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Confusion About iCloud Drive

1) Is iCloud Drive (Archive) folder the same as Local Folder?

2) Is iCloud Drive a Storage or a Sync application?
That is, are the actual files in the cloud or on my Mac? Or both?

3) Please comment on when to ✓”Optimize Mac Storage.”

Stan Greenberg

Comments: 7 Responses to “Confusion About iCloud Drive”

    3 years ago

    The “iCloud Drive (Archive)” folder is a special folder created if you have used iCloud’s Desktop & Documents option, and then turned it off. It puts files in that temporary location. You should immediately deal with those files to make sure you don’t lose them. Take them out of there, put them in their proper place (Document folder, subfolders, etc), and make sure the archive folder is empty before deleting it.

    See the note about this at

    Labelling iCloud Drive as a storage or sync application probably isn’t a good way to look at it. It is both, and more. The files are both on Apple’s servers (the cloud) and on your Mac. However, you can turn on the option to not download every file to every Mac (Optimize Mac Storage in iCloud Drive Preferences). In that case, some files would appear to be on your Mac, but only download when you try to access it. This saves space on that Mac’s drive.

    You can think of iCloud Drive as syncing files across Macs. You can think of iCloud Drive as storing files on Apple’s servers and giving you easy access to them. Or, you can not think about it at all, and just treat your iCloud Drive as a single space that exists across all of your Macs and at The intention of cloud services is to do the latter.

    For me, I choose to have “Optimize Mac Storage” off for my desktop Mac. I have tons of storage space on that Mac. So I have every iCloud Drive file on that Mac. But for my MacBook Pro, I have limited hard drive space and I certainly don’t need most of my files there. So I use “Optimize Mac Storage” on that computer to save space. If I need a file, I usually don’t even notice the second it takes for it to download when I try to access it. But if I was using the MacBook Pro offline often — say my work took me out of the office to remote areas — then maybe I would turn off this option so my files would always be available. In that case, I probably would have a MacBook Pro with a larger hard drive.

    Stan Greenberg
    3 years ago

    So, If “Optimize Mac Storage” is off, then all iCloud Drive files are on my desktop Mac-correct?
    I posed this question to BackBlaze, who I use for backup. This is their reply:
    iCloud is a bit different in how it is backed up. We only backup files that are physically on the computer, but the files in the iCloud folder have placeholders in the folder on the files that are in the cloud. So we will backup the placeholders, but they are not the direct file themselves.
    So, Gary: please comment

    3 years ago

    Stan: If “Optimize Mac Storage” is off, then every file you store on iCloud Drive will be on your Mac’s hard drive as well as on Apple’s servers, yes.

    I don’t have any inside information on how Backblaze handles the iCloud Drive folder. But I would imagine that they would download and backup any file that is present. So that would be all files if you have “Optimize Mac Storage” turned off, and only some files if it is turned on. But since they are on Apple’s servers anyway, it isn’t that important that you have them also backed up on Backblaze’s servers.

    One way to find out would be to go to their web site and download your backup. Mine is way too large for that test. I can’t remember if you aren’t using an encryption key whether you can see individual files on the website after logging in.

    3 years ago

    How do I get iCDrive up and running-I’m still confused intimidated by iCloud Drive. I have iMac and iPhone- doesn’t seem like I need iCDrive- except as a back up. HOW DOES THE NEW FILES FOLDER PLAY INTO ALL THIS.
    Thank you for MacMost help.

    3 years ago

    Joe: iCloud Drive is a place to store files that is shared between all of your Macs and can also be accessed on your iPhone. It acts like folders on your Mac, but they are also synced and stored on Apple’s servers. So you can also see and access those files on other Macs and your iPhone. Not sure what you mean by “New Files Folder” — do you mean the new Files app on your iPhone? That is how you access your iCloud Drive files on your iPhone. So you save a file to iCloud Drive on your Mac, and then look in the Files app on your iPhone and there it is.

    2 years ago

    Thanks for this write-up Gary. We have a lot of large video files so our iCloud drive would be larger than our Macbook Pro hard drives. With “Optimize Mac Storage” turned on, do you know how much free space the Mac will keep?

    For example, if we have 1TB of video files & a Macbook Pro with a 500GB hard drive and “Optimize Mac Storage” turned on, is there any guidance on how much free space will it keep on the mac? I’d prefer it to not be close to full. Thanks!

    2 years ago

    Keith: Probably a good idea just to store large video files locally, not in the cloud. The optimize feature doesn’t have a set level, it acts based on many factors. It will probably be close to full at times. And why not? What good would 100GB of empty space do? When you need it, it would be freed up. But I wouldn’t store 1TB of video on iCloud drive.

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