How to Use the iCloud Control Panel to Sync Data Between Your iPhone & Windows
Do you regularly have to work on a Windows computer. And are you looking for a way to keep your iPhone data in sync? The iCloud Control Panel could be the tool you’ve been looking for.
I am rapidly transforming into an unashamed and proud Apple fanboy . So when I have to come through to the office to use the Windows PC, I am suddenly leaving my beloved Apple ecosystem. I know, first world problems. Say awww for me.
Despite Apple retiring the Windows version of Safari, it still offers a Windows version of the iCloud Control Panel. Using this panel, I can sync my photos, access iCloud Drive, and sync browser bookmarks with either internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. You can also see at a glance how much iCloud storage space you have left.
So if you are like me, and you want a bridge between the dark murky world of Microsoft and the bright gay world of Apple, then you should take a look at how to set up iCloud for Windows.
Before We Start…
It is worth pointing out before I start that you are getting pretty much only a basic app here. In the years that I have had the iCloud Control Panel installed on my Windows PC, it barely received any updates. I get the distinct impression that, on Tim Cook’s to-do list, giving love and attention to iCloud for Windows is way down at the bottom, and totally forgotten.
But hey, as the saying goes, it’s better than a poke in the eye.
Setting It Up
First, you obviously need to get the installation file. Do the usual next, next, next, and install the program on your PC. When done, start it up.
Sign in with your Apple ID (the one you use for iCloud on your Apple devices and also for iTunes).
When signed in, it will show you an iCloud logo in your system tray, next to the clock. Click on that to get to the settings option.
When you click on the settings, it will start to show you some details of your account. As you can see, a lot of iCloud’s features are confined to the iCloud website (Mail, Contacts, Reminders, and so forth). That is what I meant about the Windows program being rather limited.
Let’s take a look at each Control Panel feature in turn.
iCloud Drive is the one thing which saves your butt when you accidentally delete all the holiday photos and you are desperately searching for a backup before the wife finds out. iCloud Drive stores copies of all the files on your iOS devices, such as iBooks , documents , images, mail, contacts, and more.
Bakari has previously shown you how to set up iCloud Drive on an iPhone . So use his guide to set it up on your phone. Then set it up here on your Windows PC to have the two talking to one another in no time at all.
When you set up iCloud for Windows, a new iCloud Drive folder will appear in your Windows File Explorer. Here is where you can access and upload your files.
In my opinion, Dropbox is the ultimate kick-ass app when it comes to uploading photos from your phone to your computer. But iCloud Photo Library isn’t that bad either , despite some occasional sync issues . It’s debatable which cloud service is better . Note that with iCloud, you get an extra 3 GB of space compared to Dropbox.
When you choose to sync your photos with iCloud, all of the photos you make on your iOS devices will be synced to your Windows or Mac device. Obviously, it also works in the other direction, i.e. uploading from a computer to iCloud Photo Library.
You also get an iCloud Photos folder installed on your computer. You can easily view your iOS photos and shared albums, as well as easily upload back to your devices.
You can decide whether or not you want any new photos and videos downloaded to your PC. In that case you would need to review the amount of hard drive space you have. Enabling Photo Sharing will allow you to make shared photo albums, which can be then be shown to other users.
When I made this screenshot, it said that Chrome wasn’t installed. I thought this meant that the actual browser wasn’t installed, which was weird because I was using Chrome!
But then I have realized it meant that I don’t have the Chrome extension installed, which syncs Chrome bookmarks with iOS Safari. When I looked for the Firefox equivalent, it seems that it is on the blocklist due to frequent crashing!
Unless you are a big Safari user on iOS devices, and you absolutely need to have your internet Explorer or Chrome bookmarks synced, I would leave this one disabled. It seems to me to be more trouble than it’s worth. That’s just my opinion. Feel free to ignore me if you want.
Every Apple account gets 5 GB of free storage. For some that may be enough, but for a measly $1 a month, you can get a whopping 50 GB of space a month. You may not always need the entire 50 GB, but at least it stops your iOS device telling you all the time that “you are approaching your 5 GB limit and you should upgrade”. That can get rather irritating after a while. The peace and quiet alone is worth the dollar.
On the Windows Control Panel, you can see what is taking up the storage space and how much space it is gobbling. However, in this section, you cannot view the actual files, only mass-delete the files to reclaim the space. To see the actual files, you would need to go to your iCloud folder in Windows Explorer.
But this section is nice because you can get an immediate overview of what you have and how much space it is using.
Your iCloud in Action
As things start to upload, download, jiggle, and juggle, you will see your iCloud window start to update.
As I said at the beginning, iCloud for Windows is no great shakes. It is OK for getting your stuff on and off your iOS devices, as well as keeping a continual overview on your iCloud storage usage. However, I hope that Apple starts to show this program some more love sometime very soon.
Do you use iCloud for Windows? If so, do you agree that there are severe limitations to the program? Or have you discovered any clever workarounds?