Forum Question: How Do I Manage iCloud Drive On My iPhone, iPad & Mac?

Hi Gary, I am so confused over iCloud Drive. I have 19,000 photos from my Mac on iCloud & so far haven’t turned on iCloud Drive on my iPhone & iPad to ensure they don’t get filled up to capacity. My iPhone currently has 417 photos on it that I would like to be on iCloud but I’m worried that by turning iCloud Drive on it will in turn push all the library down to my phone. Am I misunderstanding the process ? I’m using El Capitan 10.11.6 & my iPhone & iPads are both 9.3.3
Thanks Gary

Comments: 11 Responses to “How Do I Manage iCloud Drive On My iPhone, iPad & Mac?”

    8/7/16 @ 7:05 pm

    So, first, iCloud Drive doesn’t have anything to do with photos. iCloud Drive is a folder of files that syncs between your devices. You can put anything you want in it, and it also includes special folders for specific apps, like Pages, Numbers, Keynote and even some third-party apps. It is very similar to Dropbox, if you ever used that service.
    Apple’s photo-syncing service is called iCloud Photo Library. You can read all about that here:
    So I’m a little confused by your language. If you have photos on iCloud, then you have enabled iCloud Photo Library, separate from iCloud Drive. So I’ll assume that is what you have enabled on your Mac.
    Now if you turn it on on your iPhone, which is kind of the point of iCloud Photo Library, then you can access all of your 19,000 photos on your iPhone too. It is like living in the future :)
    As far as filling your iPhone to capacity — it handles that. Under Settings. Photos & Camera you simply make sure Optimize iPhone Storage is turned on. Then you get compressed versions of the photos to browse, and it will download the full version if you want to have a closer look or edit the photo. It looks at how much space you have and adjusts.
    With cloud services, you really need to give up the old 1990s idea of worrying about exactly how much space you have on your device and how much you are storing. Let macOS and iOS manage your space. The result is wonderful — you have all 19,000 photos at your fingertips at all times.

    8/8/16 @ 8:15 am

    How do I upload pics from my windows pc to iCloud’s photo library?

    8/8/16 @ 8:18 am

    Dij: That’s an unusual thing to do as the point is to be able to share photos between your iOS devices and Macs. But I suppose if you have some left-over photos on an old Windows machine, you may want to get them off that machine and into your iCloud Photo Library. This would be a one-time upload, and not something that would work to automatically sync your photos in the future. You would simply go to, log in, go to the Photos app there, and then use the Upload link at the top.

    8/8/16 @ 2:06 pm

    Oh Thank you a million times Gary. The storage on my iPhone was what worried me. Now I know that I only have compressed versions on it I can rest, it’s been a worry. I don’t know how Apple can make that clear but you have. Thanks again.

    John Stires
    8/11/16 @ 3:16 pm

    My iPhone says ‘not enough room to shoot a video.’ Is it that it creates a large file, i.e., competing with current app file/size requirements? I bought a 16G phone “knowing” iCloud was cheap and would be a parking place for storing everything. I’m learning (only) now that that’s nothing close to what iCloud is for. If I have ‘too many’ apps on my phone, its available space is used up, NOT ‘shared’ with iCloud. I’m not an idiot and blame Apple for NEVER having explained this appropriately. Oops.

    8/14/16 @ 6:12 pm

    I too am having problems with the cloud and iPhoto cloud storage. It’s helpful for me to have my pictures shRed between devices as I work from many different places and need to have them available at all times. But now I’m getting the message that my iCloud storage is full unless I upgrade my monthly payments. So yes, iCloud does indeed have a lot to do with iPhoto picture storage. I’m wanting to manage what’s on the cloud but have no idea on how to do that. Not clear at all. Frustrating!

    8/14/16 @ 6:22 pm

    Cheryl: Yes, if your free storage is full, then you’ll need to pay to get more. I pay $3/month for the 200GB plan which is plenty for me. “Managing” your storage isn’t a good idea — it would require a lot of your time to keep 2 Photo Libraries — one regular iCloud one and one offline one. Lots of work and then lots of choices to make all the time about what you have available and what you don’t.

    10/9/16 @ 5:57 am

    Hi Gary. Thank you for trying to help. I also find this issue confusing. I pay for 50GB, but now I’m getting the message that my iCloud storage is full. I don’t want to keep just adding more expense, but if I try to remove photos, it threatens me that they will be lost unless I download them. But surely each photo is physically on at least one of my devices,?

    10/9/16 @ 7:25 am

    Martin: That’s the way cloud storage works. Everything is in sync. If you delete a photo, it will then be gone from all devices — deleting it is telling the cloud that you don’t want the photo anymore.
    If you want to remove photos from your iCloud Photo Library, first export them and put them in a folder in the Finder or some other storage solution. Otherwise, you will lose it forever. Also, consider that you may have videos in your photo library — they take up a lot more space. Maybe export and store videos elsewhere if you can’t afford more cloud storage.

    10/12/16 @ 7:07 am

    Wow, Gary, that is seriously worrying. My iCloud can delete photos off the hard drive on my iMac? So if I want to free up some space in iCloud, it’s all or nothing: I have to back up any photos I want to keep, (that’ll be many thousands), before deleting them from iCloud? I bet I’m not the only one who’s finding this confusing. I had a similar problem with Dropbox as well. Nobody ever explains it properly (yourself excluded, of course!).

    10/12/16 @ 7:11 am

    That is the whole idea behind cloud services. Stop thinking of the photos as “on my iMac” or “on my iPhone” — they are stored in your cloud service. You are viewing them on your Mac or iPhone or iPad just as you would view a web page or your email. True, they may be stored locally to make your viewing smoother, but don’t think of that as a separate space. Think of the photos (files, data, etc) as being in one place: your cloud. See

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