Apple has morphed iCloud from a back-end cloud storage bucket for apps to a front-facing cloud storage container for users. Still, how to access iCloud folders and files can be tricky.
Best ways to access iCloud from your Mac
Here, we’ll show you how to login to iCloud, access iCloud drive on Mac, and access iCloud from anywhere.
How to access your iCloud drive using Finder
When you’re on your Mac, follow these instructions to add iCloud to your Finder:
- In the top left of your screen, in the menu bar, select the Apple icon.
- Select System Preferences.
- Select Apple ID.
- Select iCloud.
- Make sure the ‘iCloud Drive’ box is checked. If not, select it.
This will make your iCloud Drive storage appear in Finder. By default, iCloud Drive on Mac has access to all your apps, as well as your iCloud desktop and documents folders on the Mac. This allows your documents to be viewable and editable on all of your Apple devices. If you want to view or edit documents on an iPad or iPhone, it’s important to have this option selected.
Because iCloud Drive is still treated as a sort of storage container by most (including Apple), it’s easy for your iCloud storage to get full. You may store files in it without thinking about how full it’s getting. This can be because you’re not aware iCloud is accessing your documents and desktop on Mac; your Mac might have a terabyte of storage, but chances are your iCloud account doesn’t.
Keep in mind the Photos app also uses iCloud for storage. If you take a lot of pics and don’t manage them later on, it’s eating into your data cap for iCloud.
One great method for keeping iCloud trimmed down is to use CleanMyMac X. It’s an app that allows you to manage your Mac’s files and folders on a consistent schedule, and can let you know when your iCloud is getting overly full of old documents or other files.
How to access iCloud drive via browser
iCloud is also accessible via the browser. If you’d rather manage your iCloud files online, any browser will do! It’s a handy backup for those times you may be away from home and need to use a desktop, or if a file won’t sync to your other devices.
Here’s how to do it:
- Using any browser, go to icloud.com
- Login with your Apple ID and password.
Yup, that’s really it! Here, you can manage your calendar, desktop, Photos, email, reminders, notes, contacts, as well as Apple apps like Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. It’s also the web-based home for Find Friends and the Find iPhone services.
Your iCloud Drive on the Web will have the same files and folders synced to all your devices.
How to access iCloud Photos on iOS devices
On any iPhone, simply access the Photos app. This will show all photos in your library, synced across your devices.
As we mentioned above, your Photos are also available on the web, and of course on the Mac via your Photos app on Mac.
And remember, Photos is likely the reason your iCloud drive storage may be getting full. Most of us simply snap photos, or save screenshots, but don’t manage these images later on. The Photos app makes it simple by giving screenshots their own folder you can quickly empty, but that doesn’t always solve the issue.
There may be a lot of duplicate images taking up storage in your Photos app, which means those duplicates are eating into your iCloud storage, too. You could scroll through your Photos app to find duplicates on your own, but that can be a tedious process.
A smarter method is to use Gemini. It’s a duplicate file finder that scans your Photos app, too. When duplicates are detected, Gemini offers to delete them for you. It also finds pictures that are similar, and offers to delete one of them. This is particularly handy for parents who snap multiple photos of a child to capture a moment, but forget that moment means many pics are stored in the cloud.
How to access iCloud backup
Careful observers will note iCloud also keeps backups. This serves one purpose: to have a way to restore a device without much loss of data.
For most of us, an iPhone or iPad backs up when it’s charging. Macs may use Time Machine to create similar ‘images’ to restore from. All of these are fallbacks, and not the best options for securing your data.
More to the point, it may not have what you need. Let’s say you wanted to restore to a point months ago where your device had files, folders, or pictures you’ve since lost. Apple can’t help you; it only saves the most recent backup to iCloud. Again, this is for restoration.
A better way to treat backups is with AnyTrans. It’s a backup manager that lets you create and store backups of any iOS device created via iCloud.
We like this for several reasons. First, you might need to restore to a previous backup, not the most recent. If you’ve got some sort of malware on your device, restoring from a backup may also restore your malware. If you’re limiting yourself to Apple’s methods, the only option is to start a device from scratch and sync your iCloud data. That means hours (or maybe days) of signing in and waiting for files and folders to sync properly.
With AnyTrans, you could restore to a previously store backup, and skip all of those issues. It also means you won’t lose access to files or photos that are synced to iCloud. While they may not be part of the backup, they’ll sync to your device once it’s restored and linked to your iCloud account again!
Accessing iCloud has never been easier. Be it via Mac, iPhone, iPad, or the web, iCloud is now a full-fledged consumer-facing service.
But it’s imperfect. It offers a comparatively limited free storage option to Google Drive, and its paid versions aren’t much more advantageous. iCloud Drive also fills up fast if you don’t manage it carefully.
That’s why Gemini is suc a great app to have. It does the heavy lifting of managing iCloud for you. AnyTrans is great for restoring from backups, for whatever reason. And if you’re serious about keeping your iCloud storage tidy, file management and backups should be a routine you perform regularly.
Both are available for free via a seven-day trial of Setapp, which is only $9.99 per month thereafter. Along with Gemini and AnyTrans, you’ll get access to a lot of other great productivity apps for Mac.