As do about a billion people on planet earth, I subscribe to iCloud. Why not? 5GB is free with every iCloud account, and that includes email and the ability to sync files between various and sundry Apple devices; Mac, iPhone, iPad, with browser access. What’s not to like?
Alright, there’s plenty not to like, but Apple seems to have improved iCloud the past few years so I made a couple of changes to the standard sync of Calendar, Contacts, Keychain, Safari bookmarks, et al to include Photos. Well, that’s Photos in iCloud Photo Library, a setting in System Preferences and a few settings within Photo’s preferences.
Here’s the problem. I have somewhere around 150GB of photos and a few videos stored in the Photos app on my Mac. That’s too much for iPad and iPhone and a dusty MacBook Pro with limited storage, but fine for iCloud Photo Library which can keep the original photos on a Mac and thumbnails with a download option on other devices.
Open System Preferences on your Mac, click the iCloud icon, click on Options next to the Photos icon, then click iCloud Photos Library. It takes a day or two to get everything synced up, depending upon the speed of your internet connection, but once synchronized, it works reasonably well. Take a photo with your iPhone and a few minutes later it appears on Macs and iPads associated with your Apple ID.
Apple recently lowered the price tag for 200GB of iCloud storage space to $2.99, so it’s a bit of a bargain to get Photos’s photos and videos on other devices. And, as always, this also allows for a local backup to an external disk drive.
Next on my list was iCloud Drive, which uses the same 200GB iCloud storage. iCloud Drive works well, but not as fast as Dropbox. Settings in System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive let you determine which applications can store files on iCloud Drive. The very first one, at the top of the list, is Desktop & Documents Folders. That means all files on your Mac’s Desktop and within the Documents folder would be copied to iCloud and synchronized to other devices.
Unfortunately, I keep many, many, files and folders on both the Desktop (itself a folder) and in Documents. That total would push me over the 200GB limit. So, I trimmed down the contents of both Desktop and Documents to only those files that I need on other devices; about 25GB total. And, I set up a folder on iCloud Drive called iCloud Desktop and iCloud Documents, and filled it with the aforementioned and well pruned files.
Again, it took a few hours for all those files and folders to get copied to iCloud and then distributed to my other Macs, iPhone, and iPad, but it worked. Almost. iCloud Drive on the Mac keeps those files and folders on the Mac. Make a change, add a file, delete a folder, and the changes show up– in awhile– on iCloud Drive for iPhone and iPad as thumbnails of the originals, but copies on the other Macs.
The Macs have 500GB and 1TB of storage respectively, MacBook Pro, and iMac, but the iPad and iPhone have 128GB and 256GB respectively, therefore, not enough storage for all the iCloud Drive files. That means to use a file stored on iCloud Drive it must be downloaded to the mobile device. That’s the price we pay for pricey storage.
So far, this works. But I keep a backup of all those photos, videos, files, and folders on my Mac. Just in case.