Storing files in iCloud but not on Mac

I will receive about 500-600 GB of data soon that I need to store on a cloud solution somehow.

I already pay for iCloud+ or what it’s called, allowing me to store up 2 terabytes.

But I only have 256 gb on my MacBook Air.

So how can I upload these files to my iCloud Drive but not have them on my Mac, essentially using the space on iCloud Drive as a sort of web Dropbox storage solution.

Does anyone know the answer to this? Hope
It makes sense

It varies by the OS you are running

On Ventura:

Previously you had to go to System Preferences / iCloud/ iCloud Drive / Options


You can open iCloud in a browser on another computer

Keep in mind that data that resides only in iCloud cannot be backed up.


That’s a great shout.

As @rkaplan explained, you can turn on “Optimize Mac Storage” in order to be able to use Finder to access all the files that are in iCloud Drive when your Mac doesn’t have enough storage space to hold a copy of everything. Files that you try to access will be downloaded immediately if they’re not already on your Mac.

A trickier question is how to upload all of this content in the first place. I think the easiest way would be to log into in a browser and directly upload the content to iCloud Drive. I’ve never done it this way, but with’s redesign, it seems quite straightforward to do.


Thanks! This is what I assumed. I just also assumed that if I did that then my Mac would start downloading about 500 GBs of data. But this might not be the case then :blush:

@andreasl — Right!

The “optimize” function is supposed to be smart about what it downloads, only keeping the stuff that it thinks you might need. But as far as I know, Apple has not explicitly said how it determines this.

In my experience, recently opened/modified files tend to stick around, as does stuff that I explicitly told iCloud Drive to download.

If you do go this route, please report back with your experience!


Thanks a lot for your reply. I won’t unfortunately. I think it’s an absolutely great way to do it in theory, but I don’t trust it in practice. I know iCloud Drive is much more reliable than it’s early days, but I have difficulties seeing how this will work. I just anticipate problems and for that reason will use some other service. I guess this is the consequence of Apple not being successful in acquiring Dropbox back in the day. Steve Jobs yelling at the Dropbox people after they declined: “you’re making a big mistake!” That’s how I feel as well, if I would use iCloud Drive for this purpose :grin:

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