How to Use iCloud For Windows

Try out iCloud Drive on your Windows PC

A man in an office syncing his iCloud data from his iPhone to his Windows 10 laptop.


iCloud is the Apple service for backing up data and syncing it between devices. While it's primarily integrated into that company's products, such as Mac computers and the iPhone and iPad, iCloud is also accessible on Windows PCs.

All you need to access iCloud on a Windows device is an Apple ID and password, things you'll already have if you've ever owned an Apple product or used iTunes.

Using iCloud Via A Web Browser On A PC

The easiest way to access iCloud on a PC is to log into the iCloud website on a web browser with your Apple ID and password.

The official iCloud website.

From the iCloud website, you'll be able to access and manage the following Apple apps and services:

  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Photos
  • iCloud Drive
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Find Friends
  • Find iPhone
  • Settings

While not as smooth as their standalone app counterparts, most of the iCloud web apps on the iCloud website are fully functional and allow you to access information and media and make changes where needed. Contacts can be added or removed from the Contacts app and photos and videos can be uploaded or downloaded from Photos.

Official iCloud website.

One limitation the iCloud website has is that it can't interact directly with your Windows device. For example, while you can manually upload photos to the Photos app on the website, it's impossible to get the website to automatically sync your computer's files with your iCloud files in the background. For this, you'll need to install the iCloud for Windows app.

How Does iCloud For Windows App Work?

iCloud for Windows is an official Apple app that downloads and installs on your Windows 10 computer, laptop, or tablet. Installing this app allows for certain data to sync to your Windows device from your iCloud account.

Where To Download the iCloud For Windows Software

The iCloud for Windows software can be downloaded for free from the official Apple website. It's also often bundled with iTunes so you may already have it installed. You can check to see if it's installed by opening the Start Menu and clicking All apps.

The iCloud for Windows program will only work on Windows devices that have Windows 10 installed. Those using Windows 7 or Windows 8 will need to access iCloud via the iCloud website.

After downloading the iCloud for Windows installation file, the program should automatically start installing and will then prompt you to log in with your Apple ID and password.

If you cancel the login process during the initial setup, you can log in at any time in the future by opening iCloud from the All apps section in the Windows 10 Start Menu.

After logging in, you will be asked to confirm if you want to sync data for iCloud Drive, Photos, and Bookmarks.

iCloud for Windows app setup.

Simply uncheck each box to prevent that data from syncing with your Windows device or check them to add this functionality.

How Does iCloud's Photos Work On Windows 10?

By installing iCloud for Windows, a new iCloud Photos folder will be created on your Windows device. It can be found within File Explorer.

Depending on the options chosen during the iCloud setup, this folder can be used for viewing files from your linked iCloud devices or for uploading files from Windows to your iCloud account.

iCloud for Windows app setup process.

Clicking Options next to Photos during setup will let you specify how you want this new folder to work. Here's what each option enables.

  • iCloud Photo Library. Checking the box next to this option will upload any media saved to the iCloud Photos folder on your Windows 10 device to your iCloud account automatically. You will then be able to view these files on your Apple devices. Once enabled, additional options, mentioned below, will appear that will let you customize how your files are uploaded and downloaded.
  • My Photo Stream. Photo Stream works a little differently from Photo Library.This will download your recent photos from your other linked iCloud devices for viewing on your Windows 10 device. It will also upload your recent photos from the iCloud Photos folder on Windows to iCloud.
  • Download new photos and videos to my PC. Enabling this option will automatically download photos and videos from the iCloud service to the iCloud Photos folder. This is useful if you want to view your iPhone or iPad media on your Windows 10 computer or tablet. This option is only visible once the iCloud Photo Library option is enabled.
  • Keep high-efficiency original if available. Turning on this option will download the original versions of files that haven't been compressed or had their lighting or colors changed. This option is only visible once the iCloud Photo Library option is enabled.
  • Upload new photos and videos from my PC. Keep this enabled to upload new files from your PC to iCloud. Disable it if you only want to view videos and photos taken on your iOS devices. This option is only visible once the iCloud Photo Library option is enabled.

You can choose to use a different folder for iCloud photo and video syncing by clicking Change to the right of the above options.

  • iCloud Photo Sharing. Enable this option to view photos and videos taken by others and allow them to add files to the chosen folder for you to view.

Be sure to click Apply to save your preferences.

How to Find The New iCloud Folders In File Explorer

Setting up the iCloud for Windows app will create iCloud Photos and iCloud Drive folders on your Windows 10 device. Each will sync files and data to your iCloud account and connected devices depending on your preferences selected within the iCloud for Windows app.

Once you use the iCloud for Windows app to set up your folders and settings, there is very little use for it beyond changing preferences in the future. All of your file management will take place within the new folders.

Both folders will be automatically pinned to the Quick Access menu in File Explorer and should be visible as soon as you open File Explorer.

File Explorer can be opened by clicking the file icon in the Windows 10 Start Menu or by typing File Explorer in the search box in the taskbar.

You can change the way these folders sync data at any time by opening up the iCloud for Windows app and changing your settings.