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macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 29, 2010
I've recently bought a MacBook Pro that only has a 128Gb hard drive and have moved over from Windows. I also have an iPhone and iPad Pro so want to make better use of iCloud.

I have substantially more files than will fit on my MacBook's hard drive and these are currently on a NAS drive and a soon to be deleted cloud back up with another company that can't provide a service to back up my NAS drive within my budget!

My question is can I put all of my files on iCloud (subscribing to a high storage plan) and not have it try to sync all files with my MacBook, iPhone and iPad as none will have enough space for everything?

I know with Dropbox it sets itself up as a drive on my PC so I effectively had to have double the storage space to back everything up to the cloud. Is iCloud exactly the same?

Thanks in advance!


macrumors 601
Aug 28, 2012
Between the coasts
The short answer is that documents in iCloud are not automatically downloaded to every device. They will be listed on all devices and available for download when needed.

The OS on the device actively manages local space utilization for iCloud Drive and iCloud Photo Library. If local storage is running low, it starts removing files, based on when they were accessed. Documents that have not been accessed in a while may be removed from the device, waiting to be re-downloaded from the cloud as needed.

This behavior is automatic for iCloud Drive documents. In the case of iCloud Photo Library there is a pair of settings, "Optimize Storage" and "Download and Keep Originals" that can be set on each device. In the case of Optimized Storage, a reduced resolution version may be resident on-device (sometimes a medium-resolution file, sometimes just a thumbnail); the full resolution version will be re-downloaded if/when the image is selected for viewing/editing.

In the case of both iCloud Drive and iCloud Photo Library, the assumption is that the Cloud is the repository of the master copy (full resolution for images), while the local devices only hold full-quality versions when there is sufficient storage on the device.

About the only conscious effort necessary is if you know you'll be off the grid - it'll pay to re-download whatever you may need, prior to going off-grid.
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