Escaping the iCloud roach motel

Decided to move Documents and Desktop off iCloud.
Sure, but everything local will be deleted (apparently for no reason other than to scare you out of stopping use of iCloud).
Online instructions: turn it off, go to iCloud and download your stuff.
Sure, no sweat.
But you can’t download folders, you can only download files. So you’re left trying to recreate your folder structures by hand.
More obstructionism.
I copied everything (at least I think it’s everything) to another folder before turning off Documents and Desktop on iCloud, so (probably) didn’t lose anything.
It’s just annoying that it is unnecessarily difficult, and these obstacles that are put in place have no rational explanation.


I’ve been afraid to turn that feature on since it was announced, and afraid it would get turned on accidentally because it’s at the bottom of a list of apps for which it is probably good and safe to turn on.


I had a use for it, but Nextcloud does what I need now, and I’m trying to make my iMac Pro a little more peppy (which really shouldn’t be a thing either).


I shall be following the same route, first move all my files to NAS, then set up NextCloud (still in the process)

It is a shame that not all apps can be connected to non-iCloud services. Not sure this could be regarded as anti competitive act by Apple

this is why I am considering to move my Apple Photos to Photoprism . I still evaluating whether it is worth the trouble or just simply use Synology Photos, as almost all my photos are backed up on my Synology NAS anyway

I agree iCloud’s web services aren’t good, but can’t you just copy the local files to a non desktop/downloads folder and then turn off sync on those two folders, and then put the files back? That’s how I did it when I disabled documents and desktop in iCloud. It’s weird they send you in the direction where you have to actually interact with the service.

(Reason I disabled it was because it at least used to make items appear in the finder select more slowly. Drove me crazy. I try not to keep important items in those two folders anyway, so when doing quick ad hoc file work, I didn’t care about much besides the quick part.)

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It’s not a perfect solution but you can Zip iCloud directories.

Select the folder
Choose Compress from the Finder’s File menu
Go make a cup of coffee

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Make sure everything is downloaded, then tar the user folder. Way easier to sort through a local tarball than it is to copy files one by one from iCloud. :slight_smile:


Out of curiosity, why the hate for iCloud all of a sudden?

Because iCloud Drive will always disappoint you when it won’t finish syncing a file or two. It’s not if but when. And it can’t truly be fixed.

The thing about iCloud is that it’s not one thing. There’s iCloud Drive, and then there’s the app data stores.

From what I can tell, the app data stores are pretty solid.

But the drive flavor of it misses syncs, takes forever, makes bizarre decisions about what files should and shouldn’t be actually stored on your Mac (if you’re using the “iCloud documents & desktop” feature), etc. And it offers no visibility into what’s going on, so you get to guess and hope.


perhaps you might not have read many many discussions on this and other technical forum. This is NOT a one day thing, we (at least myself) just do not see any sign of someone from Apple actively working on improving the service. There is hardly any visibility on this from people outside Apple

I personally do not know whether Apple knows, acknowledges and prioritize this issue. To me, until Apple opens up for Mac, iPad os , iPhone, Apple Watch to use 3rd party cloud storage and sync, this is an essential piece in their technical infrastructure that has to be fixed


I don’t hate iCloud, I hate being powerless to fix its problems. I’ve always felt most iCloud problems could be fixed with a “Sync Now” button. But iCloud is a black box that no one outside of Apple understands.

And I don’t put data into anything unless I am 100% sure I know how to get it out if things go sideways.


True enough on the first statement, but it can be fixed. It’s just a case of will it be fixed, and when? I fully expect at some point in the future there will be a bunch of reporting with the word “Finally!” in it when iCloud gets a “sync now” button.

There are at least four different ways third party applications can use iCloud that I am aware of.

  1. The obvious folders you see in Finder’s iCloud folder, plus Documents and Desktop if you let it.
  2. Old school iCloud “mobile” files that are buried in MobileDocuments in your ~/Library folder that applications simply write files to in the hopes that the OS will “take care of things”.
  3. A newer version of number 2 which is a little more modern. I think this makes status visible to the application, but they are hidden from the user somewhere in ~/Library as well.
  4. iCloud data. This could be anything from simple configuration values to much bigger data sets, but is not “files”.

Apple’s apps may use other variations, but I would expect most would use #4 these days.

The difference between #2 and #3 was what enabled KeepIt to work (#3) while Ulysses would not (#2) when I had my 2+ year issue. As far as I could tell, #1 and #2 stopped working but #3 and #4 were fine.


I must call you on this statement, as it is misleading… Apple don’t understand it either!

That was made very obvious to me when I was trying to get my problem sorted and I got responses back from engineering that amounted to “ohhh, good question, but we don’t know”.


That’s been my theory for a while. But I’m trying to avoid getting kicked out of MPU for pointing out Apple’s warts too often. :grinning:


I don’t think the criticism is new here. Here’s one thread where we were speculating about why it’s not great from late 2021, for example.

There’s still plenty to do in iCloud Drive even if not using the quirky Desktop & Downloads sync, too. I have plenty of per-app data/documents in there. It works fine for anything you need to eventually show up everywhere, and for which you don’t need collaboration features.

So assuming I want to take my documents off iCloud drive, where is the best place to go?

I’ve used OneDrive in the past but it was super finicky about file names and it just wasn’t a super pleasant experience overall. I also no longer have my Office 365 subscription.

I’ve used Dropbox in the past but it’s super expensive and by all accounts their Mac app asks for permissions far beyond the scope of what a Mac app should ask for. I know there’s Maestral but the fact a third party app is needed kind of makes me not want to use the service.

That leaves Google Drive (I stay far away from Google whenever possible) and a host of services from smaller players that I’m not super familiar with.

I only have about 3GB of actual documents on iCloud and it’s been seamless on my Mac for about 18 months now – works fine. Between my non-issues and not knowing where to go, I’m lost I guess.

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I wouldn’t leave over 3GB and no particular need in how you use the files. I have a similar amount in iCloud Drive that I just need to sync and don’t share with anyone.

I’d probably recommend Dropbox if you did have bigger needs (enough to be more annoying or more valuable than paying $10-20/mo), even though I’m not happy with the current state of the client either.

Running your own sync (Nextcloud, etc.) is also a good option, but something to work up to, IMO. I think it’s dangerous to heavily rely on those kinds of setups without understanding them well, or at least understanding your backup system well…