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The latest MacOS versions include an iCloud feature that lets you sync your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud Drive. This allows you to access your Mac desktop and document folders from other Macs, iOS devices, or iCloud. A reasonable number of users will enable this feature when upgrading or installing MacOS High Sierra or Sierra, but later some Mac users may want to disable the iCloud Desktop & Documents folders.
Disabling the ICloud Desktop & Documents feature on MacOS is easy, but you may find that your files are no longer on your computer. It can be worrying because it can be misinterpreted as data loss.
We show you how to disable iCloud Desktop & Documents on MacOS and then restore files from iCloud and back back to your local Mac.
Warning: you need to have a local backup of all your files before proceeding, it’s easy to back up using Time Machine. If you don’t have tons of bandwidth and very fast internet (and patience), don’t turn this off casually. If you do not want to use iCloud Desktop & Documents, DO NOT enable this setting in Mac iCloud System Preferences, and then turn it off again. Even turning it on / off quickly tries to instantly download all the items in your desktop and Documents folder to your iCloud Drive. Disabling this requires downloading all files from iCloud to your local Mac. This is very bandwidth intensive and requires a fast reliable internet connection. Do not enable or disable this feature without understanding the consequences. If in doubt, do not change your settings.
Shutting down the ICloud desktop and documents in MacOS
- Go to the Mac OS Apple menu and choose System Preferences
- Go to the iCloud preferences panel
- Find iCloud Drive and click the Settings… button next to it
- To disable iCloud documents and the desktop in Mac OS, clear the check box under Desktop and Document Folder.
- Click Shut Down * to confirm that you want to disable the iCloud desktop and documents.
* Note that the language of this dialog box indicates that files are kept in iCloud…. This is important.
The iCloud desktop and documents will now be disabled, but you’re not ready yet to keep your files on your Mac.
When you disable iCloud desktop and document folders, you’ll notice that these files are now stored in iCloud and not locally. It’s a little suspicious, which is why it makes some users believe they’ve lost files – but chances are you didn’t lose any documents or files, all you have to do is copy them from iCloud to your local Mac.
Retrieve all files from the iCloud desktop and documents back from iCloud to your local Mac
- Open the Finder in MacOS and go to “iCloud Drive” (navigate through the Finder or select “iCloud Drive” from the Go menu)
- Locate the iCloud Driven Documents folder
- Open another new Finder window and navigate to the local “Documents” folder
- Select each file in the iCloud Drive Documents folder and manually drag and drop it to the local Documents folder on your Mac
- Repeat the same process with iCloud’s “Desktop” feature to get all the content from iCloud’s “Desktop” to the “Desktop” on your local Mac.
Because this requires downloading all the files from iCloud Drive to your local Mac, it can take a very long time depending on the number and size of the files. For example, I have a 55GB document folder and it takes several days to download a file before the file is transferred over my Internet connection, this requires that my computer is always on and connected to the Internet. However, if you only have a handful of files in the Documents or Desktop folders, it would be much faster.
You can either copy or just move files from iCloud Drive, it’s your job. Note the difference between copying to iCloud Drive and moving to iCloud Drive and moving to iCloud. Copying a file means that the same file is stored both in iCloud Drive and locally, while moving a file to / from iCloud means that the file is only saved either remotely to iCloud or locally. This is important to differentiate so that you do not misrepresent files or lose anything.
The ICloud Drive and iCloud Desktop & Documents features require a truly continuous, highly reliable, and fast Internet connection. This is because each iCloud Drive file must be downloaded in order to be used locally, and then reloaded if it is saved or modified. If you have something other than a great Internet connection, or if you just don’t want your files to depend on the cloud service, you may not want to use the service as a storage place for important documents or desktop items. Just remember to turn this off if you want to download your files from iCloud so you can have them back locally.
Do you have any tips, questions, or comments about iCloud Drive or the iCloud Desktop & Documents folders? Tell us!
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