iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues
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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 How to Access and Manage iCloud Drive Files From Any Device How to Access and Manage iCloud Drive Files From Any Device iCloud Drive is a handy tool, but accessing your files can be a little confusing since Apple's cloud storage experience really differs depending on your platform or device. Read More like Dropbox or Google Drive. This transition caused issues for some users, but fortunately the fixes are easy to apply.

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues iclouddrive2

You should ensure that you upgrade to iCloud Drive What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? What Is iCloud Drive and How Does It Work? Confused about what makes iCloud Drive different to Apple's other cloud services? Let us show you what it can do, and how you can make the most of it. Read More 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 How To Install macOS & Save The Installer How To Install macOS & Save The Installer It's really easy to save the macOS installer to avoid multiple downloads, and worth doing even if you only have the one Mac. Read More 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.

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues icloudaccount

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.

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues icloudstatus

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.

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues iclouddriveios

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.

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues settime

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 Keep a Digital Diary with Day One for Mac OS X and iOS Keep a Digital Diary with Day One for Mac OS X and iOS Everyone has a story to tell. It's not always a story in need of an audience, sometimes a story just needs to be told. You may want to continue the journal you started when you... Read More 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. How to Back Up Your iPhone and iPad How to Back Up Your iPhone and iPad What would you do if you lost your iPhone tomorrow? You need to have a backup plan, and we'll show you how to back up to iCloud or iTunes. Read More

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).

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues backuprestore

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).

iCloud Sync Problems? Resolving Common Cloud Storage Issues syncicloud

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.

A few apps that include specific guides to solving iCloud issues include DayOne, 1Password, iA Writer and Ulysses.

Have you had any problems with iCloud and iCloud Drive? What did you do to solve them?

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

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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!