Understanding How to Use iCloud Drive

iCloud is an important part of the Apple device world. Understanding how to use iCloud Drive is an important piece of that world.

Most iPhone and Macintosh users use iCloud to sync their contacts, calendars and often photos. With iCloud Drive you have ability to sync folders and files too. In other words, you can use iCloud Drive to access your most important files on any device.

What exactly is iCloud Drive?

iCloud Drive is a part of iCloud that specifically deals with folders and files from a Macintosh computer. Your iCloud Drive stores everything that appears on the desktop, and/or in the documents folder, in the cloud instead of on the local computer. The files appear in those locations on the Mac, but the original file is stored in iCloud.

Documents stored in iCloud have a local copy on the computer if they have been used recently, and if there is storage space available. These local copies sync with the iCloud original when the computer is connected to the internet. There is only one true version of the document and it is stored in iCloud. When a document is changed or deleted it happens everywhere. These are not backup copies.

Some benefits of using cloud storage are:

  • File Security – The storage on the cloud has backups and redundancies that a person’s individual device does not
  • Accessibility – Files are accessable on any computer by signing into the users Apple ID
  • Sharing and Collaboration – there are more sharing options for document stored in the cloud
  • Syncing across multiple devices – changes made on one device propagate to all devices
  • Storage Capacity is limited by iCloud storage, not device hardware

How to Set it Up?

On MacOS in System Settings | iCloud settings, users can designate to sync the computer’s desktop and/or documents folders in iCloud Drive. Note: this excludes documents saved in the Downloads folder on the computer, or anything stored outside of these two locations.

On each device, users who save their files to these locations will be able to access them on any device. Files on the Mac are viewed, edited and deleted in the Files app on an iPhone or iPad. Files on an iPhone or iPad can be saved directly to the Mac.

Function & File Structure

When synced properly, users will have access to all their files no matter what device they are on.

The file structure of iCloud drive on a Mac device will follow the same structure that users are familiar with in the Finder app.

The section “iCloud Drive” on the sidebar to the left, will contain all folders and files stored within it.

When syncing with a Mac computer, Desktop and Documents folders users will see these storage areas multiple times in the finder. But, they are all the same one.

Folders created on phones and tablets will also appear in the finder section on a mac, and vice versa. So, anything saved to these areas from a phone or tablet will also be available on synced devices.

Users will also find a shared files section. This is where files that have been shared with them via their Apple ID will appear.

Cost of iCloud Storage

Apple offers 5 GB of storage for free per account. Users who have an iPhone will probably fill this up if they choose to backup their phone or their photos in iCloud. This means most users who want to effectively use the iCloud will need to purchase an iCloud + storage plan. Below are the plans and pricing for the US market.

Current pricing as of 11/2023

For info on how to subscribe, check out the Apple support page.

Fore more in depth information, check out the iCloud Drive support page.

If you have specific questions about Understanding how to use iCloud Drive, or if our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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