iCloud Downloading Blockage

Has anyone else experienced a problem with iCloud Drive getting stuck downloading files from the cloud and then blocking further activity?

An Obsidian vault I created on my Mac mini did not get propagated to iCloud and onward to my MacBookPro and vice versa. Over on the Obsidian forum it was suggested that signing out of iCloud on the Mac mini and back in might help. This did indeed result in the bi-directional upload of the vaults to each of the other machines. It was almost instantaneous!

However, it is now some six to eight hours since I did that and the Mac mini is still trying to download files. The progress bar has stopped and looks like this
Screenshot 2023-05-01 at 16.15.57
without any change in these six to eight hours and each of my Finder windows displays this
Screenshot 2023-05-01 at 16.16.57
Clicking on the filled in circle is what brings up the progress bar.

Now this begs several questions.

  • First, how do I find which 16 files are stuck?
  • Second, how do I then free them (maybe by deleting them)?
  • Third, will I have to repeat the sign-out/sign-in cycle repeatedly to have Obsidian update/sync these vaults?
  • Fourth, if these files continue to be marked as downloading are they going to prevent any further uploads/downloads to my iCloud Drive.

Both the Mac mini and MacBookPro are running Monterery 12.5 have 16Gb RAM and using M1 processors. Both machines have 500GB SSDs with the Mac mini using of its storage space and the MBP 255Gb. My iCloud account has 200Gb storage of which I have used maybe 45Gb. The only difference I can see between them is that About This Mac > Storage shows the mini to have used 44.68GB of offline iCloud Drive and the MBP 45GB for its offlince copy…

Yes. All the time, especially on one iMac that I have. It gets stuck like this for hours on end and then eventually syncs last couple of KBs, sometimes overnight.

If rebooting does not fix it, try

killall bird

in Terminal a couple of times to restart the iCloud syncing service. This sometimes helps as it appears to clear the queue/temporary cache and restart syncing (you will not lose any files). Do it multiple times a couple of minutes or even seconds apart and watch the iCloud Drive status to see if there’s any progress.

I’ve found that sometimes disconnecting from the network for a minute or two and then reconnecting also helps.

Trying to force iCloud Drive to download whole folders also sometimes helps (right click on a folder and select Download Now). Sometimes even trying to open one of the not downloaded files also speeds up things.

I suppose this happens when there are multiple changes being done on same folders from two or more machines, which just shows just how bad iCloud Drive is at actual syncing. Deleting the offending files (moving them out of iCloud Drive and then back again) sometimes helps, if you can figure out which these files are. There’s a terminal command to see the queue I believe, will have to look it up.

But none of these methods are 100% reliable for me. It usually gets better for a couple of days following a reboot only for the issue to come back again.

1 Like

You may also want to try and play around with these. I believe Cirrus can tell you which files are being uploaded or downloaded by the iCloud Drive (Window > Browser).

1 Like

There’s also this post from Howard Oakley.



That appears to have worked. It needed a second killall to finally remove the progress bar with the 16 files.

Will keep an eye on this and if/when necessary hunt down the bird again.

@jec0047 Thanks for your pointer. Will scour that for clues; maybe dump the log files records into an SQLite3 database for extensive analysis.

1 Like

What’s irritating is that this issue has persisted for five years and through five major OS releases since Oakley wrote that post and released his utilities.

Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, Synology and all others somehow manage to get syncing right from multiple machines even if changes are impacting the same folder simultaneously, but it’s so incredibly hard for Apple to get this right. :roll_eyes:


Syncing isn’t rocket science. It’s just not important to Apple.