iCloud Drive. still has problems

I recently had iCloud delete my Document folder.

FYI, If you have a lot of files on iCloud you can’t just go to icloud.com to restore your files, you have to call Apple support to have them restore your files.

They can’t just restore your files as of a particular date, they can only give you all of the files that you have had on icloud for the past 30 days.

It is all or nothing.

Even after the restore I have fies on my mac where it says they have not been uploaded. One would think that it would say that it has not been downloaded as they restored all of the files on the iCloud server.

Do you think that Dropbox is the way to go?

The negatives for me with Dropbox is the poor technical support and all of the hooks that it puts into the Mac OS without really letting you know.

Also if you are a power user with a lot of iCloud storage I would not recommend turning on Documents and Desktop in iCloud settings. It can cause weird file system problems. Error -35

I’m sorry this happened to you.

It’s a reminder that iCloud, like Dropbox and Google Drive and the rest, are sync services, not backups. Versioning is a backup-like feature, but not a replacement for real backup.

Without getting into the religious debate about which sync service is better, consider subscribing to an online backup service as well.


This is concerning. One of the key reasons for me being in the Apple ecosystem is the simple, built in iCloud sync across devices. Apps I use only use iCloud to sync (for example, Ulysses). In the last few days we’ve had serious issues reported with plain old file sync and Apple’s own apps (specifically Notes and Photos).

FWIW I cannot remember having a problem with most apps syncing. When I kept my calendar and contacts in iCloud they always synced reliably. The same with Photos . . . when they finally decide to move. Now I use Photos mainly as a backup.

Today I still use some apps that sync via iCloud - Drafts, Reminders, NetNewsWire, and GoodLinks. And Notes for a low volume of temporary files (mostly text or handwritten). Performance is OK to good.

+1 on this. It got turned on on my executive’s Mac some years ago and it could have been very bad. Fortunately I was able to recover all her files.

Desktop and Document files stored in iCloud cannot be backed up by services like Backblaze, etc. BTW I have found this setting turn on after updates on multiple occasions.

I haven’t used Dropbox in years because I hated their Mac software but I always found it reliable. I’m a long time Gmail user and now use a paid Google Workspace account. Google Drive syncing is almost instantaneous.

IMO most users don’t push iCloud that way MPUs tend to do. ICloud is a consumer product. AWS, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. are services for businesses.

Many times these issues are user errors. Turning on Desktop and Documents feature is not a problem…unless you have it turned off on some of your devices. It either needs to ON or OFF for all devices.

As a point of reference, my business has been using iCloud Drive as primary cloud service for almost 10 years. We have almost 1 TB of file storage used, and none of it is photos or videos. Number of files exceed 600K. We have had NO problems in these 10 years. We only have about 10 users, so not stressing it in that regard.

I agree somewhat with @WayneG. However I would not describe their apps as just for consumers, but rather they are simple apps. The frustration I read on this forum usually indicates behavior not intended by Apple, i.e. backlinks, email links, etc.

If you need these features, yes, you should be looking in other directions. However that is not the same as saying the products are not reliable. I personally, think that simple and reliable enhances my productivity rather than harming it.

Just for reference, we also use Google Workspace and OneDrive a little due to customer requirements. Either system is not bad, and I like OneNote quite a bit. However for an overall ecosystem that works wonderfully with Mac hardware, I would take Apple every time.

iCloud Drive (and the iCloud itself) is frustrating as hell for me.

Two iPhones and two iPads sync rather well and mostly right away, but there’s this iMac that gets stuck syncing to iCloud Drive about every two days and nothing helps. Sometimes even rebooting the machine does not help.

Sometimes repeated killall bird in Terminal will get syncing going, other times it will be stuck for hours trying to sync a 20 KB file either way or a 1 KB update to the Ulysses library, preventing me to get any real work done.

IMHO iCloud Drive is the weakest part of Apple services, and the most unreliable one, which is a shame as, except for some apps that are must-haves for me (iA Writer, Ulysses, Obsidian…) I actively avoid using any apps that absolutely rely on it.

Strangely enough, apps that use CloudKit (DEVONthink, Bear…) sync instantly even when there are issues with iCloud Drive on that particular Mac.


I had a lot of problem with iCloud Drive in the beginning. The last 5 years or so it has worked flawlessly, for both me and the persons I recommend it to.


I agree. Apple’s apps are not just for consumers. Mail was our standard email client for the ten years prior to my retirement. And I don’t recall any major problems with contacts and calendar, etc. I had one Pages user and she was not happy when Apple removed the mail merge function :grinning:

My problem has always been with iCloud, not any of Apple’s applications. It starts moving files when it “gets round to it” and runs at its own pace regardless of available bandwidth. And sometimes it stops for long periods of time. People expect things to happen when they add a file to a folder or information to Notes. IMO the addition of a “Sync Now” button would eliminate a great deal of iCloud complaints.

I use iCloud Drive extensively, and also have lots of apps that use CloudKit, where not many issues arise (except for Apple Notes). It mostly just works, with the random “killall bird” command from the Terminal on the Macs I use, perhaps once or twice a month. The issue with iCloud Drive has three aspects to it:

  1. Syncing a filesystem is hard. Not even Google Drive has transparent local filesystem syncing. Perhaps we were meant to believe it is easy because Dropbox got it mostly right from the beginning.
  2. Apple is selling storage capacity at a premium in order to make customers purchase higher iCloud storage tiers. If the cloud storage is big when compared to local device storage, a MUST HAVE feature is the “optimize local storage” which automagically complicates an already difficult problem (and also hurts syncing in apps like DEVONthink) Dropbox solves this with user managed selective syncing.
  3. Apple, in another audacity, does not provide enough debugging info that is useful to regular users. Unless you are able to understand a tool like Bailiff to see what is going on under the covers, not even Apple specialists really know what to do.

The variety of experiences here illustrates the fact that iCloud is a massively distributed system. Between the user and cloud storage are many intermediate services, protocols, and equipment. E.g. Wi-Fi, cell service, ISPs, etc. all of which can glitch, or have bugs, or engineers tinkering with things.

I don’t know the answer to this uncertainty, other than try different services and keep backups.
I use my own Nextcloud server for sync, in addition to iCloud for iOS apps.

I checked on pricing (a little), and from what I can tell, Dropbox is by far the cheapest at $10USD/mo for 2TiB. I don’t like that Dropbox mandates a name for their folder. As far as it being hooked into macOS, I think that’s going to be true for most of the commercial apps (including iCloud), as that’s how they make syncing transparent.


Box 10GiB free, $10/mo for 100GiB

Nextcloud on webo.cloud 5GiB free, scaling up to €31/mo for 1TiB. Looks like all Nextcloud providers are outside the US. As I said, you could also host your own at home, or use a provider like Linode.com to set up a server.
You can also buy a precondition box to run at home Devices - Nextcloud, use a Raspberry Pi, etc.


If you just need syncing and not cloud storage, syncthing.net works well for me, and is free. You could conceivably set up a cloud server of your own running syncthing for cloud storage.

I would recommend having a Chronosync, Carbon Copy Cloner, et al. task that copies iCloud folders to some other folder (perhaps an attached external drive), so that e.g. Backblaze will back it up. (Which I’m about to do because I just thought about it :flushed:).

I have chosen to have all of computers come with large drives, so luckily we don’t have to deal with selective sync. However that being said, one of my frustrations with Apple is: why can’t I have all of my files downloaded offline on my iPad with 2TB storage. Plenty of room, but very frustrating to find myself in a situation with no internet access and file is not downloaded.

Just proves that Apple is definitely not perfect…yet!

YES! Syncing changes is hard. The latest blowup with Apple Notes on this forum occurred after “an hour or so reorganizing notes and cleaning others up.”

I began using iCloud as little as possible after I proved to myself, for example, that iCloud could not keep up with what would otherwise be normal file maintenance on a local disk drive.

And from a programming standpoint, I can see why it would be tough to keep up with a rapid-fire session of typical file and folder changes. It seems that iCloud was designed to make folders, many of which are created by the system, and to put files in them. And that’s about it. Best practice is never to do a serious reorganization with lots of moving, renaming, or deleting. :upside_down_face:

Syncing changes on a filesystem are particularly hard. CloudKit does not have to support the filesystem abstraction and thus has been easier for Apple to get it right.

I agree but isn’t CloudKit being used to keep up with changes in Apple Notes? Notes may not be stored as documents and folders but it has its own storage hierarchy of notes. So even CloudKit has troubles if you decide to reorganize. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Well, no grand theory resists the reality of syncing.

Sounds like iCloud doesn’t use ACID. I wonder if any sync/share services do?
With ACID, it shouldn’t matter when, where, how, or how fast changes happen. “Just” write changes to a log, then all devices read the log and apply the changes in order. This is what databases and advanced filesystems like ZFS do. And assuming snapshots are available, if a user or program has regrets, they can roll changes back.

ACID works best within a single server. With geographically distributed systems, lazy update strategies, and systems expected to be eventually consistent, not so much.

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I think OneDrive and Google Drive may be doing what you are suggesting and the reason I suspect this is because I’m syncing 2 Synology NAS devices (using Cloud Sync) to Google Drive and OneDrive; however, for various reasons, I sometimes have one or the other unit switched off for a while.

When they come back online and Cloud Sync starts syncing again, it will sync and apply all the changes with the cloud like it’s going through a list, i.e. if files have been moved multiple times but days apart, this will be mirrored on the device as it’s syncing so you can see it happening on the local filesystem; it also does all the syncing starting chronologically from when it was last online, which means that there is some sort of a log with all changes.

In comparison to that, iCloud Drive feels pretty basic. It will sometimes even redownload gigabytes of files and whole folders if they were just moved elsewhere (!), which should in essence be a simple rename operation.

It is so disappointing that Apple is unable to get this right.

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Thanks. That sounds reasonable. I figured if I thought of it, someone else already had :slightly_smiling_face: