How to better manage your iCloud file storage

Apple’s iCloud is handy in that it lets you have access to your
files on multiple devices that have internet access. But what’s
actually stored in iCloud isn’t that obvious to the user.

This seems to be the case for Macworld reader Izabella. She
asks why iCloud isn’t reducing storage on her MacBook more than
it is. She sees iCloud storage on her computer taking up 80GB
of storage but says she’s paying for 200GB of iCloud storage.
“I want to use this space for other things,” she notes.

iCloud doesn’t necessarily save you storage, as confusing as
that is, because it’s a mix of synchronization and cloud-based
storage options.

  • iCloud Photo Library syncs all your photos and videos, but
    unless you set Photos (in Photos > Preferences >
    iCloud to Optimize Mac Storage), the full-resolution file
    for each piece of media remains on your Mac. Check that
    box, and you could save 80 to 90 percent of a library’s

  • iCloud Music Library also syncs music, but lets you keep
    local files unless you take action. You can select songs or
    albums and Control-click to select Remove Download, which
    deletes locally stored files and leaves the backups in
    iCloud. (Be sure you have a backup of your music files
    before you do this! Things can go wrong.) If you want to
    know which songs are only in the cloud, create a Smart
    Playlist with the criteria Location Is Not On This

  • iCloud Drive is always synced: a copy is always on your
    computer and in iCloud for everything listed except for the
    next item!

  • Desktop & Documents is an option (introduced in macOS 10.12
    Sierra) to shift and sync less-used files from those two
    Home folder locations to the cloud, and only download them
    locally as needed. You can access that option via  >
    About This Mac > Storage and click Manage (or via
    Applications/Utilities/System Information, and choose
    Window > Storage Mananagement), and then click Store in
    iCloud. You want a high-speed broadband connection for the
    times you need macOS to retrieve those files.

  • iTunes purchases. Also in the storage manage tab of System
    Information, you can opt to delete what can turn out to be
    gigabytes of downloaded media that remains available for
    retrieval or streaming on demand from the iTunes Store.

Making a few changes could free up tens to hundreds of
gigabytes of storage, depending on the amount of media and
kinds of documents you store on your Mac.

mac911 manage storage optimizing

You can dump gigabytes of locally stored files on your Mac
by using System Information’s storage

A warning, though: you’re relying on iCloud and Apple to keep
all that data safe for you. I’d rather have more storage on my
computer, keep all the iCloud items copied from and to my main
Mac, and separately clone and archive all those files myself in
addition to iCloud.

Ask Mac 911

We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most
frequently along with answers and links to columns:
read our super FAQ
to see if your question is covered. If
not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email
yours to including screen captures as
appropriate. Mac 911 can’t reply to—nor publish an answer
to—every question, and we don’t provide direct troubleshooting

%d bloggers like this: