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If you delete a file on your iCloud drive, how do you restore it? iCloud Drive is a convenient way to work with your files, but the traditional way to recover deleted files may not always work.
If you are using iOS, they do not apply at all. Here’s how to overcome iCloud’s data recovery conundrum.
The Basics of iCloud Drive
iCloud Drive has its roots in the much maligned Mobile Me. That featured a service called iDisk, which was a cloud storage drive that you could sync between your Macs. You could also access your files through the website.
iCloud Drive is not just an updated version of iDisk, It was built from the ground up. Initially, it had fewer features.
At the beginning of iCloud, Apps held their files in isolated silos. There was no direct drive access, outside of a dirty hack that involved digging deep into the Library folder. Now iCloud drive is an entry in the Finder sidebar that allows you to access your iCloud files. They are still broken down by app using folders.
The Easy Way
If you are on the same Mac where you deleted the file, you can just restore the file from the trash. This method is the same as any other file on your Mac.
If you have not recovered files from your Trash before, it is a very natural process. Open your Trash by clicking on the icon in your Dock. If you want to navigate via Finder’s Go To Folder command, your profile’s Trash directory is /.Trash.
Once you have the Trash open in Finder, right-click the folder and select Put Back. This process restores the file back to iCloud drive. It is fine to follow these steps if you are working on the same Mac, but what if you remember you need that file when you are working on your iOS device or another Mac? That requires a bit more work.
iCloud.com to the Rescue
The first thing you need to do is get in front of a Mac or PC with a web browser. Go to iCloud.com and log in. You should have two-factor authentication enabled for iCloud, but if you don’t then take this opportunity to set it up.
Once you’ve logged in and see the familiar spread of icons, click on Settings and scroll to the bottom of the page. Under the Advanced subheading, click on Restore Files.
There is a pop-up with all files deleted from your personal iCloud account in the last 30 days, along with how many days you have left before it rolls off the list. Click the check box next to the file that you want to put back, and click Restore.
If you have a file you deleted that you do not want to linger on iCloud for the next 30 days, just click Delete instead.
Once you complete the restoration procedure, you can go back to iCloud drive on your Mac and verify that the file is back in the correct location.
This 30-day limit may mean that an older file you need isn’t recoverable via iCloud. If you deleted your file over 30 days ago but you have a Time Machine backup, you should be able to recover your file.
Simply click the iCloud Drive link in the sidebar of Finder, then go to the Time Machine icon in the menu bar and select Enter Time Machine.
Next find the latest date where you know that the file was stored in iCloud Drive. Once you find it, click the line to move the folder back to that date. Highlight the file and click Restore. Your file is now back in the correct app folder in your iCloud Drive.
If you do not have the shortcut in your Finder still, your iCloud drive files are in the Username/Library/Mobile Documents folder. You’ll need to be able to view hidden files, just hold the Shift key when clicking Go in the menu bar to show the option to go to your Library folder.
Files Are Nice, But What Else Is There?
So while your files are probably the data with the most varied methods to restore, there are plenty of things you can restore using iCloud’s website. Again, this should not be your primary backup method for any of this data, as it only seems to have a thirty-day rolling timeline.
In the same pop-up for restoring the file that we accessed earlier, there are tabs across the top for each entry: Restore Contacts, Restore Calendars, and Restore Bookmarks. When you click on one of them it shows a list of recent changes by timestamp.
The feature is limited as it does not show what changes you are restoring. However, your current data is then snapshotted to restore if you choose the wrong one. Click Restore next to the entry you want to bring back, and then in the new pop up, select Restore again.
The restore process may take some time depending on the data you are restoring. If you are restoring Calendars and Reminders, they lose their sharing info. So you need to reshare your lists and calendars after restoring.
iCloud Is Mobile First, Except When It’s Not
If you are using iCloud as a Dropbox type drive on your Mac, none of this is an issue. However, if you use iCloud Drive on your iPad as your daily workhorse, this is unacceptable. Even if they do not want to roll the restore feature into the iCloud Drive apps on iOS, it needs to be accessible via Safari on iOS.
Unfortunately iCloud has a bit of a name for its issues, limitations, and temperamental nature. Despite the problems around the process, it is nice to see that you can easily get back most of your iCloud data.
Have you worked out similar restore methods for other cloud services? Share your tips with us in the comments.