Anyone in the Apple ecosystem can easily access iCloud for free, but there are a few tricks to learn to get the most out of it.
Apple’s iCloud is an application suite that is directly baked into the framework of nearly all Apple products, rather than an application. It’s intended to be a digital life repository, a place to store and back up your photos, personal files, and application data so you never lose anything. Despite its sleek design and straightforward execution, setting it up for the first time can be a chore. We’ve put together a how-to guide for iCloud.
Setting up and signing into iCloud
Signing up for iCloud with an Apple ID is completely free and simple. Each free account comes with 5GB of remote storage, which can be used for backups, mail, app data, documents, and other cloud-based components, with 50GB, 200GB, and 2TB storage options available for a fee.
If your devices are new, you should have no compatibility issues, but we recommend quickly scanning the minimum requirements to get a better understanding of what will and will not work on your device. After that, follow the instructions for your specific device listed below.n
Setting up iCloud on macOS
Step 1: (Optional) Update your Mac — Before installing a new utility or application on your iMac or MacBook, it’s always a good idea to update macOS. If you haven’t already done so, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the desktop to open the main Apple menu, and then select About This Mac. Then, select Software Update from the drop-down menu. The App Store should now be accessible. Navigate to the Updates tab, then select the software you want to update. Alternatively, in the upper-right corner of the application window, click Update All to download and install all available updates.
Step 2: Turn on iCloud — To return to the main Apple menu, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner of the desktop once more. Then, from the drop-down menu, select System Preferences, and then select the iCloud option in the System Preferences panel (the logo is a blue cloud). When finished, enter the Apple ID and password you want to use with iCloud, and then click the Sign In button directly to the right of the password field. At this point, it’s also a good idea to enter that password into a password manager.
Step 3: Choose your iCloud services — Once signed in, iCloud will present you with a number of individual services, ranging from mail and Safari to contacts and calendars. Check the box to the left of the applications to select which ones you want to sync across your devices. Syncing options vary by application, but you can usually fine-tune the process by clicking Options on the right or from within each service’s main Accounts setting.
Step 4: Purchase additional storage (optional) — Purchasing additional storage can’t hurt if you’re on the verge of reaching your storage limit. To do so, go to the main iCloud interface and click the Manage button in the bottom-right corner, followed by the Buy More Storage button in the top-right corner.
Step 5: Examine optimized storage options (optional) — Okay, so you’ve got your iCloud storage, your Apple ID, and your brand-new Mac all set up. If you’ve been away from the MacOS ecosystem for a while, you should be aware of the following feature: Optimized Storage is a feature that uses your iCloud storage to free up even more hard drive space on your Mac. Check out our detailed guide on how to get everything set up.
Setting up iCloud on iOS
Step 1: (Optional) Update your iOS device — It’s always a good idea to keep your iOS devices up to date, especially now that iOS 14 is available. If you haven’t already, go to your device’s home screen and tap Settings, then General, then Software Update, and finally the Download and Install button. Before proceeding to the next step, wait for the latest version of iOS to download and install.
Step 2: Enable iCloud — From your device’s home screen, go to Settings. Then, at the top, tap your name. You may be asked to sign in with your Apple ID. Click iCloud on the next menu.
Step 3: Choose your iCloud services — iCloud will show you a list of available services. Toggle the slider directly to the right of the app to select which ones you want to sync across your devices.
Setting up iCloud on PC
Step 1: Enable iCloud on a different device — Apple’s iCloud software is designed to work in tandem with iOS and macOS. Before installing the software on your Windows PC, enable and configure iCloud on another device. Fortunately, the two tutorials above will get you started on both your Mac and your iOS device.
Step 2: Download and install the iCloud Control Panel — Unfortunately, Windows does not include any kind of built-in iCloud integration (surprise, surprise). If you primarily use Windows, you might want to look into a different cloud storage solution. To download a copy of the iCloud Control Panel, go to the Apple support site and click the blue Download link at the top. Then, from the resulting window, select a save location, click the Save button in the bottom-right corner, and run the installation software when it has finished downloading. The included wizard will guide you through the entire installation procedure.
Step 3: Enable iCloud — Open the iCloud Control Panel and sign in with your Apple ID and password from your previously registered iCloud account. When finished, click the Sign In button in the bottom-right corner.
Step 4: Determine which iCloud services you want to use — Once signed in, iCloud will present you with four services: iCloud Drive, mail, bookmarks, contacts and calendars, and contacts and calendars. Check the box to the left of the services to select which ones you want to sync across your devices. Syncing options vary by application, but you can usually fine-tune the process within each service’s main Options setting. When finished, click the Apply button in the bottom-right corner.
Backing up and restoring iOS devices with iCloud
Although Apple’s iCloud is an excellent way to sync data between your iPhone, iPad, and computer, the software also allows you to easily backup your devices. Backup data includes everything from device settings, such as your preferred wallpaper and app organization, to direct App Store purchases and text messages.
How to Make an iCloud Backup
Step 1: Access the iCloud storage settings by going to Settings > Your Apple ID > iCloud.
Step 2: Enable iCloud Backup — At the bottom of the iCloud page, you can enable iCloud Backup to allow the software to automatically backup your camera roll, accounts, documents, and settings when your device is plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi. Alternatively, when connected to Wi-Fi, tap the Back Up Now option to manually back up your device.
How to Restore iCloud Backups
Step 1: Begin at the beginning — All recent iOS devices include a setup assistant that enables you to restore your device from a backup. However, if you previously chose not to restore from iCloud during the initial setup process, you can access the same setup assistant found on new devices by simply resetting your device to its factory defaults. Tap Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Contents and Settings to do so. To confirm, tap Erase iPhone. If you have an older iPhone, your steps may differ slightly, so consult our comprehensive guide if you’re having trouble.
Step 2: Restore from backup — Once you’ve started the initial setup assistant, you’ll be asked whether you want to set up a new device, restore from iCloud, or restore from iTunes. Select Restore from iCloud Backup, enter the Apple ID associated with your iCloud account and then tap the option you want to use. If you select iCloud backup, you’ll see the three most recent backups for each device that has iCloud Backup enabled.
Everything will be handled by the setup assistant, and a progress bar will show you how the download and installation of the iCloud backup are progressing. (If you’re in a hurry, a strong Wi-Fi connection will help speed things up.) When it is finished, your iPhone or iPad will be reset and will begin downloading the same version of any apps that you previously had installed on the device. You’ll be prompted to enter a password before you can use the device.
Getting Rid of iCloud Backups
Most people would agree that iCloud is a convenient and self-contained way of syncing and storing data on your connected iOS devices. Unfortunately, the 5GB of storage provided only goes so far when backing up an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook using the same iCloud account. If you need to free up storage space on your iOS device, you can delete specific backups manually. It makes sense to do so if they are extremely old or if you no longer have access to the device to which the backup is attached.
Step 1: Go to Settings > Your Apple ID > iCloud > Manage Storage to backup.
Step 2: Delete the backup — From your storage management page, navigate to Backups. Select the backup you want to delete and then tap the red Delete Backup option at the bottom of the resulting menu. Each backup will display its re-lative size, the original upload date, and the device from which it was created, so you should have no trouble distinguishing between them. It is usually best to keep the most recent one.