Image: Erik Eckel

Seasoned Mac users are likely familiar with iCloud Drive, Apple’s cloud-based file storage feature that enables storing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, audio recordings, videos and other files. Users less familiar with Macs, iCloud and Apple IDs might enjoy learning that iCloud also permits file sharing and moving files among multiple devices, including iPads, iPhones and Macs. Users only need to log in using their Apple ID on a corresponding device and enable iCloud Drive.

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Here’s a quick walk-through for those new to Macs or unfamiliar with iCloud Drive.

iCloud requires an Apple ID

Before you can log in to and use iCloud Drive to store files in the cloud and move files between Macs, you need an Apple ID, a unique account created with Apple that enables integrated operation of Apple’s App Store, iTunes Store, iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime and more on a Mac, as well as iPhones and iPads. Apple IDs are free.

One quick recommendation: Once you create an Apple ID, be sure to implement two-factor authentication to help keep the account secure.

Enabling iCloud on a Mac

Once you have an Apple ID, enabling iCloud Drive operation on a Mac is straightforward. Open System Preferences either from the Mac’s Dock or by opening Finder, selecting Applications from the left-pane Favorites menu, and double-clicking System Preferences. Next, select Apple ID and enter your Apple ID credentials. Once you’ve logged in to your Apple ID, check the iCloud Drive box (Figure A) to enable iCloud Drive on the Mac.

Figure A

Apple provides a checkbox for enabling iCloud Drive on a Mac.
Apple provides a checkbox for enabling iCloud Drive on a Mac.

With iCloud Drive enabled, users can access files stored within the cloud via Finder. The iCloud Drive option appears within Finder’s left-pane navigation window.

Using Finder, files can be shared and migrated between Macs by dragging the files from an old Mac into the iCloud Drive directory, enabling iCloud Drive on the new Mac, and configuring iCloud Drive to leverage the user’s same Apple ID on the new Mac. If a user commonly stores files directly within the iCloud Drive directory, on the new Mac, a user just needs to associate the user’s Apple ID with the new Mac, then enable iCloud Drive on the new Mac and the files will appear within the iCloud directory in Finder.

Alternatively, users may choose to only associate certain files and applications with iCloud. With iCloud Drive open within System Preferences, clicking the Options button opens the iCloud Drive options window, from which specific applications and services can be enabled (by checking the corresponding box) or disabled (by deselecting the corresponding box). Select the choices you wish to use, and then click the Done button when you’re finished. Note, selecting the Desktop & Documents Folders iCloud Drive option (Figure B), permits expediently sharing all files and folders stored within a Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders with the iCloud Drive, which speeds accessing those files using iCloud Drive on another Mac.

Figure B

Checking the Desktop & Documents Folders iCloud Drive option assists sharing files between Macs using iCloud Drive.
Checking the Desktop & Documents Folders iCloud Drive option assists sharing files between Macs using iCloud Drive.

More iCloud information including pricing details

In the event a Mac user wishes to access iCloud Drive files using an iPhone, iPad or Windows system, the file sharing process should be as quick and easy; Apple maintains iPad and iPhone instructions and Windows system steps on its website. Any files created or edited by an iPad, iPhone or Windows system that are stored within iCloud become available to a new Mac, once mated to the iCloud account, including for purposes of migrating files to the new system.

The same is true for iCloud Drive photos and other images. Files stored within iCloud Drive, whether those files are photos, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, utilities, backups or other content as noted earlier, can be shared between Macs using iCloud Drive.

iCloud Drive is a time-saving feature that simplifies file migration between multiple devices, while also adding cloud-based backup assurance. If a Mac’s hard drive fails, for example, files stored using iCloud Drive will be available on the replacement system, once mated to the corresponding Apple ID account. This data recovery feature alone typically justifies the service’s expense. With 5GB of free storage, and 50GB of additional storage space available for just 99 cents a month, iCloud offers compelling cloud services value that eases daily computer tasks, while also simplifying the burdens of sharing and migrating files between Macs and even when deploying new systems. Need even more file storage space using iCloud Drive? That’s no trouble, as Apple offers 200GB of storage for just $2.99 a month and 2TB for $9.99 a month.