What is iCloud Drive and how it works?

What is iCloud drive?

Well, it is what it sounds like: iCloud drive is storage for Apple devices that is based in the cloud. And what is a cloud storage? Simply put, it’s a remote server that keeps your data and lets you access it via the internet. iCloud has two main purposes: provide more storage space for your files than you have on devices and allow you to access theses files from any Apple device with internet connection.

How does the iCloud work?

So, how does cloud storage work in general? There’s a physical server somewhere in a huge climate-controlled warehouse and its only purpose is to store information. Hosting company (in this case it’s Apple) gives you space on this server in exchange for a monthly payment. By default you have 5GB of storage for free, so even if you’re not trying to move every photo you own online, chances are you’ll run out of free storage pretty fast. Here’s why.

These 5GB of space are not only for your personal files, they are spent on backups, caches, Mail, and loads of app data. Speaking of apps, each app that uses iCloud to sync its data does so relentlessly. Meaning that it not only stores your personal settings and information, but also its own internal stuff. That being said, if you’re unwilling to pay, be selective with the apps you sync in the cloud.

How to use iCloud?

In order to start using iCloud drive, as you can guess, you need to set it up first. Usually, the first time when you turn your devices on or when you upgrade them, you are offered to sync them with iCloud. So there’s a chance you already have it ready. In case you don’t here’s a quick quide.

To turn on iCloud:

  1. Open your basic Mac Settings.
  2. Now click on the cloud icon to open iCloud.
  3. Log in with your Apple ID (you might need to).
  4. Select which services you’d like to enable.
What is iCloud storage used for?

As you can see, it’s not just storage drive. You can sync Photos, Contacts, Calendar, and many other apps.

Now, how do you actually open the drive? That’s easy, it’s in Finder, in your left-hand menu. You can use it as you would use a simple folder: drag files in there and wait while they upload. Once the progress bar on the file is gone, your file is in the cloud and you can see it from any other device in the iCloud app.

What is stored in iCloud?

The questions is rather “What can you store on iCloud?” and the answer is — everything.

Sure, there are applications that you can sync to have your library everywhere, like iTunes or Photos. Also, there are apps to help you organize your life like Reminders, Calendars, Notes, and so on. These are useful to simply display the same information across all of your devices. But, in terms of what you actually store in iCloud, that is entirely up to you.

The main storage is called iCloud drive and can be used for any kinds of files or folders, but naturally not Mac-specific applications. You can hardly expect a Mac app to work on your iPhone simply because you’ve uploaded it online.

Keep no junk in iCloud and still have free space on Mac

It’s actually possible to free up gigabytes on drive without moving all your Mac stuff into the virtual garage. You’re going to need a Mac optimizer for it. An app like CleanMyMac X is a good fit for the job. It lets you quickly scan your Mac, remove junk files, and sort out the files on your hard drive, specifically the ones that take up a lot of space.

How to optimize space on Mac with CleanMyMac:

  1. Download CleanMyMac X for free.
  2. Open the app and hit Scan.
  3. Hit Run.
  4. Done. Your Mac is free from junk.
CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan complete

To find which of your own files you can get rid of:

  1. Go to Large and Old Files.
  2. Hit Scan.
  3. Click Review files.
  4. Delete the files you don’t need.
  5. Viola!
What is stored in iCloud

What is Optimized Storage in iCloud?

With macOS Sierra arrived a new feature, Optimized Storage. From now on the files you no longer need (or use rarely) can be moved to iCloud. What exactly gets optimized and how? First, when you’re running low on drive space, iCloud drive will keep your files in the cloud, leaving only recently opened on drive. Same goes for movies that you’ve already watched in iTunes.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that when you turn on Optimized Storage, anything that gets moved to the cloud is deleted from your Mac. So if you delete those files from iCloud as well, they’re gone for good.

Why the new cloud storage is good:

  • More space.
  • Less trouble.

Why the new cloud storage is not so good:

  • You’re instantly out of free cloud space and have to pay a fee every month.
  • Most of your files can only be accessed with fast and stable internet connection.
  • Your cloud drive is a mess and it’s hard to find anything.
  • Junk gets moved into the cloud together with the rest of files.

Long story short, with Storage Optimization you’re keeping a lot of junk in iCloud and basically paying Apple to hold on to files you could’ve just deleted.

After a few cleanups like that you won’t have to spend money on storing old junk in the cloud. Now you know that whatever you decide to move to iCloud, it’s actually a valuable item. Use your cloud storage wisely! Cheers.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.