iCloud Drive Files and Backups

Files saved to iCloud Drive interact with Time Machine differently than files saved on other parts of your hard drive. In case of catastrophe, you don't need Time Machine to save your files, as they would be waiting for you on the iCloud Drive servers. Time Machine doesn't save older versions of files for most apps, but modern apps will save versions of files that you can revert to. In case you delete a file by accident, Mac users can quickly and easily recover them from the Trash. Some iCloud Drive files can also be recovered using Time Machine.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: iCloud Drive Files and Backups.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. On today's episode let's look at files stored on iCloud Drive and how they are and are not backed up.

Now there is a lot of confusion over iCloud Drive files and using Time Machine. These files are not backed up in the same way as files in your hard drive would be. So let's look at the different reasons you may need a backup file of something and how this relates to iCloud Drive files.

So the first reason that you may need a backup is in case of a catastrophic failure. Say your Mac is stolen or it is damaged or it's just some sort of hard drive failure. Something like that. In that case you don't have to worry about the iCloud Drive files because they are automatically synced to Apple servers.

You have all of your documents here in these preset folders, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, etc and you also have your own files you've stored in iCloud Drive of any file type you want. They are all synced with Apple servers so you get your new Mac or your restored Mac and you just simply log on with your iCloud account and now, under iCloud Drive, you will have all of your files again.

You can even go to another Mac temporarily and be able to log on and see all your files on iCloud Drive. So iCloud Drive automatically takes care of one of the primary reasons that you have backup which is to protect these files in case of catastrophe.

Okay, so the second reason that you may need a backup is to revert to a previous version of a file. Now this is where Time Machine usually comes in for a document that is on your hard drive. Time Machine is now actually a few years old and was developed before a lot of the current software save things and versions.

iCloud Drive files aren't really saved in Time Machine this way. If we enter Time Machine here and we are looking at Pages documents we'll see that we don't really have any version history here. We have our current files all saved but we don't have the previous versions of these files. I know I've created many version of this file, for instance, and there is nothing there. There is no previous versions to restore to.

So what do you do when you want to get a previous version. The thing is with modern files like the files saved in Pages and lots of other apps you don't need to use Time Machine for that. You can go into the file itself.

So I'll open up this one here in Pages. If I go to File, I can go to Revert To, Browse All Versions and it opens up a time machine-like interface. Now I'm not in Time Machine and I actually have the previous versions of the file here. So I can go back for instance to different times and I can view the previous versions of the file. So like here is one before I added this image.

I can restore this version here. I can click on it and even select the text from it and objects from it and Copy. So I don't even have to restore if it is just a piece of text or something I want to get.

This is actually much more useful than the previous way of doing it with Time Machine because every time you hit Save, Command S, you are saving a new version of the file. So if you have a document that you are rapidly developing you can do that every few minutes or every time you do something important in it. You are not relying on this once an hour backup thing. You are also not relying on the fact that you've got enough hard drive space because those versions are going to get cleared out as you run out of hard drive space and they need to get replaced with newer versions of things.

So you have complete control over how many versions and when the versions are saved by just hitting Command S at any time. This works for all of the main Apple apps and a lot of third party apps now as well.

Now a third reason you want to have a backup in case you accidentally delete a file. This happens occasionally. This is when you select a file and you just get rid of it and you want to restore it. Now Mac users are lucky here because you've got a failsafe.

Say I select this file and I shouldn't be deleting it but I hit Command delete anyway. Since it is an iCloud Drive file I'm going to get this extra warning here. So it is a little harder to actually delete a file. But say I do it anyway. I delete it. Now it is gone and it is not going to appear in Time Machine because Time Machine is only going to keep the most recent snapshot, which is this.

But it does go into the Trashcan. So I look in Trash and I see there is the file. I can Control click on it and put back. Or I can simply drag it out of the trashcan and in there. So for Mac users you've got that safety mechanism of the Trashcan. If you are in the habit of throwing things away by putting them in the trash and then immediately emptying the trash it is probably a habit to get out of. You don't want to do that. It kind of defeats the purpose of Trash. I only delete or empty the trash every once in a while. I've got plenty of hard drive space. If you are running out of hard drive space then you may want to consider a larger hard drive or cleaning off some files because you should have enough hard drive space to save some things you have recently deleted in the trash and protect files from this problem.

Now iOS users are out of luck here because if you do delete something in iOS, say in the Pages document area, it will be gone. There is no trashcan there to be saved. So hopefully this is something Apple is going to address at some point. The ability to recover from this mistake of deleting a file that you shouldn't delete.

Okay that is for these app folders here, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, etc. What happens if I go to a folder I created on my own and just stored some miscellaneous documents in and I delete a file there.

So I've got this dontdelete.txt. Command Delete. I confirm I want to delete it and I realize, wait a minute I shouldn't have deleted that. I still have it in the Trashcan so I put it back from there. But in this case since this is a folder I've created, not one of these default ones, I also have it in Time Machine.

So I'm going to enter Time Machine with that folder selected, it is very important to remember to do that, and you will see it as it currently is but I can also go back in time here and I can see there is my Don't Delete saved at an earlier backup. So Time Machine backups for this purpose do work as long as you don't use those regular app folders.

Now I'm hoping Apple changes this because there is no reason why they can't have Time Machine working just fine in the regular folders, Keynote, Numbers, Pages folders, as well as in folders that you create on your own.

Comments: 4 Responses to “iCloud Drive Files and Backups”

    Richard Fuhr
    4 years ago

    Another way that Apple could make iCloud Drive more usable for people who have iOS devices is to provide a Finder-like iCloud Drive app for iOS, much as Dropbox, Google Drive, and other cloud services have provided iOS apps. The reason for this is that some users may create their own folders in iCloud Drive and have files created via different apps in these folders. They may quickly want to see a view of this folder using Finder-like functionality.

    Bob A
    4 years ago


    Try navigating Finder to ~/Library/Mobile Documents/Pages/Pages before entering Time Machine. I think you’ll find that you will then be able to view and restore Pages documents stored in iCloud Drive from an earlier point in time.

    K Duffy
    4 years ago

    Hi Gary
    Can we drag or copy iPhoto Library to iCloud & view old pictures on all devices?

      4 years ago

      I wouldn’t do that simply because the iPhoto library is too large. For most people, it would be more than their entire iCloud space. Wait until later in 2015 when Apple gives us the iCloud photo library.

Comments Closed.