Status update on iCloud drive in 2022

Every so often I look at the ridiculous amount that DropBox charges me and wonder if now is the time to switch to iCloud Drive. My use case is pretty typical and straight forward: syncing files between my various devices (Macs, iPad and iPhone) and also a shared folder with my partner for household documents etc.

I know there are other third party options, but I pay for iCloud anyway and I can also see the logic of using the first party solution when all of our devices are from Apple.

However: I have been put off by iCloud’s reputation for unreliability and also by the difficulty of getting it to behave in exactly the way I would like. I can see old threads debating these issues, but I’d really appreciate an update on how it has improved (or not).

So my questions are:

  • Is iCloud Drive now reliable for my basic use case?
  • Are shared folders also reliable?
  • How easily can I determine which files are on my Mac and which are left in the cloud? For example, I have a Mac Mini which downloads all of my DropBox files and backs them up to BackBlaze. Can I set this up with iCloud Drive, or will its “smart” behaviour interfere with this?
  • Does it make any difference if I store my documents in the Documents folder (with syncing turned on) vs using the iCloud folder?

Many thanks.

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  1. I use iCloud Drive on a daily basis and yes, it works. But when it hiccups, it is extremely cryptic. Most of the issues get solved by rebooting or killing the “bird” process.
  2. I do not use shared folders, so cannot comment on that.
  3. For all I know, you have to look on the Finder cloud icon for each and every file or folder. Not really convenient.
  4. I do not think there is really any difference but I would prefer moving all my files to new folders in the iCloud Drive just to have pretty clear that I have a local location that does not get synced (Documents) and everything under iCloud Drive is synced.
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Same here, using iCloud Drive as my main cloud service. For various reasons, I also use Google Drive and OneDrive. Early on, iCloud Drive was a little slow and unpredictable. For the past 4-5 years, rock solid. Over 100K+ files.

Shared folders is OK. Definitely not as fast or robust as Google Drive, but very acceptable as long as a person is OK with some of the inconsistent lags, which usually never amount to more than a minute or so.

Same way as you would on Dropbox or the other services. In Finder, there is an cloud icon which will show you which files are in the cloud. You can right-click and choose to download the file or folder. This will keep it always available offline. I have all of my files downloaded, since I have the hard drive space. Now only if they allowed this on iOS?!

It should not make any difference on the backups. One of the advantages of using the default / integrated cloud option. However I don’t use cloud backup much, so there are other more qualified voices than mine.

It seems that the main frustration is that what is happening behind the scenes is somewhat opaque and a user does not have total visibility or control, especially if there are issues. However this is Apple’s typical DNA, so if you accept it, very easy and reliable service.


Has worked fine for me for years. I sync a Mac, iPad, and iPhone with no major hiccups. I did ask my iPad to open a file that I was still editing on my Mac yesterday. It hadn’t been used much lately, so was not fully synced with new files, and it wasn’t happy about it so I guess that could count. My wife and I use shared folders for critical reference files. Sometimes one has to give a few seconds to let things sync or download but that’s rarely disruptive.

Thanks all. That’s very helpful.

Does that mean it will download the whole folder and remember that setting indefinitely?

iCloud Drive will not sync on my Mac when I’m using Mozilla VPN. No idea if the problem is with iCloud Drive, Mozilla VPN, or me, although my bet would be that it’s me.

Otherwise, iCloud Drive has been very reliable for me since I decided to ditch Dropbox.

I’ve been using iCloud Drive for the last two years after I had endless issues with OneDrive. I haven’t had any reliability issues, it has worked seamlessly and I can hardly tell it’s there.

On my Mac, I turned off “Optimize files and folders” to make sure Time Machine and Backblaze backs up everything stored in iCloud, and same for Photos.

Yes, but only on a Mac. I don’t think it works on iOS

I am in the same boat (at least for now). I am paying a family share of 2T iCloud storage but iCloud has been so unreliable for me both in terms of speed of syncing files and even Apple native apps like notes, reminders, books, sometime do not sync up across devices

I have more than one post on this issue including this one and this one

  • Is iCloud Drive now reliable for my basic use case?

From my experience: yes, I’ve used it in our family for years now, and it’s not let me down yet.
I am switching to nextcloud (self-hosted) but that has nothing to do with icloud being unreliable.

  • Are shared folders also reliable?

Again, from my experience: yes, very reliable. My wife and I share an admin folder for invoices, insurance and the like. I’ve not had a single complaint in the years we’ve used it

  • Can easily can I determine which files are on my Mac and which are left in the cloud?

That’s the wonky bit, to my knowledge there’s no way to prevent the OS to make arbitrary decisions on what it thinks is best for your file system.

  • Does it make any difference if I store my documents in the Documents folder (with syncing turned on) vs using the iCloud folder?

The icloud documents folder? That’s the same folder, it just shows up as the documents folder in MacOS and iOS, but they all point to the same origin in ~/mobile documents/

I’ve found iCloud Drive to be extremely reliable in the past several years, though I don’t use the folder sharing feature.

I have my Mac set to not optimize storage, which means that a copy of every file is downloaded to my Mac. This is a global setting and works great for me. I have Backblaze set to back up this Mac, so this is how I make sure those iCloud files are backed up in a way that I can access but that is off-site. (I also use Time Machine for on-site backup.)

I do not put the bulk of my data into iCloud because I really only need it to move data between an iPad and Mac. Since the iPad has limited storage and I only want to work on a subset of files there, it hasn’t been necessary. In other words, over many years I’ve slowly been learning to trust iCloud.

That will change when I get a laptop in the coming months. I haven’t maintained two work Macs in many years because it’s a real challenge to keep everything up to date and in sync — exactly the situation that Desktop and Documents in iCloud was designed to solve.

The Desktop and Documents in iCloud had a rocky start, but it’s working great for my 2 clients who use it. I’ve seen no issues. Neither of them optimize storage on their main Mac; they put everything in iCloud in order to move files between a Mac and iPad.

I’m a bit nervous about making this jump. I would be calmer if the new laptop had a big enough hard drive to avoid having to optimize storage, but I don’t think I can justify the expense of a secondary laptop with 2 TB of storage.

If I do optimize, then I have to choose a backup strategy. A backup system can’t back up a file that isn’t there, so I really only need to back up the laptop in order to restore it to functioning if I have to rebuild it — meaning that perhaps a weekly clone is all I need. Any data will have been synced to the other Mac or other parts of iCloud/mailservers/etc, which is backed up or otherwise accessible in the cloud. All I need are any customizations I’ve made to apps on laptop, which cloning will handle.

Here’s what Backblaze says about using iCloud Drive:


@tomtom I don’t have anything to add to this thread, except to mention that I asked this same question a year or two ago, and great minds think alike. It might be helpful to change the title of the thread and add “2022” to the title, for the sake of anybody who may be googling for this. :slight_smile:

This has been a really helpful thread - thank you.
And @snelly - good point, I’ve made that change.

this is my latest episode. I added a contact on my Mac, but the contact still would not appear on my iPhone after 18 hours, seriously I cannot rely on iCloud sync at all

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Is this related to iCloud Drive itself, though? I think Drive sync is separate from the mechanism that handles Contacts sync.

To test your theory, I just created a new contact on my Mac. I then went to my iPhone and the contact was there, in less than 2 seconds. If iCloud Drive / iCloud Sync works for so many other people, maybe it is your setup that has an issue.

the thing is that sometimes it works sometimes it does not. If it is a set up issue, I would expect that it consistently not working, right?

also, AFAIK, there is no tool, no diagnostics to help troubleshooting the sync issues with Apple native apps such as calender, contact, reminder, books, etc. If anyone knows of a better way to do this , please share with me, thanks

You are right, it may be his setup. Or his network connection, or a conflict with some other software on his Mac. Or it may not have anything to do with him. I’ve seen iCloud work perfectly on an old beat up iMac on a 20mb comcast circuit and have been unable to get it to work on a brand new Mac connected to a symmetrical gigabit internet connection. The only way I was able to solve my iCloud problem was to switch to another service.

As far as I’m concerned iCloud users are like Pit Bull owners. You may love it but eventually it’s going to bite you.


I just checked again, the contact I added from Mac appeared on all devices (2 Mac, 2 iPad) but refused to show up on my iPhone. AFAIK, my iCloud set up is the same for all devices