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A short guide to understanding and mastering iCloud Drive

Among the various aspects that make up the multi-headed monster called iCloud, probably none incites users as much doubt as the iCloud Drive. You can't take the blame from Apple: the feature, introduced with iOS 8 / OS X Yosemite, has gone through several phases and "faces" until reaching the current status that, we all hope, the one that will stay for a long time.

If when using iCloud Drive you fit into the group represented by this dog, don't be afraid: we are here to help you. Next, let's take a look at the main features of the service and also give you some tips to take advantage of all its resources and tools. Approach!

What iCloud Drive

Roughly speaking, iCloud Drive is the equivalent of Google Drive or Dropbox in the Apple ecosystem, that is, the place where you can effectively store your files, in whatever format they are. Currently, it no longer exists in the form of its own application, something that happened until iOS 10; from iOS 11 onwards, the ?soul? of iCloud Drive lives in the Archives app (Files) or, in the case of macOS, in the iCloud Drive folder, found in the Finder sidebar.

In addition to saving all the files you play and saving the versions of documents produced in the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) and other applications compatible with the service, iCloud Drive has some extra cards up its sleeve, which we will deal with next topics.

How to activate

If the feature is not yet activated, it is very easy to do it on each of the devices connected to your iCloud account.

On iOS, just access Settings, tap your name at the top of the screen, go to iCloud and turn on the iCloud Drive option. It is good to note that, if you are on iOS 9 or iOS 10, a window will appear asking if you want to ?Show the feature on the Home Screen?; accepting this option, the iCloud Drive app will appear there. As of iOS 11, this option no longer exists, as the app has been replaced by Archives.

Files app icon


in Apple

Compatible with iPadsCompatible with iPhones

Version 1.3.3 (555 KB) Requires iOS 11.0 or superior

Screenshot of the Files appScreenshot of the Files app

In macOS, in turn, just go to ICloud System Preferences. After logging in with your Apple ID (if you haven't already), simply check the iCloud Drive option.


It is good to note that the storage space available on your iCloud Drive is the one hired for your iCloud account as a whole, that is, if you have the free version of the platform, there are only 5GB available for your files.

You can upgrade storage using iOS (Settings (your name) iCloud Manage Storage Change storage plan) or Mac (ICloud System Preferences Manage Change storage plan).

The plans themselves are as follows:

  • 5GB: free;
  • 50GB: R $ 2.90 per month;
  • 200GB: R $ 8.90 per month;
  • 2TB: R $ 29.90 per month.

Considering that this space will be divided between your files and still photos, messages, emails and possibly many other things, it is a good idea to make this small investment if you are planning to use iCloud Drive a little more than casual.

It is worth noting that, in the 200GB and 2TB plans, you can choose to share the space with your family members by activating the Family Sharing feature.

Documents and Bureau

Of the letters in the sleeve of iCloud Drive that I mentioned a few paragraphs above, this is the coolest for Mac users: the feature can synchronize all the documents you keep on the Desk (Desktop) and the Documents folder (Documents) of your machine. This way, if you have more than one Mac, your home screen and the main directory of files are always the same and you can resume work where you left off on any computer; the same goes for iPhones / iPads, where folders can be easily accessed.

To activate the Desk and Documents folders in iCloud, just go to ICloud System Preferences and, next to iCloud Drive, click on ?Opes?. L, just select the ?Table and Documents Folders? box and click the ?OK? button.

Finder with the Documents folder open

The folders will then be moved to the ?iCloud? section in the Finder sidebar, where you can find them. If you activate the feature on two different Macs, the feature will not automatically combine folders, it will show, for example, "Mesa – iMac" and "Mesa – MacBook Pro" until you combine the files from both.

To access the Desk and the Documents folder on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, just go to the Archives app (or iCloud Drive, in the case of iOS 9 or 10) and locate the directories. The same goes for, where you just need to access iCloud Drive to find them.

Saving space on your Mac

By default, iCloud Drive keeps all your Desktop, Documents and related files saved on your Mac's HDD / SSD (or your Macs, if there is more than one). If that machine space is getting full, however, you can activate a feature called "Optimize Mac Storage".

What it does is to keep only the most recent files on the Mac and leave the oldest / least used files in the cloud; by clicking on one of those older ones, it downloaded and opened at the same time. In this way, you save precious megabytes / gigabytes.


To activate the feature, just go to ICloud System Preferences and, next to iCloud Drive, click on ?Opes? and activate the option ?Optimize Mac Storage?. Ready!

Using iCloud Drive on Windows

Yes, it is possible to have a Mac and a PC and put both in tune with iCloud Drive! The key to this is in iCloud for Windows, a surprisingly well done utility (given the average quality of Apple software for the PC world) that allows the user to configure iCloud Drive and other aspects of the platform, such as photos and email, directly on a machine running Windows 7 or later.

There's no mystery: just download the app here, sign in with your Apple ID and follow the instructions, checking which iCloud features you want to activate on your computer.

Most of the functions and instructions described above, such as the Desk and the Documents folder, work in Windows, too, and if you open a Pages, Numbers or Keynote document in Windows, a browser window will open with the online version of the app in question and the file ready to be edited.

Recover deleted files

Everyone has gone through that horrible situation of having a file accidentally deleted at the moment when it would be most needed, right? Fortunately, with iCloud Drive, this type of headache is basically extinguished, unless you want to recover the file in question more than a month after it has been deleted.

This is because the system has a folder "Recently deleted", which stores all deleted files in the last 30 days; there, you can retrieve them with a click / touch. In the case of the Mac, the feature integrates with the system Trash itself, so just open it to locate the desired file and drag it to the desktop or another folder.

Recovering a file on iOS via iCloud Drive

On iOS, just open the Files app, access the ?Explore? tab and tap ?Deleted?. Then, just select the file (s) and touch ?Recover?. At, finally, just access iCloud Drive, click on ?Recently deleted? (in the lower right corner) and choose the file you want to save.

Share files

This feature, unfortunately, is not as intuitive as in competing services. But still, there is the option to share a file stored on iCloud Drive with others.

Sharing a file on iOS via iCloud Drive

On iOS, just select the file (mandatorily within the iCloud Drive area in the new Files app), tap the share icon and choose the Add People option. From there, you can choose how you want to share the file (by copying the link, by message, by email, etc.).

In macOS the options are also the same, but you can do this by clicking the button directly on top of the file in question and choosing the option Share Add People; j on, choose the file, click the silhouette icon with a plus sign and choose whether to send the link by email or just copy it, defining who can access the file (if only guests or anyone who has the link) and whether that person (s) can edit or just view that file.

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Did you like the tips? If there are still questions to be answered, make any use of the comment section below. See you next time!