board compatibility. and access. I have two perfectly useable, useful MacBook Pros. Oh, dear. I am being sold a bill of goods! My late 2011 MacBook Pro with Retina display will upgrade to Yosemite, but it will NOT play the dance with the iCloud and the latest tweaks and twiddles in order to go and play right. I am told I need a brand NEW MacBook Pro, that is fully integrated into the new world order for all things Apple, if I want to be fully functional across all my devices. My late 2011 MacBrook Pro is able to upgrade to Yosemite, but not full function within that environment with my newer iOS devices.

    No, I have NOT upgraded my MacBook Pro to Yosemite, until someone convinces me what it will do for me. No, I have not agreed to use the iCloud services, I use DropBox, and Evernote, and they work well for me... and a few external HD's for backups on the ground. You folks have me convinced that iCloud needs at least another year behind the barn, getting whipped into shape. I can remember when a PowerBook G4, would run every OS that was tossed at it, and did fine, up until what... Lion, or what it Mtn. Lion it couldn't do, but when I bought it, Panther was the OS of the day. I replaced the battery 2 years ago, finally... still beautiful 17" screen, not a dead pixel, a bit slow for my needs now, but fully functional, well designed.

    The thing I remember about Apple through the years, and what made us loyal was, the stuff just worked. Take it out of the box, plug it in, and it worked. Beautifully, logically, and that is really not the case now. Please, convince me. Convince me that it is a great idea to turn on this iCloud drive and try to synchronize between my devices. I fear I will be waiting on that one. The illogic of this new "drive" is peculiar. Is this designed to force everyone into the same sort of hardware cycle that Windows has been pushing on their users for years? We are all to purchase all new equipment every 12 months or less?? What is the point of this? Is it worth it to upgrade to Yosemite, and then iCloud, on a laptop that is now considered outdated? Since when did Apple decide not to retrofit software back for several earlier years models? But heck, it doesn't seem to work well with this years! And that is just so sad. I am horrified by the stories I have read here. Apple has sunk to a new low. Good information, but unhappy with the apparent rush to market with almost vaporware... it exists, it just doesn't work.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 6, 2014 at 10:06 pm

      Elaine, you lay a lot out there, but I think I can relate to many of your frustrations. I think it's clear that Apple is mostly into the hardware business, and its software and online services are just not going to get the kind of attention they need, to address many of the inconsistencies that we users experience.

      I end up making use of both Dropbox and iCloud for different purposes. I think Apple will smooth out some of the problems with iCloud, but I'm not confident that it will ever be as useful as Dropbox. Of course I use mostly all of Apple's software, but thankfully third-party developers fill the gaps and holes that Apple often leaves with their default programs.

      Thanks for your feedback.

    • Roget
      April 18, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      Elaine, of the several voices on thist thread, yours most sumptuously articulates my frustration(s). I've recently added an iPad Air2 to my Apple family (been with them since 1984), upped my iCloud from 25 to 200 to accommodate a demanding project that will integrate PDFs with Word (and, ideally, that wonderful product called AppleWorks - May it RIP). It has been a ghastly nightmare ever since. At age 72, I've been up past 2 a.m. three nights running - each night retiring depleted, and more frustrated. As per your remarks above, Elaine, it feels like Apple, which used to be wonderfully intuitive, is now not merely counter intuitive, but anti-intuitive. I want to dismantle my whole involvement with the cloud, but I don't trust that I won't wreak irreversible havoc in the process. I can't disabuse myself of the notion that we are being rounded up like herds of cattle – to be shipped off to the most profitable crowd of marketers. I.e. that the Apple customers themselves are no longer the principal source of profit for the Apple empire, but rather, those whose profiteering can be most cleverly and richly advanced within the Apple "ecosystem."

      I appreciate that there is nothing resembling a coherent question in my remarks above; I seem to have reached the point where formulating coherent questions is beyond the reach of my addled brain.

      PS – since I have the time machine app, does that protect me with respect to saving music and photos?

  31. Rick Johnson
    November 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

    This is one thing I can't find a definitive answer for. Let's say I'm on my Mac and I add 5 GB of documents to iCloud Drive. Those 5 GB of documents now reside both locally on my Mac and remotely on Apple's servers. Here's my question, does my iPad also use up 5 GB of space to store those files locally?

  32. lisa
    November 24, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Just signed up for icloud family sharing not sure if i,'m now going to be charged for upgrading my data does anyone know how to check because I don't want to pay extra for this service and I need a customer service number to take off cc if I push wrong button wwhile signing up for icoud

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 26, 2014 at 12:55 am

      Lisa, I need to research the iCloud family sharing. I'm pretty sure that you can make a call to Apple and get your questions answered without any charge.

  33. Carl Lagoze
    November 18, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Good article but I'm still finding iCloud drive maddening. I've tried moving my mac files into iCloud drive with the finder. So in the finder I see my iCloud 'app folders' and my own folder 'documents', which contains about 30G of content. It seems to have synced, I see it when I view iCloud drive in Safari. However, I can't see to find any way to view them on iOS 8. Goodreader and Readle documents only display the app folders. Am i trying the impossible? Isn't the purpose of iCloud drive to make content available across the mac ecosystem.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 19, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Carl, I'm having the same problem. I added a few Pages files in iCloud on my Mac, and they didn't show up in my iPad until a day later. I wonder if the most recent iOS update has improved the sync process?

  34. Ed Stahl
    November 18, 2014 at 12:31 am

    I eliminated photos from iCloud storage (I have backup storage on a large external drive) and that solved the problem! Thanks!

  35. Ed Stahl
    November 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    My iCloud Drive has been "setting up" for DAYS!!!! What do I do to get to FINISH setting up?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Ed, do you have several gigabytes of photo files? Check your iCloud account online to see if the all the pics and other documents have uploaded.

  36. Alex Fay
    November 12, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Upgraded my ios to 8.1

    Downloaded iCloud utility for Windows. Enable Bookmarks sync for Firefox. Forst time i opened safari I saw some Windows Firefox bookmarks, I opened one of the links. After I came back to bookmarks page on safari it was empty - all bookmarks, including those ios safari, simply gone. So I had to restore my iphone again to get my bookmarks back.
    I think the quality of Apple software dramaticaly dropped. It is at least irresponsible to release such a utility without a comprehensive QA testing. Too bad, i and reminds me .com era.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 17, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Alex, you might try reading your problem on the Apple support site, to see if it's a common issue.

  37. Lowell Z
    November 11, 2014 at 3:04 am

    Hi...I was told that I could use my iPhone 4s a a music player and eliminate the need for an ipod...So: Bought the 200GB iCloud plan for my phone, but still, only around 300 songs will download to my phone. The other 1000 show, but are not playable...What is the answer? Can you help?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Lowell, sorry it is difficult for me to address that issue. You might try Apple's support website.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 17, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Lowell, also, did you sign up for iTunes Match?

  38. Scott Wallace
    November 11, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Hi Steve and Ibrihim. That was my question as well. I don't think Apple has their head screwed on straight about this yet. So far as I have been able to tell, if you want to have it on iCloud, you better have the storage on your Mac. Which is really, really dumb. The whole point of iCloud for me was a way within the 'ecosystem' to store photos and videos so they didn't take up so much space on my local machine. iCloud is seemingly insult to injury because not only is the file where it started life at on your Mac, but it's duplicated in the iCloud Drive folder in Finder on the same Mac, plus the actual cloud. Really, really, really dumb.

    • Marnix
      January 15, 2015 at 11:06 am

      As a workaround you can disable iCloud Drive on your mac, this way you don't have the files stored on your Mac. You can use iCloud.com to upload/download files to the iCloud Drive. Just drag and drop. For now.. it works for me. Hope it helps..

  39. Steve
    November 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Can I clarify / ask a question too ...

    If I take a number of photos on my iPhone (lets say 10gb worth), then 10gb will be stored on my phone and will also be uploaded to iCloud taking 10gb off of my allowance (lets say 200gb - that leaves 190gb).

    If I have an iPad and a Mac, they will both sync and 10gb of space will be used up on both of those as well? Is this correct?

    Assuming this is correct, I have a few questions:

    1. If my iPhone is 64gb, does that mean having 200gb of iCloud storage for photos is useless to me? I say this as I read that if I delete a photo from my phone (or other device) then it is removed from iCloud and thus the other devices. If this is correct surely there is no point in having more than 64gb of iCloud storage?

    2. You say there is a way of not syncing certain things from iCloud to a device. Is this high level, like syncing photos? Or is it more granular like syncing specific photo albums? If it is the former, then that is poor, and effectively I am back to point one. =(

    Hope those made sense. =)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 12, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Steve, I agree it does appear as if iCloud functions as an external drive that syncs data between devices. Unlike with Dropbox, you can't designate which folders or content not to sync on individual devices. In the Settings app on the iPhone, you can choose to have photos posted on iCloud optimized for that device, instead of keeping the full resolution originals. You can also disable Photo Stream on your device so photos don't sync. I'm not sure if any of this helps, but at this point that's a way I understand it.

  40. Ibrahim
    November 5, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    how to remove file from iCloud Drive in Finder in mac without removing it online iCloud drive.This is to save memory of my MAC.

  41. David D
    November 4, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I use DropBox and it is great at syncing across devices and platforms, but what makes it useful on iOS is its app. It presents files I've stored there in a way where I can see whether they are a presentation, word file, excel file, etc., so that I'll know what app to use to open the file.

    iCloud drive is NOT implemented with an iOS app. This is maddening, because although I understand that I can launch an app IF it supports iCloud drive, and then I can see my files, and IF the file I want to open is compatible with the app I chose, I can open it. Otherwise, I have to close that app and open another app and try again. Does anyone but me find this extremely cumbersome? If DropBox and OneDrive and GoogleDrive didn't HAVE iOS apps where we CAN see files and folders like we've gotten used to seeing for the last few decades, then it might be less crazy-making. But why would Apple release a product that is INSTANTLY and OBVIOUSLY disadvantaged when compared to its established competitors?

    Example: I remember someone sent me a table I need. Let me check DropBox. Oh, there it is, and it's in Word, not Excel, like I first thought. Nice that I can see that. Let me open it in Word on my iPad. Touch, open in Word. Done.

    Example: I remember someone sent me a table I need. Let me check iCloud drive. Hmm. How do I do that on my iPad? Let me launch Excel. Nope, no access to iCloud drive there. Let me try NUMBERS. Oh, there it is. But oops, looks like my file is in Word. Let me quit Numbers and launch Word. Can I see iCloud drive? No. Oh, let me try Pages. Oh, there it is. Can I open it? Yes! But can I get it to Word? Not unless I export it to Word and then mail it to myself. Then I can receive the attachment, and open that in Word.

    NUTS, I say.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 4, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      David, I agree. Apple is seriously behind when it comes to cloud storage features. Dropbox and Evernote are where I do all my file and notes sharing. I sometimes find iCloud slow and unreliable even when using Photo Stream, which requires opening up Aperture or iPhoto. I would say that sync improvements with iWork apps may be useful for some users, but I'm not one of them. I'm sure they're trying to improve iCloud to where it needs to be, but it's probably going to be another year for it to be what we want it to be. Not sure if it will ever live up what Dropbox can do.

  42. Amanda Crone
    November 4, 2014 at 1:58 am

    Is there any way to get pictures from my computer hard drive onto my iCloud Photo Library? I have not seen any kind of upload option.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 4, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      Amanda, see if you can add photos to your iCloud via the web client. iCloud is is part of the Mac Finder, but it doesn't yet have a corresponding Photos app to drop photos into.

  43. Bill Potter
    October 29, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    I have an external hard drive and Verizon cloud service. Why in the world do I need iCloud?

    • Scott Wallace
      October 31, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Are you serious? Why don't you ask why people need OneDrive or Dropbox or Google Drive or the million other cloud services. You use Verizon. Good for you. Others use iCloud. There's a whole big world out there Bill beyond what interests you personally. Join us. And what does having an external hard drive have to do with cloud services? The whole point of cloud services is to protect against the loss, damage, or theft of your local drives. They are two completely different storage strategies.

  44. Scott Wallace
    October 29, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Bakari, great article. One thing that's driving me moderately crazy is that I want to store things in the cloud, not have it duplicated on my MacBook. Isn't that the whole point of the cloud!?! In other words, I have a bunch of videos of my kids that's taking up 100GB on my local machine. iCloud to the rescue....not. If I add those videos to my iCloud Drive folder in finder, now I have them not only in iCloud, not only in the folder they were in on my MacBook to begin with, but are stored again locally in the iCloud Drive folder on my MacBook! Again, I say, isn't the whole point of cloud storage NOT having to keep everything on a local machine with limited hard disc space? Help!!!!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Scott, I think I addressed some of your concerns in my previous comment to David. Yeah, it seems to me that iCloud will require you to pay for more storage space if you want to upload a 100GB of photos to the cloud storage. (BTW, I do hope you have those photos backed up on an external drive, and are printing some of those, right?) I still need to figure out if storing photos on iCloud is going to work like Photo Stream, which does not store your images on your local drive. It seems that it does, but it require purchasing lots of space.

    • Scott Wallace
      November 5, 2014 at 2:42 am

      Hi Bakari,

      That doesn't address my concern. I have 200GB of space on iCloud. The problem is that it would appear that whatever is on iCloud is also on your MacBook Pro laptop in my case. And that just doesn't make sense. I want to know if there is a way to put things on iCloud without it being duplicated in the iCloud Drive folder in finder which seems to also store the files locally. Again, WTF is the point of cloud storage that requires you to duplicate every single thing on the computer that you're trying to save space on!?!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 5, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      So Scott, I'm trying to make sure I understand what you mean. What do you mean by being required to "duplicate every single thing on the computer that you're trying to save space on"? As far as I can tell, iCloud is similar to Dropbox. When you drop files in iCloud, the files show up on your other devices. However, you can only access those files on iOS devices in their respective apps. I don't understand the duplication part you're referring to. Sorry if I'm misreading what you wrote.

    • Scott Wallace
      November 6, 2014 at 4:22 am

      Hi Bakari. Sorry. Here's what I mean.

      * I have a MacBook Pro with a 500GB SSD.
      * I have iCloud Drive storage in the amount of 200GB for $3.99/month
      *If I drag 5GB worth of files from my 'Pictures' folder on Finder on my MacBook Pro to the iCloud Drive folder on Finder on the same MacBook Pro, it does the following....

      * It adds the files to iCloud in the cloud, taking up 5GB of my 200GB of cloud storage
      * It adds the same 5GB worth of files to the MacBook Pro's iCloud Drive folder IN ADDITION TO them still remaining in the 'Pictures' folder they were originally in and still remain. Meaning that those files now exist in TWO folders on my MacBook Pro, 5GB in the original 'Pictures' folder and 5GB now in the iCloud Drive folder in Finder.

      My issue is I don't want everything I put in iCloud to remain on my MacBook Pro. The whole idea of cloud storage for me is not having to keep everything on my local machine. Is there a way to add files to iCloud without them being on my MacBook Pro.

      With OneDrive, if I upload from the website, it doesn't add them to my MacBook. If I add files to Dropbox from the website, it doesn't add them to my MacBook. iCloud seems to be the exception unless you know something I don't.

      Make sense?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      Okay, yeah, I understand now. Like with Dropbox, you can disable in preferences the folders you don't want downloaded to a local drive, but the content of those folders will remain in the cloud. And with iOS devices, Dropbox files don't get downloaded at all, unless you designate that you want offline access. It doesn't appear that this can be done in iCloud, unless there's some backend solution. Like I said, it appears that Apple still has a ways to catch up with Dropbox and OneDrive in terms of cloud services. Thanks, Scott, for bringing this to our attention.

    • Scott Wallace
      November 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      Bakari, you're awesome. But I'm trying to decipher where I find that setting or what Apple calls it! Is the "Preferences" you're referring to the Settings page baked into OS X and then selecting iCloud? Or is there a setting in iCloud (when accessed via the web) where that is accessed? Wherever it is, it is clear as mud as to what it does! Thanks again Bakari!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 7, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Scott, are you referring to the Dropbox settings for disabling folders? If so, locate the Dropbox icon in the menu bar, and then click on Preferences under the gear. Click on Account, followed by Change settings. There you can uncheck the folders you don't want downloaded to your local drives.

      If you're talking about iCloud preferences settings, it's the Systems Preferences app > iCloud. There you can disable apps and Photo Stream. But when they are disabled, that means you can only upload content to iCloud from your iOS devices, and not from your Mac.

    • Scott Wallace
      November 7, 2014 at 1:31 am

      Thank you. And that is why Apple really hasn't thought this all the way through. We need an iCloud Drive app. And we need to be able to add content from any device and set where copies are kept or not. That doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it???

    • Shane
      December 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Hey Scott Wallace, I have a MBP as well and also purchased the 200gb of iCloud drive storage thinking the same thing as you. Now iFind.. myself in the EXACT same situation. This is crazy. I really thought it would work like my Google Drive or DropBox, but I wanted to stay with the Apple ecosystem ya know.. Guess Apple may or may not address this.. lol. Just gonna downgrade back to free iCloud and invest more in Google Drive. This one is on you Apple.

    • Eric King
      March 9, 2015 at 2:12 am

      Well your issue is now solved with the new Photos app for OSX! The app still stores things locally, but it is (automatically) manages based on how much disk space you have. If you have no space left, it will delete a bunch of local copies, and then pull them back down from the cloud if/when you need them to work with them on an on-demand basis. It's currently in beta, so if you want it now you will have to sign up for the free apple beta program, then enlist your computer in beta updates. The public release should be coming this spring.

  45. David
    October 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    This is all very nice but it doesn't work. '

    Sure I can place items into my Cloud Drive but after 2 hours with Apple Care not, photos stored there and accessible to all devices (iPad Air, iPhone 6 and Macbook Pro) not so much.

    Additionally when I look at how much space I have on my Cloud Drive on my Mac, of the 500 gig I subscribed to, I have 88gig left (a good bit of music and photos). But when I look a iCloud on my iPad and iPhone i have 487 gig. Huh?

    This all might get there some day but it ain't right now.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 27, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      David, that the photo sync update came with iOS 8.1 update, which was released after I wrote the article. I'm looking into the new photos iCloud sync. I'm not seeing much of difference between it and Photo Stream, except now you can access your stored photos directly online.

      In terms of storage space, you will probably need to pay for more space, or see if, as I point out in my article, there's app content that doesn't need to be backed up to iCloud. Some apps have their own storage and sync backup.

      In terms of photos, I thought iCloud Photos feature means that your photos will be uploaded to iCloud, which would reduce the amount of space they take up on your iOS device. Again, need to check into all that.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  46. Glenn McQuaig
    October 24, 2014 at 2:43 am

    This is the first explanation I've read on how iCloud works. Thank you! I'd love to see some follow up pieces as well, especially on how to really use iCloud correctly and effectively. Especially how to use it on both iOS and on my iMac.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 27, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Glenn, thanks for your feedback. We will definitely be following up about iCloud, and I'm sure Apple will be adding additional features in future updates.