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iCloud Drive has the ability to automatically save files saved on your Desktop and in your Documents folder to the cloud. Apple says these are the places where most files are saved, so this feature will be very useful for anyone who uses multiple devices.

If you want to rely on this feature, make sure you have enough iCloud Drive storage space. All files saved to Desktop and Documents count against your iCloud Drive storage allocation. For example, if you have 1GB worth of files in your Mac’s Documents folder and you want to save it to iCloud Drive, your allocated storage will take a 1GB hit. Apple provides 5GB of free iCloud Drive storage per Apple ID, and it may not be enough. Here are the prices for iCloud storage upgrades:

  • 5GB: free
  • 50GB: $1 per month
  • 200GB: $3 per month
  • 1TB: $10 per month
  • 2TB: $20 per month


How to turn on iCloud Drive Desktop and Documents access in macOS Sierra

Here’s an overview on how iCloud Drive’s Desktop and Documents access works.

  1. In macOS Sierra, got to Apple Menu > System Preferences > iCloud.
  2. iCloud Drive appears at the top of the list in the main section of the window. Check the box for it, and click on Options.
  3. In the Documents tab, there is a section labeled, “Apps that store documents and data in iCloud will appear here.” At the top of the list will be a new Desktop & Documents Folders listing. Check the box to activate it.
sierra icloud drive desktop documents option

That’s all you have to do to activate it. iCloud needs a few minutes for your files to save to iCloud; how long depends on how many files you have.


Desktop and Documents: iCloud website

When you go to your iCloud Drive through the web, there are now Desktop and Documents folders.

icloud website drive folders
iCloud Drive accessed through the iCloud website. The new Desktop and Documents folders show up when you activate Desktop and Documents access in macOS Sierra’s iCloud system preferences.


Desktop and Documents: Access from iOS

Your iOS device can access files in the Desktop and Documents folder if you have iCloud Drive turn on on your device. This can be done in Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive, and then turn on the Show on Home Screen setting.

Tap on the iCloud Drive app on your Home screen. You’ll see the folders you can access, including Desktop and Documents. Tap on a folder, and you can get to the files.

When the other Mac is not running Sierra

If the other Mac you are using doesn’t have Sierra, you can still access the Desktop and Documents folders that were created by the Sierra Mac. You will need internet access.

In a Finder window, iCloud Drive appears under Favorites. Also, in the Finder, you can click on the Go menu and select iCloud Drive, or press Shift-Command-I. Go to the iCloud Drive, and you’ll see Desktop and Documents folders. You can access the files from the Sierra Mac this way.

However, there are a few things to note:

  • Your Desktop and Documents files on your non-Sierra Mac’s local storage device won’t be automatically saved to iCloud Drive. Files from your non-Sierra Mac need to be manually saved to the Desktop and Documents folders on iCloud Drive if you want your Sierra Mac to access those files.
  • The default action when dragging and dropping from the iCloud Drive Desktop or Documents folders is to move the file, not copy it. Here’s the warning you’ll see:
icloud drive move non sierra mac

If you try to drag and drop copy files from iCloud Drive’s Desktop or Documents to a non-Sierra Mac, you’ll see this warning.

To copy files from the iCloud Drive Desktop or Documents folders when using a non-Sierra Mac, you have to hold down the Option key while dragging and dropping, or right-click the file and select Copy, then on your non-Sierra Mac, right-click on the destination and select Paste Item.


Sierra iCloud Sync