iPhone and iPad Mac

iCloud Drive Not Syncing? How to Solve iCloud Sync Issues

Dan Price Updated 04-02-2020

Having problems getting iCloud to sync your data between systems? You’re not alone; many developers have expressed their frustration with iCloud problems since its introduction.

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Fortunately, there are many fixes you can try to get your macOS and iOS apps syncing with Apple’s servers. Don’t be afraid to try them all if the first few don’t work out.

1. Restart and Wait

iCloud can take some time to kick in when you make a change. According to some reports, this can be up to 10 minutes.

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 we find that photos won’t sync to iCloud until the phone is charging.

2. Check That You’re Using the Right Account

icloud account login

It might sound obvious, but if you’re not using the same iCloud account on both devices, then they’ll never sync correctly. Head to Settings > [Your Name] on iOS or System Preferences > Apple ID on macOS and check which account is currently associated with the device.

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You can only have one iCloud account active at a time, so make sure they match up.

3. Make Sure iCloud Is Working Properly

Apple System Status

Every services experiences downtime at some point. While most planned outages occur at night when you’re asleep, catastrophic failure or human error can sometimes bring even the most reliable services down.

To check Apple’s current iCloud status, head to Apple’s System Status page and look for the green dots. Any ongoing issues should appear at the bottom of the screen.

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4. Ensure You’ve Enabled iCloud for Your App

icloud apps macOS

There are some elements you can change in your Settings (iOS) or System Preferences (macOS) in order to remedy apps that won’t sync.

On your iOS device, head to Settings > [Your name] > iCloud and make sure the app you want to sync is listed and enabled. You can also try toggling this off and back on to restart the sync process.

Apps that have access to iCloud Drive on macOS will appear under System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud.

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5. Check That Apps Have Cellular Access

Do you have trouble syncing to iCloud while on mobile data, but not on Wi-Fi? You may have disabled cellular access for some apps.

Head to Settings > Cellular and scroll down to find a list of apps on your phone. Any apps that have their slider turned off will only work on Wi-Fi. Try enabling data access for any apps that you want to sync all the time, but note this may increase your data usage.

6. Rule Out Date and Time Discrepancies

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You can run into a lot of problems when your iPhone’s date and time aren’t current. 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 these issues.

On iOS, head to Settings > General > Date & Time > Set Automatically. On macOS, you can do this from System Preferences > Date & Time > Time Zone.

7. Check That You’re Syncing the Right Folder

For apps that allow you to customize which folder you use to store data, ensure that the paths match up in both instances. You should make sure that your various iOS and macOS apps are looking for data in the same location, if applicable.

8. Reset and Restore Your Device

None of the above has helped and your device won’t access or sync iCloud data at all? You might want to take a stronger step and reset your phone to clear up any lingering issues. Before you do so, you should back up your phone How to Back Up Your iPhone and iPad Wondering how to back up your iPhone? Here's our simple guide to backing up your iPhone using either iCloud or iTunes. Read More to avoid losing any data.

After backing up, reset the device using the Restore option in iTunes (or Finder on macOS Catalina and newer) and then restore the backup you made when you set it up again. Once you’re finished your device will be near-identical to how you started, except you’ll need to add/authorize your various accounts again.

Hopefully, this will clear up whatever issue you had with iCloud Drive.

9. Look Into App-Specific Support

If you’ve got an app that uses data syncing to transfer between different platforms, there’s a good chance the developer offers help documentation to help you overcome your issues. Much of the time, developers can pinpoint exact files and folders you should delete in order to solve your issue.

A few apps that include specific guides to solving iCloud issues include DayOne, 1Password, and Ulysses. Search online for specific help if your issue lies with another app.

10. Use an iCloud Alternative

Many applications give you a choice of whether or not to use iCloud. If you can avoid using it, you’ll sidestep many of the issues that have plagued the service.

For example, apps like DayOne and 1Password both allow you to use Dropbox. Plus, third-party cloud storage solutions often provide you with more space and less hassle. And don’t worry, you can still use other iCloud features, like Find My iPhone and email.

Some of the best cloud storage alternatives Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More include Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

Make It Easier to Use iCloud

Hopefully, these tips helped you clear up your iCloud Drive issues. While iCloud isn’t perfect, its integration with Apple platforms make it the de facto choice for many users. Now you can enjoy it as Apple intended.

For other issues with iCloud, check out solutions to the most common iCloud issues 9 Common iCloud Problems (And How to Fix Them on Your iPhone or iPad) Is iCloud not working? Here's what to do when you can't sign into iCloud, see an error, or have other common iCloud issues. Read More .

Explore more about: Cloud Storage, iCloud, iPad, iPhone Tips, Troubleshooting.

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  1. Brian
    June 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    You had a note about multiple email accounts possibly causing the issue. What I found, when I checked the GMail accounts there, was that two of them wanted the password re-entered. I'm not sure why.
    Once I had re-entered those passwords, my iCloud data synched to my iPhone 7 Plus.
    Thanks for the idea. :-)

  2. Yossi Lonke
    April 1, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    This is a lot of text, but rather useless. There is no discussion of performance issues, no discussion of how to get the icon to the finder, no discussion of how to turn off icloud on macbook. It is just a random collection of the most trivial things you can do with minimum effort. Absolutely useless piece of information.

    • Agudá
      October 23, 2017 at 6:49 am

      Yeah, guy. Spent time here for absolutely NOTHING!

  3. Roger V
    March 26, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    I know this is a little late... but I've found that when I'm having trouble making iCloud for Windows sync with my iPad Air 2 (ie: I've created a file in the iPad, stored it in iCloud, and it won't appear in the Windows iCloud folder) I can force an update by creating a temporary file in the Windows iCloud folder, and the file previously created in the iPad folder "magically" appears in the Windows folder. (Ie: it must have forced a sync to occur.) Hope this helps someone out there. :-)

    • Tim Brookes
      March 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

      That's an interesting little hack! Thanks for letting us know :)

  4. Jillie
    December 14, 2015 at 1:15 am

    After updating my IPAD AIR to IOS 9.2 In ICLOUD I no longer have documents&data toggle.
    I never turned on or have used ICLOUD drive. I use the App COOLWRITER and all my notes are gone. They say to turn on "documents&data which of course I cannot do because it disappeared after the update. I hope you can help. I have been trying to fix for 9 hours with no solution.

  5. Damyan
    November 18, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Hi! Thank you for the thorough review, but unfortunately it didn't help my case, which is slightly different. I have the following devices - new iMac i5 2015, macbook air 2014, iPad 2, iPad mini and iPhone 6s, apple tv and they are all connected via time capsule. All of them used to be syncing perfectly all the time. All of a sudden, 2 weeks ago, the following issue occurred: all is syncing well, except for safari history, which does the following: syncs only from ios devices to imac and macbook, but never syncs among ios devices or from macbook and imac to ios devices. Opened tabs do sync everywhere, though. Tried everything over and over and over again-restarted, preinstalled all ios devices, signed out and back in of all devices from icloud, turned safari icloud sync off and on million times, cleared browsing history, changed icloud password, waited over 10 hours without using safari on any device at all, and nothing ever helped. I have read almost every article I found on that and nothing ever helped. If you should have any different idea, I will deeply appreciate it. If it helps, you sure ARE genius! Thank you!