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Apple computers have an option to synchronize your Desktop and Documents folders with the iCloud service. This page lists some of the benefits and drawbacks of the feature, with considerations for anyone trying to decide if it might be a good choice for them.

This document addresses the synchronization feature of iCloud Drive. It is also possible to manually put files in the iCloud Drive folders where they will be kept synchronized — even if your Desktop and Documents folders are not included in the synchronization.

Benefits of iCloud Drive Sync

  • Access your files from any computer or device.
  • If you have a laptop with a small capacity hard drive, you’ll see icons for all your files. When you click on them, they will get downloaded from the cloud for use.
  • Handy for people who have only a few files.
  • Good for small laptop computers used when traveling. If the device is lost or damaged, the files will have hopefully had time to copy to the cloud (assuming there was a fast consistent Internet connection).
  • Useful for people who have a consistent and fast Internet connection.

Concerns With iCloud Drive Sync

  • Large files may never get uploaded to iCloud. These will be displayed on your computer along with a cloud icon that has a line through it. Examples would be huge 50GB photo library files or large movies. These larger files will need to be backed up manually to an external drive.
  • Some files will be in the cloud and not on your device. This happens if the sync service determines they are lesser used files, or that they are taking up too much room on a drive with limited space.
  • The Downloads folder does not get synched to the cloud. A backup of that folder must be performed separately.
  • The Movies, Photos, and any folders other than those in Documents and Desktop will not be synched to the cloud and must be backed up separately.
  • If you accidentally delete an item, it is gone from everywhere it was synchronized to. So, cloud sync does not protect from human error. It is most useful if a device is damaged or lost.
  • If you have files in the cloud, and are without Internet access for a period of time, those files will not be accessible until you get back to the Internet.
  • A slow Internet connection can result in long wait times for files to download, upload, and sync.
  • If you are updating the same files on different devices, an Internet outage could result in file synchronization conflicts.
  • A backup or copy requires the files be downloaded first. If your drive is full, that can’t be done.

iCloud Drive is Not An Alternative to Backups

Because some folders and files are not included in the iCloud Drive synchronization feature, you will want to have an external drive backup of your computer. The Time Machine backup software included with every apple computer is designed to backup all your files, settings, software and operating system files. You can restore your entire computer to another system if your main computer crashes. Cloud backups do not offer such a capability.


For the right person and situation, the Apple iCloud Drive sync can be a helpful feature. For the wrong situation, it can cause some problems.