What is the difference between iCloud and iCloud Drive?

icloud vs icloud drive

There’s a big confusion between iCloud and iCloud Drive. People tend to use these two terms interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing.

Before Apple introduced iCloud back in 2011, iPhone users used to back up their iPhones with iTunes. It was a real hassle and very frustrating to keep their Apple devices in sync.

Apple understood that issue and unveiled its new cloud-based storage service, iCloud. It allows users to sync their documents and files across all of their iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices thanks to a feature called iCloud Drive.

So, what is the difference between iCloud and iCloud Drive? Is it the same as iCloud? This article will explain what iCloud Drive is, how to use it, and how it differs from iCloud.

iCloud vs iCloud Drive

To put it simply, iCloud Drive is the equivalent of Google Drive or Dropbox. On the other hand, iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage that offers services like mail, contacts, and calendars, iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Music Libray, Backup, iCloud Keychain, and Find my iPhone.

This analogy from an Apple discussion board user is another great way to understand the difference between iCloud and iCloud Drive.

Think of iCloud as a filing cabinet and iCloud drive as one of the cabinet’s drawers you can use to store things. It is designed to store files that don’t fit in any of the other drawers.

You can use iCloud Drive to store any kind of data, which can be accessed through your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows computers. So, what you saved on iCloud Drive will automatically be saved in iCloud as well.

For many people, iCloud’s primary use is to back up their iPhone and sync its data to other Apple devices. On the other hand, iCloud Drive is built right into iOS and macOS and acts more like a sharing tool among devices.

With iCloud Drive, collaboration and synchronization come naturally. iCloud Drive seamlessly integrates between devices, which means you can share any data among other devices without the need to copy, send, or transfer anything.

How to access iCloud Drive?

Now that you know the difference between iCloud and iCloud Drive, you’re probably wondering how do you access it. It’s quite simple, and here’s how you do that.

Depending on what device you’re using, there are three different ways you can access iCloud Drive.

  1. On iOS devices through the “Files” app introduced with iOS 11.
  2. On Mac computers via “Finder” or a web browser.
  3. On Windows PC with iCloud for Windows.

Method 1: Access iCloud Drive on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

Accessing iCloud Drive on an iPhone

Before you can access iCloud Drive, you need to activate it first in iCloud. From your iOS device, go to Settings > Your name > iCloud > Swipe to turn on iCloud Drive.

After you activated iCloud Drive, open the “Files” app and tap on the Locations menu. Then, tap on iCloud Drive to see your folders and files. You can use the share sheet, from within apps such as Photos or Safari, to add files to iCloud Drive.

Method 2: Access iCloud Drive on Mac

Accessing iCloud Drive on a Mac
  • On your Mac, click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen.
  • From the dropdown menu, click on “System Preferences.”
  • Click on “iCloud”, located on the far left of the third row.
  • If it’s already checked, your iCloud Drive is on. Otherwise, sign in to your iCloud account and click on “iCloud Drive” to enable it.

Once iCloud Drive is enabled, you’ll be able to view, open, modify, add and share files across all devices using the same iCloud account.

Alternately, you can find iCloud Drive on the Favorites left sidebar of the Finder app, under the iCloud tab. If you’ve removed it from the sidebar, click on the Go menu at the top of the Finder menu, then scroll down and click on “iCloud Drive”.

How to access iCloud Drive using the iCloud website

Accessing iCloud Drive using iCloud website

1. On a Mac or Windows computer, you can also access iCloud Drive using the iCloud website.

2. Open your favorite web browser and navigate to iCloud.com, and sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID.

3. From here click the iCloud Drive from the list of items and you’ll be able to create new folders, upload files, download files, delete files, share files.

Method 3: Access iCloud Drive on Windows

Accessing iCloud Drive on a Windows computer
Image: Courtesy of Apple

On Windows PC running Windows 7 or later you can download iCloud for Windows. That way, you can have access to photos, videos, mail, calendar, files, etc on the go and on your Windows PC.

Once installed you can access iCloud Drive by following these steps below:

  1. Click Start, open Apps or Programs, and open iCloud for Windows.
  2. Sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID.
  3. Select iCloud Drive, then click Apply.

Now that you know how to enable iCloud Drive and how to access it, there are a few things that you should know.

  • While syncing data across all your devices is convenient, it’s may not be your best option for local transfer purposes. It would be better to use Apple’s AirDrop feature for that matter.
  • Apple only provides 5GB of free iCloud storage per account, which is definitely not enough if you have multiple devices. Between your iPhone backups, photos, and videos, you can run out of storage pretty quickly.
  • Be mindful when you save stuff in your iCloud Drive, so you may not leave enough storage for your iPhone to back up. You can always buy more iCloud storage, but if you’re a budget-conscious iPhone user, here’s how to free up space in iCloud.

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