iCloud Drive With or Without Desktop & Documents Folders

The Desktop & Documents Folders feature of iCloud Drive lets you decide whether those two folders are stored only on your local Mac's hard drive, or as part of iCloud Drive and available across all of your Apple devices.

Comments: 41 Responses to “iCloud Drive With or Without Desktop & Documents Folders”

    Bill P
    1 week ago

    It might be good to mention that using icloud effectively requires a reliable wifi and internet connection. I get regular outages with Cox service and when out, icloud drive won't synchronize. I also love it for sharing between my desktop and ipad, though. I don't put all of my files on it, tho.

    Abraham Z.
    1 week ago

    I've been using Dropbox for this sort of 'share your documents across devices' functionality for years and have been very happy with it but recently I've been concerned about messages I've been getting saying that Dropbox isn't compatible with the newest version of OS. I've delayed upgrading my iMac as a result. What are your opinions about the pros/cons of iCloud Desktop/Documents vs Dropbox?

    Abraham Z.
    1 week ago

    It looks like if you turn on Desktop and Documents you have to have *both* moved to iCloud? Is there no option to only choose one? For example, I could see sharing the Documents folder but not wanting to share the Desktop due to different screen sizes (my iMac at home has plentiful screen real estate compared to my Macbook Air).

    1 week ago

    Abraham: No need to guess about this sort of thing. The information is readily available: https://help.dropbox.com/installs-integrations/desktop/macos-12-monterey-support

    1 week ago

    Abraham: No, it is both together. If you want to share Documents and not Desktop, then have this OFF. Don't use your Local Documents folder, but create a Documents folder in iCloud Drive and only use that. Add this new Documents folder to the Finder sidebar. The only disadvantage is that the keyboard shortcut for Documents doesn't work to take you to this custom Documents folder.

    1 week ago

    Bill: iCloud Drive and other cloud services work pretty well with spotty Internet. Sure, it won't sync right away during an outage, but it will catch up later.

    Abraham Z.
    1 week ago

    Thanks!

    Barry T.
    1 week ago

    I am using Idrive as my online backup and want to turn on iCloud Drive for documents. Will IDrive continue to backup documents folder or will it no longer be available to IDrive since the documents are in the apple cloud?
    /

    1 week ago

    Barry: iDrive? You mean the third-party backup product (found that out from a search). It should still backup anything that is local, so it may depend on your "Optimize" setting whether everything gets backed up. But you'd need to ask that company how their product works.

    Barry T.
    1 week ago

    Thanks yes IDrive, I also found your other video on keeping files local so I think it will work.

    Jim Noyes
    1 week ago

    Barry followup: I keep almost all my files on my iCloud desktop. When I back up my Mac hard drive, am I backing up all those files (i.e. to Time Machine")? If not, how DO I back them up?

    1 week ago

    Jim: If you have the iCloud Drive "Optimize" feature OFF then yes, all of those files are backed up.

    chris
    1 week ago

    I notice that now that I turned this on, I have a Desktop folder on my desktop. Actually there are two folders Desktop MacBook Air and Desktop MacBook Pro. I don't like have these icons/folders visible on my desktop. is there a way so they don't display on the desktop?

    1 week ago

    chris: Not sure what you are seeing there. Do you have folders named "Desktop MacBook Pro" and "Desktop MacBook Air" IN your Desktop folder? If so, move them somewhere else, like into your Documents folder. Or move the contents of those folders so they are empty, and then delete the empty folders.

    paul gardner
    1 week ago

    Gary - Is there a "Dummies for Organizing Files on Mac"? I need help.

    Paul

    Stephen H.
    1 week ago

    Thank you very much. This was very helpful. I have been using iCloud for several years, but have not understood why some folders are located there and some folders in another locations. This explains a lot. Thanks.

    Steve Maynard
    1 week ago

    If I understand this, moving the Document and Desktop folders to the iCloud drive removes them from my iMac, etc. Currently I use Time Machine to back-up my iMac. So, those folders are currently saved there. But it seems if I more them to the iCloud drive, they won't show up on future Time Machine backups. Is that correct? Should I keep or delete earlier Time Machine backups of those folders? .... Help please!

    1 week ago

    Steve: It doesn't remove them. You can still access everything. If you turn OFF "Optimize" then everything is still there, always. it gets backed up too. Only if you turn ON "Optimize" then some older and large files will be offloaded. They will download on demand when you need them. But they won't get backed up in that state. But any time you make a change to them, or create a new file, they would be local, at least for a while, so they would be backed up.
    Don't do anything to your Time Machine backup. Don't delete things. Just let it do its work. Trying to micromanage it isn't needed and will probably corrupt it unless you know what you are doing.

    Gary
    1 week ago

    My Desktop & Documents Folders show under user name & also show in iCloud Drive. In the former when I get info they show as being in iCloud Drive. This does not seem to be behaviour you describe?

    1 week ago

    Gary: What do you mean by "show under user name" exactly? Do you mean in the Finder sidebar? Or do you mean when you look in your Home Folder? If Home Folder, do you see the same contents in Documents there as you see in Documents under iCloud Drive? Exactly the same? If so, try creating a new file in there and see if it now also appears in the other Documents folder. If not, check your setting for Desktop & Documents in System Preferences, Apple ID, iCloud, iCloud Drive.

    Bent, Denmark
    1 week ago

    I really never understood the file structure (Home Folder vs iCloud Drive) and the structure in the Finder Sidebar (Favorites vs iCloud area). Now I do! Thank you Gary.

    Joe C
    1 week ago

    I am puzzled about risks of putting important files, e.g., financials, on icloud vs on mac. On Mac, time machine backs them up. I have current version in mac & backup in time machine. If I put on icloud, I have current in mac with backup on icloud. That I understand, but my concern is risk of backup on time machine vs icloud, especially with respect to availability of internet, say, during hurricane season.

    1 week ago

    Joe: First, iCloud is not a backup. But it does protect you in a lot of cases against data loss. See https://macmost.com/icloud-is-not-a-substitute-for-a-time-machine-backup-with-your-mac.html
    If you have the iCloud Drive "Optimize" feature OFF, then the files are always on your Mac, ready to use. Internet outages wouldn't prevent you from getting to the file.

    John Porter
    1 week ago

    Hi Gary Thank you for a very useful post. I have iCloud plus. When I tried to follow your advice, my iMac had a message saying my iCloud was full, but when I checked my files app on my iPad, it said I had 70Gb available. Can you explain why I am getting this discrepancy and which is right?

    1 week ago

    John: No idea. You'd have to call Apple and ask them what the problem is.

    Roger Emnett
    7 days ago

    I am seeing the same thing as Gary in the above comment. I am seeing Desktop and Documents in both my home folder ( Which is my user name "Roger" and also in my iCloud Folder. The files are identical in both places,

    7 days ago

    Roger: So you say the Documents folder in your Home folder, and the Documents folder in iCloud Drive are the same?
    1. Do you have Desktop and Documents turned on in System Preferences, Apple ID, iCloud, iCloud Drive (Options)?
    2. If you are sure the contents of the folders are exactly the same, what happens when you add a new one to one of the Documents folders? Does it appear in the other Documents folder? Try both ways. What happens?

    Roger Emnett
    7 days ago

    Follow up = I put a new file into the Documents iCloud folder and it immediately appears in my Local Documents folder and Vice Versa. This file now has a Cloud indicating that it is only stored in the Cloud. However it is also in my home folder. Optimize Mac storage is not checked and Desktop and Documents Folders is checked under iCloud options.

    Roger Emnett
    7 days ago

    Gary I am not doubting you as you are always right. I have to have something set wrong or am looking at it wrong, Before I watched your video I just always assumed that they were stored in both places. I have plenty of room of storage so I never thought anything about it. The files are definitely on the Cloud as I can access them on my iPhone and iPad. I have 2011 Mac mini desktop and they seem to be the same there. Maybe I have som.ething set wrong in iCloud preferences there

    Roger Emnett
    7 days ago

    The files are syncing to my Desktop Mac mini, The settings there are the same in preferences however the Desktop and Documents folders are not in my home (Roger) folder on the desktop. So I am assuming I have something wrong on on my MacBook Pro. Just don't know where to start looking.

    joe c
    7 days ago

    Thanks for your reply to my comment & the reference to an earlier MacMost video (...icloud is not a substitute...). To be certain of my choices, If I leave Optimize OFF, then Desktop & Documents appear on my Mac as well as on iCloud. Does that Time Machine will back them up, i.e., do they actually reside both places?

    7 days ago

    Roger: The only thing wrong then is that you SEE the Desktop and Documents folders in your Home folder. That's not really a problem, it is just odd. You original said "I am seeing Desktop and Documents in both my home folder." Can you describe what you are doing to see this? For instance: 1) Open a new Finder window. 2) Use Go, Home in the menu bar. Then you see them?
    Note you will see them if you are using an app and then go to File, Open, then your Home folder inside that dialog box. That's normal.

    Roger Emnett
    7 days ago

    Gary it doesn't seem to matter. I tried Go Home and they are still there, I also checked optimize Mac Storage and no change, I checked back for two years in time machine and the home Documents and Desktop folders were being backed up however on my desktop they doe not appear on the home folder but they do appear on the time machine backup, I give up !

    Michael Spielman
    7 days ago

    I am totally confused. It costs money -- how much? -- to use iCloud Drive? I have been using something called Elephant Drive and the price there is going up. So might be willing to switch.

    Also, I assume storing a bunch of stuff in the cloud will alleviate my growing space problems on my MacBook Pro, yes?

    7 days ago

    Michael: Pricing is at the Apple site (or when you change your plan). https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201238
    Using iCloud Drive can help with storage as long as you use the "Optimize" feature. That's what it is for.

    7 days ago

    Roger: Well, I wouldn't worry too much about it if it doesn't really cause any problem.

    7 days ago

    Joe: With Optimize off, all files are always fully downloaded and available on your Mac for you use and backup. With Optimize on, some files may not be downloaded until you try to access them. That can be useful if you have too small of an internal drive.

    bruce holland
    7 days ago

    Hi Gary
    I see you create these videos using Screenflow. I wonder if you also use any teleprompter
    aids. If so which one? Love your videos Bruce.

    7 days ago

    bruce: No teleprompter. I'm not reading from a script.

    Roger Emnett
    6 days ago

    Gary , FYI - I have read everything I could find on the subject and supposedly when Optimize Mac storage is not checked and Desktop and Documents Folders is checked under iCloud options they disappear from the home folder however they are still there only they are not visible. In my case for some reason they are still visible both in iCloud and the home folder. Both locations are listed as iCloud in finder and I can verify that they are being backed up by Time Machine,

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