Storing Files Locally When Using iCloud Drive

Sometimes you may want to store files in iCloud Drive, and sometimes you may want to store files on your local drive. Depending on your settings, you can have both at all times. Or, you could use one of two methods to put some files either on iCloud Drive or only locally.

Comments: 45 Responses to “Storing Files Locally When Using iCloud Drive”

    Jasper
    1 year ago

    Dropbox’s cloud service has a feature called, I think, ‘selective sync’. This allows you to have cloud-based items syncing differently on different Macs. E.g., you might only want personal items on a personal Mac and work items on a work Mac. Am I right in thinking that there is no way to achieve this in iCloud?

    1 year ago

    Jasper: Well yo do have the Download Now / Remove Download option for files and folders. But nothing exactly like the Selective Sync feature.

    Jeff
    1 year ago

    HI Gary, Why have the documents/desktop folder checked for iCloud at all?
    Then you can individually choose where to keep a new file when going to save it.
    Just go to file with option key held down and save as. This gives you much better control
    of each and every file. Also, how does mac save a file by default? to iCloud or locally? (IF you just click save).
    Can you change the default setting?
    Thanks, Jeff

    1 year ago

    Jeff: The Desktop is different than all other locations, as items in it show on the Desktop. If you want that to be in iCloud too, then you need to use this option. There are also shortcuts that take you to Documents, so it is useful to have that folder in iCloud too. You have absolute control whether you use it or not. But most people (me) prefer to keep all of their files in Documents, and having that folder in iCloud then requires that setting. Default really depends. It should remember your last location.

    bruce louis
    1 year ago

    I would like to completely eliminate iCloud. I have a feeling that Apple has just cracked the door on spying on files. I have further heard that they are using china companies to store icloud data. Are there any tips for completely cleaning out all of my cloud data and completely detaching from iCloud

    1 year ago

    Bruce: Because of the CSMA controversy? Apple announced they are putting that on hold. Also, other cloud services like Google have been doing that for years with hardly a complaint from anyone. As for storing data in China, Apple and other companies do that -- but for customers IN China. If you really want to move away from using cloud services and back to local files only, it is just a matter of moving your files and data to locations on your drive and then when iCloud is empty, turn it off. Just think about all of the iCloud services and go through each one: files, photos, Calendar, email, music, keychain, etc. It will be tough to go back to manually syncing this data across all of your devices, so take that into consideration.

    Mick
    1 year ago

    Hi Gary. Many thanks for making this tutorial. It has clarified this whole subject for me. I have loads of space on my devices and have needlessly been using the "Optimise Mac Storage" option. Thanks Mick

    Mick
    1 year ago

    Gary ... a thought...Is the "Optimise Storage" only available as a feature on Macs? I can't find any similar settings on my IOS devices? Cheers Mick

    1 year ago

    Mick: There is no Finder on iOS. You use the Files app to access files in iCloud. There is no way to have all of your documents downloaded and stored in iOS. It acts like "Optimize" is always on.

    bizstuff
    1 year ago

    I want some files to have both a local and cloud representation. Ex: I use Lightroom and need fast access to the Catalog (several gigs), but I would also like the security of knowing that I have a cloud backup. Is there a way of doing this somewhat automatically?

    1 year ago

    bizstuff: If you want them to be in iCloud, then they need to be in iCloud. No way around that, right? So there is only one solution. Turn off Optimize so all of your files are always cached locally too. You'll need a drive large enough to handle it, but that would be true anyway if you want the files always available, right?

    Bernard
    1 year ago

    Hi Gary, hope you don't mind to answer one more question. Is it necessary to have a backup of all the files stored in my iCloud (note: I am using Optimise Storage thus only a small portion of these files are in my local storage), in case iCloud crashes and I end up losing the only copy of most of the files stored there? If yes, how do I do that? I am using Time Machine but I think it can only backup iCloud files that are synced to my local drive and not those in the cloud, am I correct? Thanks.

    1 year ago

    Bernard: There's really no way to do that. Since you don't have the space on your local drive you can't download all of your files. Since you can't download all of your files they simply aren't present locally so you can't back them up. I don't know of a solution for this situation other than getting a much larger drive next time, or storing less in iCloud, or manually downloading files in iCloud.com (the web site) and meticulously archiving them to an external drive. Maybe doing that only with critical files?

    Jackie Bruno
    1 year ago

    How do I find my home folder and how do I add add the new folder named "Local Documents" to my home folder? I understand your extremely helpful video but being somewhat new to Mac I sometimes lack the more basic skills to implement your great suggestions . Is there a link you can direct me to. I am using macOS Monterey. Thanks so much.

    1 year ago

    Jackie: In any Finder window, you can choose Go, Home as a way to get there fast. Then File, New Folder will create a new folder and you can name it. See https://macmost.com/understanding-the-file-and-folder-structure-of-your-mac.html for some info on how your Mac is organized.

    Razvan Mihai
    12 months ago

    Gary: If Desktop and Downloads are synced by iCloud, and you have two Macs, what would be your recommended way of keeping track between two different (?) Desktops and Downloads assuming there is enough hard hard drive space on both devices? Thanks!

    12 months ago

    Razvan: You mean Desktop & Documents (not Downloads). You don't have to keep track of anything. Those two folders would look identical on both Macs. They would act as one location, showing you one set of files no matter which Mac you are looking at. That is how cloud storage works. See https://macmost.com/understanding-icloud-drive-and-the-optimize-mac-storage-option.html

    Razvan Mihai
    12 months ago

    Too many D’s! Thanks for clarifying this. I was under the impression that Downloads might sync the same way as Desktop or Documents folders do, as long as the iCloud settings are on.

    Razvan Mihai
    12 months ago

    Gary: While tidying up my files, I noticed under iCloud the Downloads folder accessible on Mac and iPhone. It seems that this is where files get downloaded on iOS. I am now wondering if it is a good idea to set the Mac to download to this folder so that files be accessible on all devices and get the same level of integration as with Desktops and Documents.

    12 months ago

    Razvan: I wouldn't. When downloading things like apps it would be useless to have access to them on iOS. And when downloading content Downloads should be treated as a temporary place where you receive the file and then move it to where it should stay for the long term.

    Razvan Mihai
    12 months ago

    Gary: Thanks. I have renamed the Downloads folder under iCloud to "Downloads iOS" to clarify where the files downloaded on iPhone and iPad go and avoid confusion between the two different "Downloads" folders. It works flawlessly.

    christian
    10 months ago

    Thank you for the video. Please, how do i de-activate the iCloud drive from downloading and uploading files automatically since i'm not in a place with good internet connection.

    10 months ago

    christian: Do you mean turn it off entirely? Or just pause it? Describe your situation in more detail so I can understand what you are asking.

    Lorie H.
    9 months ago

    Thank you Gary, this was so helpful! I did option #3, which was to move the folder as one of my "home" folders so icloud would no longer sync up my large photo files/folders. Now, by any chance, do you know how to make this folder visible in Lightroom Classic's MAC finder window when I go to "find the missing folder"--to relink my photo files from LRC to where I moved them on the MAC? The finder window that comes up in LRC is not showing the "home" folders like the Mac finder window. thx

    9 months ago

    Lorie: I don't use Lightroom so I'm not familiar with what you are seeing there. I'd ask in the Adobe forums.

    Kathy
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, I have iCloud+ and have optimize mac storage unchecked as I have room. I notice that there is a greyed out 'waiting to upload' cloud icon always beside my iCloud Drive documents & desktop folders. I have not updated these files recently and was wondering if this is normal to see this icon always there (waiting to upload). Thank you Gary

    8 months ago

    Kathy: Dig down into the folders to see what file(s) are having trouble. Even with Optimize turned off, it still has to upload and sync the files.

    Kathy
    8 months ago

    Hi Again Gary, been digging deeper as you suggested, and I have not been able to find the culprit(s). Would the file just have a greyed out cloud symbol showing it's still waiting to download similar to the one I see on iCloud Drive in the finder? None had that, and I even opened all the folders I have too. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. I did recently wipe my Mac, reinstalled Monterey, and used a good time machine backup to restore my settings etc. Could that be the issue?

    8 months ago

    Kathy: Yes, I think the wipe and restore from Time Machine probably made it very difficult for iCloud Drive to sync. If you look in a folder with the gray cloud and don't see anything in that folder that has a gray cloud, then it is probably an error or an invisible file that isn't syncing. Either way, it may not be worth spending more time on it.

    Kathy
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. In future would there be a better way to have restored the Mac? In other words, should I have turned off iCloud + until after I had restored with Time Machine? I had to go through all this due to software from an external SSD that didn’t mesh with Monterey. A mess! I didn’t realize these drives could be just used as plug and play. Hope it helps others.

    8 months ago

    Kathy: The better way would have been not to restore. So in that case, just uninstalling that software, whatever it was, and fixing any problem it created.

    Kathy
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, thanks for your reply. Eventually when I get a new iMac down the road, what would be your recommendation to hopefully avoid future syncing issues? I don’t think I would restore from Time Machine again, just rely on iCloud+ And redo all the settings manually.

    8 months ago

    Kathy: No further recommendations. Just avoid "nuclear" actions before you are sure there isn't a more reasonable solution.

    Kathy
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary, yes indeed I totally agree with you. Unfortunately I was unable to fix the issue even with the help of Apple Support Senior Advisors (X2) and the Genius Bar. They all recommended the nuke & pave option after I had tried everything else like deleting the software & associated plist files and log files. I was also in touch with the SSD manufacturer (still under warranty). I also reinstalled Monterey twice before resorting to following the guidance of the 'experts'. Now the sync issue Thx

    J
    8 months ago

    Hey Gary, I used option + command and dragged the Local Documents folder into my iCloud drive and placed it in documents folder just as you did...However, when I used my iPhone Files app to check my iCloud drive from my phone, this Local Documents still appears (from my phone). Note that it doesn't appear as a folder the same as others, but still appears (as a white page with the icloud download image. I thought it wasn't supposed to appear in the icloud? What did i do wrong?

    8 months ago

    J: It sounds like you created an Alias to the Local Documents folder on iCloud Drive. That will work on your Mac since both are available to your Mac. But your iPhone can't do anything with that since the folder linked by that alias is NOT in iCloud Drive and your iPhone can't see anything but iCloud Drive.

    Mick G
    8 months ago

    Hi Gary my disc is showing 250gb as being used by iCloud It’s not shown this before and I can’t see why it is or how to stop it.

    8 months ago

    Mick: Look at https://www.icloud.com/settings/ to see what is taking up space.

    Sarah J
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary. Thanks for the helpful info above. I have a slightly reversed requirement. I have a number of projects/apps/folders stored locally (home iMac), but need access to same when at work (macbook). Each project contains a very large /nodes_modules (folder with many 1000's of files). The /node_modules doesn't need to be in iCloud (nor even the /build directory). So is it possible to keep my existing local directories etc, but have them "synced" to iCloud so that they can be worked on at work?

    7 months ago

    Sarah: The only solution I can think of is to have two folders for each project with the same or similar names. One in iCloud Drive and one local. Not sure how it will affect the rest of your needs to do that though.

    Sarah J
    7 months ago

    Hi Gary, thank you for responding so promptly.
    After some more googling, it doesn't seem 100% possible to do what I'm after (even with some tricks from https://github.com/tsdexter/icloud-nosync-node). Oh well, 2nd best trick would be to "copy" said folder (less /node_modules) to iCloud at eod and use it more like a temporary usb :-). Cheers

    Loic
    7 months ago

    Hi all, I am an old school DOS user... getting acquainted with the Mac world. I would like to store data (music, photos) on either my HD or on external disks... but everything goes to the I-cloud. How to avoid this?
    Thx a lot for your answers.

    7 months ago

    Loic: Files are stored where you want them to be stored. If you want them on external disks, put them on external disks. If you want them in local storage, put them there (That's what this video is about). The only reason everything would be in iCloud is if you are putting those files in iCloud.

    Robert K
    5 months ago

    Gary: Is it possible to have my external Samsung SSB 2TB drive be my local drive so that I can have all of my files in my iCloud Drive stored locally?

    5 months ago

    Robert: Only if you make it a bootable drive and boot from there. But that would be severely crippling your Mac as that external drive is probably much slower than your internal one.

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