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iCloud Drive: Your Guide to Apple’s Cloud-Based File Storage Service

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 us to sync our documents and files across all of our iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices thanks to a feature called iCloud Drive.

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

What is iCloud Drive?

To put it simply, iCloud Drive is the equivalent of Google Drive or Dropbox, but only for Apple devices. It’s one of the numerous services that iCloud offers such as mail, contacts, and calendars, iCloud Photo Library, iCloud Music Libray, Backup, iCloud Keychain, and Find my iPhone. 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. To put that into perspective, let’s use a simple scenario. At home, I do all my work on my MacBook Pro computer and save them in iCloud Drive. That way, when I’m on the go, I can access all my work on my iPhone or iPad as long as I have an internet connection and an app that can make use of them.

For many people, iCloud’s primary use is to back up 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. By using iCloud Drive, collaboration and synchronization come naturally. It 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 – iCloud Drive on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

what is icloud drive

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 – iCloud Drive on Mac

what is icloud drive
  • 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

what is icloud drive

On a Mac or Windows computer, you can also access iCloud Drive using the iCloud website. Open your web browser and navigate to iCloud.com, and sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID. 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 – iCloud Drive Windows

what is icloud drive
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 quick.
  • 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.

If you found this guide helpful, then please share and/or recommend it to your friends, so they can benefit from it too.

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