How to Set up iCloud & Use iCloud Backup

It used to be that keeping data in sync across multiple computers and devices could be a challenge that required syncing, add-on software, or a lot of coordination. Even then, data would almost inevitably get lost or older files would accidentally replace newer ones.

Thanks to iCloud, Apple's web-based data storage and syncing service, sharing data like contacts, calendars, emails, and photos across multiple computers and devices is easy. With iCloud enabled on your devices, each time you're connected to the internet and make changes to iCloud-enabled apps, those changes will automatically be uploaded to your iCloud account and then shared to all your compatible devices.

With iCloud, keeping data in sync is as simple as setting up each of your devices to use your iCloud account.

What You Need to Use iCloud

  • An Apple ID/iTunes account. (Don't have one? Learn how to get one.) Your iCloud account will use the same username and password.
  • A Mac running OS X 10.7.5 or higher, OR
  • A PC running Windows Vista or 7 or higher and iCloud Control Panel, OR
  • An iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5 or higher, AND
  • iTunes 10.5 or higher

To use the web-based iCloud apps, you'll need Safari 5, Firefox 21, Internet Explorer 9, or Chrome 27, or higher.

Assuming you've got the required software, let's move on to setting up iCloud, beginning with desktop and laptop computers.

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Set up iCloud on Mac & Windows

iCloud Control Panel

Apple, Inc.

You can use iCloud without connecting your desktop or laptop computer to it. It does have great features for iPhone and iPad users but you'll probably find it most useful if you're syncing data to your computer, too. 

How to Set up iCloud on Mac OS X

To set up iCloud on a Mac, there's very little you need to do. As long as you have OS X 10.7.2 or higher, the iCloud software is built right into the operating system. As a result, you don't need to install anything.

Here's what you need to know:

  • To access your iCloud settings, click on the Apple menu in the top left corner and choose System Preferences.
  • You may already be signed in to your iCloud account. If not, sign in here with your Apple ID/iTunes account.
  • Check the box next to each iCloud feature you want to enable.

How to Set up iCloud on Windows

Unlike the Mac, Windows doesn't come with iCloud built in, so you need to download the iCloud Control Panel software.

Here's what you need to do:

  • Download the iCloud Control Panel software from Apple.
  • Install the software.
  • Once that's done, launch the iCloud Control Panel.
  • Sign in with your Apple ID/iTunes account.
  • Check the box next to each iCloud feature you want to enable.

To learn more about the features of iCloud while deciding if you want them enabled, check out step 5 of this article.

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Set up & Use iCloud on IOS Devices

iCloud Settings

All iOS devices--the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch--running iOS 5 or higher have iCloud built in. As a result, you don't need to install any apps to use iCloud to keep data in sync across your computers and devices.

You do need to configure the features you want to use. Within minutes, you'll be enjoying the magic of automatic, wireless updates to your data, photos, and other content.

To Access the iCloud Settings on Your IOS Device

  1. Tap the Settings app
  2. Tap iCloud
  3. Depending on the choices you made during your device set-up, iCloud may already be turned on and you may already be signed in. If you're not signed in, tap the Account field and sign in with your Apple ID/iTunes account.
  4. Move the slider to On/green for each feature that you want to enable.
  5. At the bottom of the screen, tap the Storage & Backup menu. If you want to backup the data on your iOS device to iCloud (this is great for restoring from backup wirelessly via iCloud), move the iCloud Backup slider to On/green.

More about backing up to iCloud in the next step.

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Using iCloud Backup

iCloud Backup Options

Using iCloud to sync data between your computers and devices means your data is uploaded to your iCloud account and that means you have a backup of your data there. By turning on the iCloud backup features, you can not only backup data there, but also create multiple backups and restore backed-up data over the Internet.

All iCloud users get 5 GB of storage for free. You can upgrade to additional storage for an annual fee.

Programs That Back up to ICloud

The following programs have iCloud backup features built in. For most of them, you just need to turn the backup feature on to have their contents uploaded to iCloud.

  • Mac OS apps: Safari (for bookmarks), Mail, Address Book, Calendar, Notes, Reminders,
  • Windows apps: Safari (for bookmarks), Outlook 2007 or later
  • Pages, Keynote, and Numbers 1.5 or higher
  • iPhoto '11 or newer
  • Aperture 3.2.3 or higher
  • iOS apps: Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari (for bookmarks), Notes, Passbook, iCloud Keychain, Photos, Messages, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers

Checking Your iCloud Storage

To find out how much of your 5 GB iCloud backup space you're using and how much you have left:

  • On Mac and Windows: Open the iCloud Preferences (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows). The bar across the bottom shows how much is used and how much is available.
  • On iOS: Tap the Settings app and then tap iCloud. Tap Storage & Backup. Look for the Storage menu.

Managing iCloud Backups

You can see the individual backups in your iCloud account, and delete those that you'd like to get rid of.

To do that, follow the steps you use to check your iCloud storage. On that screen, click Manage or Manage Storage.

You'll see full system backups and a list of the apps you use that backup to iCloud.

  • For full system backups, you can select a backup and then click Delete (on desktops) or tap the backup and then Delete Backup (on iOS). Only do this if you're sure you want to get rid of it; this is only advised if you have a newer backup and want to save space.
  • For each app you're backing up, click or tap the app to see what documents are being backed up to your iCloud account. To delete a file, swipe across the file and tap the Delete button (iOS), or click on it and then click the Delete button (Mac/Windows).

Restoring iOS Devices from iCloud Backup

The process for restoring data that you have a backup copy of on iCloud is the essentially the same for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. .

Upgrading iCloud Storage

If you want or need to add more storage to your iCloud account, simply access your iCloud software and select an upgrade.

  • On Mac and Windows: Open the iCloud System Preference (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows). Click on Manage and then Buy More Storage. Click on the upgrade you want and then click Next. Enter your Apple ID password and click Buy to upgrade.
  • On iOS: Tap Settings, then iCloud, then Storage & Backup. Tap Buy More Storage, tap one of the options, and tap Buy.

Upgrades to your iCloud storage are charged annually via your iTunes account.

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Using iCloud

iCloud apps

Once you have iCloud enabled on your devices, and have configured the backup (if you want to use it), here's what you need to know about using each iCloud-compatible app.


If you have an email address (free from Apple), enable this option to make sure that your email is available on all of your iCloud devices.

  • You can also use your email via webmail.
  • iCloud can't sync iCloud email accounts.


Enable this and the information stored in your contacts or address book apps will stay in sync across all devices. Contacts is also web-enabled.


When this is enabled, all of your compatible calendars will stay in sync. Calendars is web-enabled.


This setting syncs all of your to-do reminders in the iOS and Mac versions of the Reminders app. Reminders is web-enabled.


This setting makes sure that the Safari web browsers on your desktop, laptop, and iOS devices all have the same set of bookmarks.


The contents of your iOS Notes app will be synced to all your iOS devices when this is turned on. It can also sync to the Apple Mail program on Macs.

Apple Pay

Apple's Wallet app (formerly Passbook on older iOS) can be managed within iCloud on any connected device. You can sync your current credit or debit card and remove all payment options to disable Apple Pay on that device.


This feature of Safari adds the ability to automatically share usernames and passwords for websites to all of your iCloud devices. It can also save credit card information to make online purchases simpler.


This feature automatically copies your photos to the Photos app on iOS devices, and into iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac for photo storage and sharing.

Documents & Data

Sync files from Pages, Keynote, and Numbers to iCloud (all three of those apps are web enabled, too), and your iOS devices and Mac when this is turned on. This is also web-enabled to allow you to download files from iCloud.

Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod/Mac

This feature uses GPS and the internet to help you locate lost or stolen devices. The web version of this app is used to find lost/stolen devices.

Back to My Mac

Back to My Mac is a Mac-only feature that allows Mac users to access their Macs from other computers.

Automatic Downloads

iCloud allows you to have iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore purchases automatically downloaded to all of your devices as soon as the initial purchase finishes downloading. No more moving files from one device to another to stay in sync!.

Web Apps

If you're away from your computer or devices and still want to access your iCloud data, go to and log in. There, you'll be able to use Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Find My iPhone, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers.

To use, you need a Mac running OS X 10.7.2 or higher, or Windows Vista or 7 with the iCloud Control Panel installed, and an iCloud account (obviously).