Eclectic Light Company: macOS Sonoma has changed iCloud Drive radically

TL;DR: Before upgrading to Sonoma, enable iCloud Optimized Mac Storage, or be prepared to wait for Sonoma to delete and restore your entire iCloud Drive storage after upgrading.

While many of us upgraded to Sonoma without any hint of iCloud trouble, some have suffered serious problems. These appear most likely to affect Macs with Optimize Mac Storage turned off, some of whose files have been evicted. What happens then is that, shortly after completing the upgrade to 14.0, iCloud appears to perform a full resync of every file stored in iCloud Drive. Resynchronising local files with those stored remotely in iCloud Drive isn’t normally so disruptive or destructive, though.


(Apple definitely makes it easy to resist upgrading macOS every year.)


This is just one reason I don’t use cloud services!


I upgraded to Sonoma, didn’t care for all the eye candy, then discovered Arq was having problems. So I nuked my Mac and reinstalled Ventura. The web app feature of Safari looked interesting but there’s nothing else I really need.

I may reconsider Sonoma in a few months but right now I have no reason to upgrade.

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This is confusing. My understanding is that “Optimize Mac Storage” will store files only in the cloud while if it is disabled then the files are always local. Having Optimize Mac Storage turned on causes problems with backups because files that aren’t local don’t get backed up. Yet this issue is with having it turned off!


Yep. The explanation in the article clarifies why this situation is what it is, but it is a very counterintuitive behaviour for a setting that, to me, means “leave my data alone please!”

I keep all my files local — optimize off.
I saw that Carbon Copy Cloner has the option to download iCloud files that are not on your local drive, back them up, and then delete them locally. I do not know the details but you could go over to their website to read up.

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What I don’t get is how files get evicted if Optimize Mac Storage is turned off.

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Turning off optimise storage for iCloud drive does not mean “leave my data alone”. It means “don’t evict files for reasons of space”. That’s all. It’s a setting to optimise when you turn it on.

“Leave my files alone” does not take into account the presence of files not originating on the Mac in question.

I’ve seen first hand that iCloud’s state model can be totally screwed up under certain conditions (mostly bugs). I’ve seen that, also counterintuitively, the quickest way to establish an iCloud Photo Library on a new (or wiped) Mac is not to restore the files locally first.

iCloud is a complex beast. The only thing anyone should ever be surprised about is when it works.


Personally, I’ve had iCloud decide to redownload everything about 3 times on Ventura.
My totally unfounded theory is that there was a bug in Ventura, Apple (hopefully) fixed it for Sonoma, and for some people that has maybe meant doing the redownload I went through to make sure everything is good and correct.

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I’ve had a love/hate relationship with iCloud Desktop and Documents for many years. I just want my documents available on my phone for reference, otherwise I wouldn’t mind only having them on my laptop. Having a very fast internet connection seems to help a lot. I haven’t had the “tiny file not syncing until the heat death of the universe” problem yet this time around, but I’m open for another lightweight solution.

  • OneDrive wants to use 1.2 GB of SSD space!
  • Google Drive worked well, but it’s very Google
  • pCloud wants to encrypt everything and is slow uploading
  • webDAV is very slow (think days to upload 5.6 GB of data, not hours). Edit: can’t upload any file larger than 250 MB.
  • is very fast, but it doesn’t integrate with anything at all on the phone, nor can you open documents unless they’re Microsoft Office new format
  • Dropbox is just too expensive, focused on business teams, and I don’t have near that kind of data to upload (from 2 GB free to 2 TB minimum paid drive space ???)
  • sigh
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In contrast to iCloud, I’ve found Dropbox to be highly dependable. I keep my most critical files in Dropbox. The main negative with Dropbox is that it doesn’t handle Apple files (i.e. .pages, etc.) natively, making it hard to use on iOS. I’ve been tempted many times just to dump iCloud and to use Microsoft Office and Dropbox. I don’t have so many files that the expense of Dropbox is unbearable. If Dropbox handled .pages and .numbers natively on iOS, it would be a no brainer for me. Apple may never get iCloud right.


Look for “File Browser: Documents Manager (blue icon with “FB” inside)” on the iOS App Store. It’s made by stratospherix, ltd and it will handle practically any file you throw at it. in the United States it is $7.99; well worth it.

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Have you tried to do this recently? I’m able to open .numbers and .pages files stored on both Google Drive and Dropbox using iPadOS apps.

I use Dropbox. It costs more and it works.

I’m also ok with using MS Office since the world I interact with does too.

“Open”, yes. But the only way that I know of to edit .numbers and .pages files is to export them out of Dropbox, edit, and then reimport into Dropbox. A huge pain.

I need something multiplatform - iOS, macOS, Windows. That is one thing so great about UpNote, but it isn’t a substitute for Pages, and, particularly, Numbers. As far as I know Microsoft Office is the only thing that really works. I probably would be using MS Office a lot more if it didn’t keep trying to upload stuff to OneDrive.

And I’m a lot more comfortable with Pages and Numbers than I am with Microsoft Office. For my needs the Apple products are much easier to use.

I’m sure it is, but I can open and edit .pages and .numbers files stored on Dropbox. I rarely use Numbers, Pages, or Dropbox but I verified this before I replied to you. I have no idea what could allow me to do this if you can’t.

Dropbox just works. I use it.

And Apple seems to have made sure Apple Pages syncs correctly and reliably with Apple iCloud, far as I can tell. I use it. I don’t long for it to work in Dropbox.

It’s Life.

Like WayneG, I too can open, edit and create Numbers spreadsheets in Dropbox on the iPad.

At least, it works for me with iPadOS 17 on a iPad Pro (can’t remember the version, but it’s a couple of years old.)

Are you using older versions?