How to Enable iCloud Drive Desktop and Documents in macOS Sierra

If you’re familiar with macOS (formerly OS X) and you enabled iCloud Drive, you know it’s essentially a Dropbox service that’s built directly into the core of the Mac. But a flawed product it is, since it couldn’t truly sync all of your files across all devices seamlessly. Apple is trying to remedy that problem a bit with new iCloud Drive features in macOS Sierra.

It's much easier to sync files with iCloud Drive on macOS Sierra. | Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock.com
It’s much easier to sync files with iCloud Drive on macOS Sierra | Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock

New to the OS is the ability to automatically sync your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folder through iCloud and to your other devices. That way, you don’t need to constantly drag and drop files you always want accessible over into iCloud Drive. Files can stay neatly where you want them instead.

However, this Sierra feature needs to be separately turned on apart from the rest of iCloud Drive. Here is how to do that.

Turn on Extra iCloud Drive Features

To get your Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders to sync with iCloud Drive, head up to the menu bar and click the Apple logo. Then click About This Mac.

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Click Storage at the top and then click Details.

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A System Information window should open with the default tab being Recommendations for ways that you can improve the amount of free space you have on your computer. One such way is the method we’re after: sync your Desktop and Documents files with iCloud Drive.

Tip: The catch is though, if you switch this on some of your Desktop and Documents may not be stored locally on your Mac anymore. Instead, since all of the copies are available in the cloud, older files that you haven’t touched in a long time will stay there to free up Mac storage if need be. If you need those files again later on, they’ll still appear in your Desktop/Documents folder, but they might have to re-download if old enough.

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If that’s okay with you, proceed to click Store in iCloud… and click Store in iCloud one more time to verify.

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If you go back to your Finder, you should see that Desktop and Documents are out of your Favorites in the sidebar and in a new category called iCloud that also contains your iCloud Drive. They also appear as folders within the iCloud Drive app on iOS.

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Note: If you have a lot of large files on your Desktop or in your Documents folder, give them some time to upload to iCloud before you see them appear on other devices.

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You’re all set. Henceforth, anything you add to your Documents folder or Desktop should sync through iCloud. It seems like Apple is moving forward with iCloud file sync so that eventually every file on your Mac will live — or at least have a duplicate copy — in iCloud.

With this feature enabled, iCloud files will only delete locally from your Mac if your storage is becoming too full, but they remain if you have plenty of space left. You might also need to consider upgrading your iCloud storage plan if you find that’s getting full.

ALSO SEE: How to Identify and Fix iCloud Backup Problems

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