Understanding iCloud Drive and the Optimize Mac Storage Option

When you use iCloud Drive, your files are stored on your Mac, Apple's iCloud Drive server, and also any other Macs using iCloud Drive with your Apple ID. When you save or modify a new file, it is automatically mirrored on the server and your other Macs. If you wish to save storage space on a Mac, you can turn on the Optimize Mac Storage option to have some files automatically offloaded from that Mac, even though they will still be represented by an icon and can be reloaded by simply attempting to access the file.

Comments: 23 Responses to “Understanding iCloud Drive and the Optimize Mac Storage Option”

    henry
    2 years ago

    The question I haven’t been able to figure out is when it comes to spotlight and indexing files that have NEVER been downloaded from the cloud. In other words if you have optimization turn on for “Mac Book” but the entire file never touched “Mac Book” does that mean the content will not be indexed on “Mac Book”? I think, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Only the name of the file will be in spotlight index until the file gets downloaded. This seems like a drawback.

    John Bedrossian
    2 years ago

    What if you don’t want the file on one computer (but do want it on the original) will it download anyway?or if you delete it from one computer will it delete from both?

    2 years ago

    John: If you want that level of control over exactly which files are where and when, then cloud services are not what you are looking for. You’ll need to manually store them where you want just like you did before cloud services.

    Ken
    2 years ago

    What are the implications for backup with this system? If you backup your MacBook you may not realize files do not exist until you need them. So travelling with a backup when you know you may be offline part of the time loses value.

    2 years ago

    Ken: I would recommend against trying to use a Time Machine backup as something you count on to access files while offline. Backups are for emergency restoration of your files. If you know you need access to all of your files while offline, then you shouldn’t use the “Optimize” feature at all. Either that, or make sure you have Internet access available when needed. Or, make sure you have specific files on your Mac before losing the access.

    anna schane
    2 years ago

    This was a useful and informative video regarding iCloud Drive. I have been confused about online storage. Your explanation and on screen example makes it very clear. I thank you for all your videos.

    Jim Fassino
    2 years ago

    Will Time Machine backups be affected by choosing Optimization? If the file is not really on my iMac but time Machine backs up may iMac, will it show the file that actually resides only on iCloud, as in the case of the large file C in your example?

    2 years ago

    Jim: Possibly. If a file is not really on your Mac, then it can’t be backed up by TM. But then it also means it does exist on Apple’s servers, so the danger of losing that file is mitigated somewhat. And if you created the file, used it, and then stopped using it for a while, and then it was “optimized” later so not on your drive anymore, then it IS on TM as it would have been saved during that initial activity.
    Now if you have plenty of drive space and you turn on “optimize” then you probably have that file anyway as it won’t be offloaded, so it is backed up. But if you are short on hard drive space and don’t use “optimize” then you would probably be forced to get rid of some files at some point anyway to make room. So which is better, having a file stored on iCloud Drive but not your Mac, and maybe backed up, but maybe not. Or, not having that file at all because you ran out of space and had to delete it.
    I guess the bottom line is that if you want all your files to be on your drive and always backed up, then get a Mac with a large drive or some externals in addition. In that case “optimize” is not for you. That’s why it is an option you can turn on or off.

    Don Smith
    2 years ago

    This requires the same Apple ID on all devices. I learned this morning with the Beta update of High Sierra that Messages will be sync’ed to the cloud, except I got the alert that my logins between Messages and iCloud didn’t match. Same Apple ID but different extensions. iCloud was @mac.com and Messages was using @me.com. I always thought they were interchangeable. I logged out of Messages (in its Preferences) and logged back in with @mac.com to match my iCloud login and all was good. FYI.

    Jai Uttal
    2 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    Does this also apply to iOS? I do a ton of music work on my iPad and my storage is almost full. Can I turn on iCloud Drive and optimization on my iPad?
    Thanks,
    Jai

    2 years ago

    Jai: iCloud Drive on your iPad doesn’t download the files at all until you try to access them there. They appear in the list, but the data inside the files isn’t on your iPad until you try to open them.

    Kevin
    2 years ago

    Very informative! As a new Mac user, this certainly cleared up some of the iCloud mystery.

    John Viggers
    2 years ago

    Thankyou, that is a really helpful explanation.

    Gene
    2 years ago

    I use iCloud as my “main storage” area. I have it in the Favorites panel of Finder. I do this so I know that they will be safe if say my iMac disappears. Is this the right thing to do? I rent the 50G from Apple but I have a lot more than 50G on my iMac. My music is close to 80G alone.
    I liked the video especially the graphics made it very clear. But the question arises, if one has a half a terabyte on their iMac, how does Apple store all of it as per the video?
    Thanks for all the help.

    Tom
    2 years ago

    Great video. Thank you!
    I have the same question as Gene but I don’t see any reply from you. Help?

    2 years ago

    Gene and Tom: Using iCloud Drive this way is exactly what it is designed for, yes. Chances are your music is either matched with Apple Music or iTunes Match, so it doesn’t take up any of your 50GB. But you can check easily enough at iCloud.com.
    Cloud servers have no problem with 500GB of data as long as you have the fast bandwidth to handle it on your end. Apple’s servers are big, and probably Amazon’s and Google’s are even bigger. 500GB is a drop in the bucket (or ocean) to them.

    Dave Hall
    2 years ago

    Icloud and Keychain is a mystery to me. I clicked on Keychain in the iCloud options expecting all my passwords to be synchronised between my devices, all with Keychain selected, but it seems some keychain items are retained only on the individual machines.
    How does this work. Another thing is I am into RAW photo processing and am running up against RAM capacity issues. Does cloud storage as you describe ( similar too for Dropbox) take up hard drive or RAM storage on the individual machines?

    2 years ago

    So for Keychain, are you talking about your Safari passwords? If so, make sure you have iCloud Keychain turned on for all your devices. It is an individual setting for each one.
    RAM is computer memory, the fast memory used by apps while they are running. This is different than storage which is your hard drive (or SSD). iCloud is storage, not RAM. Yes, it does take up storage on your Mac. Watch the video again because that is what I am explaining.

    Dave Hall
    2 years ago

    Tnks for that. I keep all my pswords on Keychain and three devices are enabled (iMac, Ntbook and iPad) No consistency between machines- I don’t have enough space to explain it all but there are 5 “keychains” in – Login,Micro certs, System, iCloud and system roots, on iMac ( 4 on Ntbook) , as well as 6 “Categories”. Ignoring system generated tokens, etc. how does it all work? I think a good subject for a tutorial!

    2 years ago

    Dave: Sounds like you are overthinking it. Most people, even me, rarely look in Keychain Access at all. Just use Safari to store and view passwords on all devices.

    Mark
    2 years ago

    Excellent tutorial thank you Gary I should have watched this ages ago.

    Chuck Shopmeyer
    2 years ago

    Does this work for photos as well? My wife’s MacBook Air doesn’t have a lot of storage and was wondering if I made a photolibrary on the iCloud drive and moved her photos there, would that work?

    2 years ago

    Chuck: Yes, the same concept for photos. Just make sure you have the “Optimize” option on in Photos, Preferences, iCloud so her Mac knows it can optimize storage. You don’t need to make a new library and “move” the photos. You just need to enable iCloud Photo Library. See https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204264

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