How to Save Files to iCloud Drive on Your Mac

Move files from your Mac and access them on iOS devices or iCloud.com

iCloud is the cloud storage and cloud computing service Apple launched in 2011. iCloud not only stores your content securely, but also keeps your apps and data synced across all your devices, such as your Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

iCloud Drive is part of iCloud. Save photos, documents, app data, and much more to your iCloud Drive repository, and then access those files on all your devices, similarly to services like Dropbox.

With iCloud and iCloud Drive, it's easy to save files from your Mac and then access them from your iPhone, iPad, or iCloud.com. Here's a look at setting up iCloud Drive and saving files from your Mac desktop.

The information in this article pertains to iCloud Drive on Mac computers (OS X 10.10 or later). Make sure you're signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID on all your computers and devices.

Screenshot of iCloud Drive logo

Set up iCloud Drive

If you haven't yet set up iCloud Drive, the process is quick and easy. You'll need to enable iCloud Drive on all your iOS devices, such as your iPhone and iPad, as well as your Mac.

Before you begin, update your devices to the latest iOS or iPadOS version, and update your Mac to the latest version of macOS it can support.

On Your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

  1. Open Settings on your device, and then tap your name.

  2. Tap iCloud.

  3. Scroll down and toggle on iCloud Drive.

    Turning on iCloud Drive on an iPhone

On Your Mac

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. If you're using macOS Catalina, select Apple ID. If you're using macOS Mojave or earlier, you don't need to select Apple ID. 

    The Apple ID heading in macOS System Preferences
  3. Select iCloud.

    The iCloud option in System Preferences
  4. If prompted, sign in with your Apple ID.

  5. Turn on iCloud Drive by checking the box next to it.

    enabling iCloud Drive on a Mac

Using Files With iCloud Drive

After you set up iCloud Drive and enable it across all your devices, any documents you already have stored in iCloud are automatically moved to iCloud Drive. On your iOS devices, such as your iPhone and iPad, you'll see your files in the Files app as well as the Pages, Numbers, and Keynote apps.

By default, iCloud Drive has folders for each of your Apple iWork apps (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers), as well as folders for Automator, Preview, QuickTime Player, Script Editor, and TextEdit. Add your own folders, as well, and store whatever documents you want. (More on this below.)

How you store documents and other files in iCloud Drive depends on what OS X or macOS version you have. For macOS Sierra and above, it's effortless. Just enable the Desktop and Documents folders to automatically sync with iCloud Drive. For earlier OS X or macOS versions, you'll need to manually move desktop files and documents to iCloud Drive.

When you sign up for iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free storage. If you need more space in iCloud, you can upgrade to a larger storage plan.

Save Files to iCloud Drive With Sierra and Later

Starting with macOS Sierra, you have the ability to store your Desktop and Documents folder in iCloud Drive and access them on all your devices. For example, begin a document on your Mac desktop, then work on it later from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and on iCloud.com. Everything automatically stays up to date everywhere.

To add your Desktop and Documents folder to iCloud Drive:

  1. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences.

    The System Preferences command under the Apple menu
  2. Select Apple ID. (On macOS Mojave, High Sierra, or Sierra, you don't have to select Apple ID.)

    The Apple ID heading in macOS System Preferences
  3. Click iCloud.

    The iCloud option in System Preferences
  4. Ensure that iCloud Drive is enabled by checking the box next to it.

    enabling iCloud Drive on a Mac
  5. Next to iCloud Drive, select Options.

    iCloud options button.
  6. Place a checkmark next to Desktop & Documents Folders.

    ScreenShot2020-04-06at1.02.26PM-fff1204e96324b7a838c872cfa078248.jpg
  7. Select Done. In the Finder, you'll now see your Desktop and Documents folders in the iCloud section of your sidebar. These files will automatically sync across all your devices.

Save Files to iCloud Drive With Earlier OS Versions

With earlier OS X and macOS versions, you don't have the ability to enable your Desktop and Documents folders to save to iCloud Drive. You can, however, manually create folders on iCloud Drive and move or copy your files there so you can access them on your iOS devices or iCloud.com.

  1. To access iCloud Drive, select the Finder icon in your Mac Dock.

  2. Select iCloud Drive from the Favorites sidebar.

    iCloud Drive in Finder
  3. Right-click in the window and choose New Folder. Name the folder whatever you like, for example, Work Documents.

    adding new folder to iCloud Drive from the Finder
  4. Right-click on iCloud Drive and select Open in New Tab.

    moving files manually in iCloud Drive via the Finder
  5. Go to a folder with files you'd like to save to the new Work Documents folder in iCloud Drive.

  6. Select the files you want on iCloud Drive. To move the file or files, drag them to the iCloud Drive tab on the top of the Finder Window.

    To copy the file or files, hold down the Option key and drag the file or files to the iCloud Drive tab on the top of the Finder Window.

    The drag-and-drop method defaults to moving your files, while holding down the Option key keeps a copy of the file in its original location.

  7. Hold until the iCloud Drive window opens, then drag to the Work Documents folder (or whatever you named it). If copying, release the Option key.

    moving files to iCloud Drive via Finder
  8. Create as many folders as you like and move or copy whatever files you want, as long as a file isn't bigger than 50GB and doesn't exceed your iCloud storage allotment.

Save Files to iCloud Drive When Saving a Document

An easy way to save a copy of your file to iCloud Drive is when you save a new document.

  1. Open the file or document you want to save to iCloud Drive, for example, a Word document.

  2. Select Save or Save as.

  3. Select the dropdown menu next to Where and choose iCloud Drive.

    saving a document to iCloud Drive
  4. Select Save. This document has been saved to iCloud Drive, and you'll be able to access it from your iOS devices and iCloud.com.

    Saving to iCloud.