Software

How to download your data stored by Apple

Downloading a copy of your data that Apple stores in iCloud and other services is easier than ever. Learn more about this massive privacy change.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Due to privacy regulations in the European Union, earlier this year, Apple began offering users the ability to download all of the data that Apple stores in their accounts and about them. Apple now allows users in the US to download their data. This new privacy-oriented feature ensures that users have full access to all of their data stored by Apple, and that the user can then download and delete their account with all of the associated data.

Whether you're planning on deleting your Apple ID, or just wanting to perform a backup for future use, learn how to prepare the download, download the files, and what to do with the file afterwards.

SEE: Information security policy (Tech Pro Research)

Regardless of what data you're preparing to download, this is not a quick process. Apple emails you whenever the downloads are prepared for you to download; however, it took more than a week to receive my email and have the data prepared for download. It was less than 300MBs of data as well, which is more surprising. In short, don't expect this process to be used for emergency restorations of photos and other data.

When I received the download email, I had 22 days left to finish downloading the prepared files. It appears Apple gives users 30 days from the original request date to download the files before they are removed from the site, and you must request a new download.

How to select the data to download

Before you can get a copy of your data, you need to let Apple know what data you'd like to download. This is handled on Apple's new Data and Privacy website. Sign in and then perform these steps to begin preparing a copy of your data for download.

  1. Select Get Started under the Get A Copy Of Your Data heading.
  2. Select the types of data you'd like to download and select Continue (Figure A).
  3. Select how large the file chunks will be (Apple will automatically split your downloads into individual compressed files in the size of your choosing) and select Continue.

Figure A

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Choosing a smaller subset of data to acquire will mean that your processing and download time will be significantly less than downloading lots of data from your Apple account.

You can select from the following data categories to download:

  • App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, Apple Music activity
  • Apple ID account and device information
  • Apple Online and Retail Stores activity
  • AppleCare support history, repair requests, and more
  • Game Center activity
  • iCloud Bookmarks and reading list
  • iCloud Calendars and Reminders
  • iCloud Contacts
  • iCloud Notes
  • Maps Report an Issue
  • Marketing communications, downloads, and other activity
  • Apple Pay activity
  • iCloud Drive files and documents
  • iCloud Mail
  • iCloud Photos
  • Other data

Note: iCloud Drive, iCloud Mail, and iCloud Photos can take a lot of time to prepare for download and actually download to your computer.

How to download the files

To download your files, follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to privacy.apple.com in your web browser on your desktop computer.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID used to request the data.
  3. Select Get Your Data in the right-hand sidebar.
  4. On the new page, select the download icon beside each of the data files you wish to download from your requested data (Figure B).

Figure B

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All of the data you requested will be presented along with the file size of each download up to the maximum file size you requested.

If you requested a smaller file size and not all of the data could be contained in that size, the downloads for that section will be split into separate zip files.

SEE: Apple FileVault 2: Tips for IT pros (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

File formats

After you download the files, you'll notice that anything that is from the Apple Store online, Apple Store retail, iTunes Store, and Apple Care data is mostly included as CSV files straight from the Apple databases for your account.

If your prepared downloads include iCloud Drive files, those files will be available to download just as they're stored in iCloud Drive. It's the same with photos that you download from iCloud Photo Library: The file formats will be the same as you imported them into your photo library.

Notes from iCloud will be downloaded as plain text files with the attachments included for each of the note documents.

When you have finished your downloads, you can return to the privacy website where you can delete the copy of data being stored for your retrieval, or allow it to expire.

For more information on this process of downloading files stored in your Apple ID, check out the Apple Privacy website.

Also see

About Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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