Perhaps more than any other Apple software, the oft-cited Steve Jobs phrase “it just works” has greater significance in the context of iCloud. When Jobs demoed the service in 2011, he claimed Apple was doing a better job than it was with MobileMe.
But iCloud has evolved a lot during the past few years as Apple has strived to deliver on its promise of everything happening ‘automatically’. Initially iCloud sync problems caused frustration among developers, because it was problematic to implement.
Fast forward to today, and yet while the service has fixed some of the core problems that made iCloud implementation a nightmare – despite an increased demand from customers – we are still seeing issues. Luckily there are ways of fixing the most common ones…
Mac Can't Connect to iCloud and “Unknown Error Occurred”
Sometimes you may see an error message reading, “This Mac can't connect to iCloud because of a problem with [firstname.lastname@example.org]” leading to iCloud preferences. While some users are able to log in to iCloud on a Mac without any issues, others have encountered another similar error message stating “An unknown error occurred”, or even the endlessly spinning beach ball. This signals that the computer is likely stuck in an infinite loop of iCloud login failures, and as a result is preventing functionality and all iCloud-related apps from working.
Fix: It should go without saying that the first thing to do in this kind of situation is to check Apple's system-status page and, more specifically, whether iCloud is down or not. If the service is down, you should wait until it is back up and running to see if the problem persists. If it does remain, follow the steps mentioned below:
- Quit all iCloud-related apps, such as FaceTime, Messages, Mail and the like.
- Restart the Mac as usual. If your Mac is refusing to reboot, you can force it to restart by pressing the power button until it shuts down, and press it again to boot back up.
- Remove iCloud configuration files:
- In Finder, press Command + Shift + G and paste the following path in the right field: ~/Library/Application Support/iCloud/Accounts/
- Copy the files found in this location to somewhere safe and then move the originals to the trash.
- You will likely need to login again to iCloud after restarting the Mac.
Can't Sign in to iCloud Due to an Authentication Request
This usually happens when you are trying to log into the Mac as a standard user, which then leaves that user without administrator privileges. In this case you will get an authentication alert saying, “System Preferences is trying to modify the Directory Services configuration”.
Fix: If you know the administrator's name and password, simply enter them in when prompted. Otherwise, you can always log in as an administrator on OS X Lion 10.7.5 or later by clicking on the Apple menu and selecting “Log Out [username]” and typing in the admin username and password into the right fields of the login screen.
Account Not Verified – Check Your Email
If you get the “Account not verified – check your email for instructions for verifying your account” message while trying to sign into iCloud, follow these steps:
- Close and reopen the iCloud preferences window before you try to log into iCloud again.
- Check the Mail app (or the mailing app that you are using) for an email from Apple – but be sure to check it landed in your junk folder.
- If you can't find the email, just click on the “Resend Verification Email” button in iCloud preferences.
iCloud Drive Files Stuck Uploading
If you are using an older Mac (OS X El Capitan 10.11 or earlier) in addition to another Mac that is using the latest operating system, the likeliness of running into synchronization problems is pretty high.
Fix: Allocate time (probably hours!) for a phone call with Apple support. Apparently, in some cases it is a software issue, so an Apple agent can advise you on which apps to eventually remove. For other users, disabling and re-enabling iCloud has worked, but as a warning this will erase all files in the iCloud Drive folder. But this requires a backup, especially for those documents stuck in the syncing process.
Sync problems are potentially caused by large files that are slow to upload to iCloud. You can always use a Mac optimization app to remove large files after backing them up with Time Machine to both save space and re-energize that stuck iCloud sync.
Still, there is quite some work that Apple has left to do on the syncing side of its iCloud service.
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