Moving icloud files to external or second drive

I have dropbox symlinked to a secondary HD in my iMac,to avoid using up space on my SSD. This has worked flawlessly for years.

Has anyone tried doing the same with icloud? I worry the tighter OS integration and renaming of file names might break something…

Never mind:

I’m curious why that choice vs pointing the Dropbox app at your secondary HD, which it has allowed folks to do for a long time now.

If it works for you, great, maybe no reason to change, but I’ve been doing the opposite for several years (pointing Dropbox to external drive, and then linking it with ln to ~/Dropbox/) and prefer that option.

I would even try that. Seems a recipe for heartache and sadness, especially with as much stuff as iCloud tries to do "magically’ behind the scenes.

What I gather from this conversation, and others in the MPU forum, is that if your internal SSD is smaller than your iCloud storage, you cannot (or at least it is not advised to) spread files across external storage to sync them into iCloud. The only option seems to be Optimize Mac Storage, which to me is not an option (gave up on it, since it has the uncanny knack to remove the files that I need and leave the files that I don’t).

Would you agree, or do you see another option how to do this? I’m thinking of backing up my 1.3TB external photos into iCloud, if I were to get Apple One Premier.


This is one of the big advantages of Dropbox, honestly. You can move the folder anywhere. (However, if you run into problems that they can’t solve, they’ll tell you that the only “supported” configuration is having it on the boot drive — although I defy anyone to find that out without specifically hunting down that information.

I have an older Mac mini which had a 4TB external drive. On that device, my Home folder is on the external drive so I can keep all of my iCloud and Dropbox files synced.

On my laptop (“only” 1TB), I have to use Optimize Mac Storage for iCloud and “Smart Sync” for Dropbox. Both Dropbox and iCloud supposedly will sync files over your LAN if you have to “download” them. Which is great as long as I never leave home (which, right now, is pretty often).

I honestly wish Apple would solve this. I would have moved fully into iCloud a long time ago if that were possible, but optimize storage is a no-go for me as I use lots of package files and iCloud doesn’t play well with them.

If I want to use iCloud, I need as big an SSD as my cloud storage, which is insane.

If Apple One Premier turns out to be successful, I’d expect a lot of people starting to get annoyed about this problem. Either Apple fixes it then (nobody can tell me that Apple cannot find a technical solution for this), or Apple will be making extra dough as people start buying Apple Silicon-based machines and opt for the 2GB internal SSD.


Gee, I wonder which option Apple would prefer:

  1. A technical solution to appeal to a niche group of power users.

  2. A solution where they get more money.

in other words, don’t expect this to change. I’ll bet you Tim Cook’s salary that Apple thinks “Optimize Mac Storage” solves this problem.

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I don’t take sucker’s bets. You’d win this one hands-down!

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