How to Use iCloud Drive

Access your files from anywhere on multiple devices

iCloud Network Concept depicting iCloud drive storage
TheaDesign / Getty Images

iCloud Drive, which is just one aspect of iCloud, provides cloud-based storage for your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Windows PC. iCloud Drive lets you keep all your files and folders up to date across all devices, share files with others, create new files and folders, and much more.

The beauty of iCloud Drive is being able to access your files from any device, no matter where you are. Store any type of file in iCloud Drive, as long as it's 50GB or less and you don't exceed your iCloud storage limit. 

This information applies to iCloud Drive across all supported devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Windows PC.

How to Set up iCloud Drive

First, make sure iCloud Drive is set up on all your devices.

Before setting up iCloud Drive, update your Apple device to the latest iOS, iPadOS, or macOS. If you have a Windows PC, update to Windows 7 or later and download iCloud for Windows. Make sure iCloud is set up on all your devices and that you're signed in to iCloud.

On iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

Go to Settings [your name], and then tap iCloud. You may be prompted for your password. Scroll down and find iCloud Drive; make sure it is toggled on (green).

On a Mac

Go to the Apple Menu and select System Preferences, then Apple ID. (If you’re using macOS Mojave or earlier, you don’t need to select Apple ID.)

Select iCloud and sign in with your Apple ID if prompted. (You may be asked for your iPhone's passcode.) If this is your first time accessing iCloud from your Mac, click Next through the introductory screens. Select iCloud Drive to turn it on.

On iCloud.com

Sign in to iCloud.com. Select Pages, Numbers, or Keynote. Select Upgrade to iCloud Drive if you are asked to upgrade. 

On a Windows PC

After you set up iCloud Drive on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, set it up on your Windows PC. Go to Start, open Apps or Programs, and open iCloud for Windows. Enter your Apple ID to sign in to iCloud. Select iCloud Drive, and then select Apply.

Accessing Your Files in iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive is a handy tool because it allows you to access your files from anywhere. There are a few ways to access your files in iCloud Drive, depending on the device you're using.

  • To access files from iCloud.com, go to iCloud Drive.
  • To access files from your iPhone or iPad, go to the Files app. (On iOS 9 or iOS 10, access them from the iCloud Drive app.)
  • On your PC with Windows 7 or later and iCloud for Windows, go to iCloud Drive in File Explorer.

Accessing Your Files on a Mac

On your Mac, go to iCloud Drive in Finder.

To move all the files from your Desktop and Documents folder to iCloud Drive, you have to turn on the Desktop and Documents feature. To turn on Desktop and Documents:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences followed by iCloud. (Make sure iCloud Drive is turned on.)
  2. Next to iCloud Drive select Options.
  3. Choose the Desktop and Documents folder.
  4. Select Done.

In Finder, you'll now see your Desktop and Documents folder in the iCloud section of your sidebar. 

To turn on Desktop and Documents, you need macOS Sierra or later.

iCloud Drive Storage Space

Every Apple ID account comes with 5GB of iCloud Drive storage space. This is enough storage space to back up your iPhone or iPad and even store some photos. However, if you want to access a lot of photos and files, or have family members on the same Apple ID, you may want to add storage space.

iCloud Drive is relatively cheap compared to other cloud-based services. Apple provides a 50GB plan for 99 cents a month, a 200GB plan for $2.99 a month, and a terabyte of storage for $9.99 a month. Most people will be fine with the 50GB plan.

Upgrade Storage From iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

To upgrade your storage plan, on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Manage Storage. Tap Buy More Storage or Change Storage Plan. Choose a plan, tap Buy, and follow the onscreen instructions.

Upgrade Storage From Your Mac

Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences, then select Apple ID > iCloud. Select Manage, followed by Change Storage Plan or Buy More Storage. Choose a plan, select Next, and enter your Apple ID password.

Upgrade Storage From Your Windows PC

Open iCloud for Windows. Click Storage, followed by Change Storage Plan. Choose a plan, then click Next. Enter your Apple ID password, then click Buy.