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iCloud 101

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Hello to all Mr Mac subscribers. I hope 2020 is moving along in the right direction for you. After the recent fire and flood ordeals, hopefully we can get back to some normality now... and if you are a volunteer for any of our amazing emergency services, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

This newsletter will be a quick primer about iCloud - and hopefully dispel some of the confusion surrounding this service. We'll cover photo management, iCloud drive, backing up to the cloud and more.


We have become accustomed to accumulating ever-larger photo libraries. In the past we'd keep them on our PC or laptop, or an external drive. It involved tedious connection of mobile devices, managing import settings, and ensuring that you have a second copy of the latest library as a safeguard. This manual management of a photo library is now considered out of date. in the Apple iCloud system, photos are able to be offloaded to the Apple server, freeing up space on your machine. This is especially handy for newer Macbooks with smaller SSD storage - the machine will show you a low-res snapshot of the photo on your machine while keeping the high-resolution image on the cloud. You just need to make sure your iCloud storage plan i s enough to cover your data needs. You'll find this info in System preferences / iCloud or if your machine is running MacOS Catalina (10.15) it is in System Preferences/Apple ID.

If you have an enormous library that is too big to synchronise up to the cloud, there are ways to deal with this. It's possible to copy an entire Photos library to an external storage drive, and consider it an 'archive' library that can be accessed at any time while that drive is connected. Then delete the old library from the internal drive of the computer and turn on iCloud. Photos will create a new empty library that gives you a fresh start with a cloud enabled photo library. Turn on iCloud photos on your computer, iPhone or iPad and then all existing photos (except the archived library) will be shared to each device.


iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is part of iCloud - Apple's cloud storage service that launched in 2011.

It lets you save photos, videos, documents, music, and app data to iCloud. Not only does it let you store all your stuff in one place, but it lets you access all of your files and data from your iOS device, Mac, and Windows PC, and then keep those files and folders up to date across all your devices. It even allows you to create new files and folders from iCloud-enabled apps and work on the same file across multiple apps. The key to full synchronisation is buried in the iCloud Drive 'Options' settings. By clicking 'Desktop & Documents' it will migrate all your home folder's Desktop & Documents data to the cloud to allow access from all your other devices. USE THIS FEATURE CAREFULLY. If you happen to have enormous amounts of data in your documents folder it won't fit unless you have an iCloud data plan big enough to cope.

You can also access iCloud Drive via You can use it to create, save, and share documents using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. This support page has more information about how to get started with


iPhone or iPad Backup to iCloud

Settings / Apple ID (your name at the top) iCloud

If you scroll down this list, you will see 'iCloud Backup' as an option. If you have enough space in your iCloud plan, it's possible to back up your phone or iPad to the cloud. This is an automated process that will keep an up-to-date backup of your device on the cloud making it easier to migrate to a new handset or iPad when the time comes. The manual backup method to your local computer can still be used as an extra safety net if you wish.

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