Computer owners are always looking for ways of saving space, especially those with only a 128GB MacBook. There’s a number of neat tricks to save space, but utilizing iCloud Drive is especially useful – and for more than just clearing up disk space, too. It can save gigabytes of disk space, true, but also makes all contained files and folders available on every single device you own, be it desktop or mobile. It's the built-in Mac optimization tool that has become more and more integrated into the macOS and iOS since Apple first announced it.
Since macOS Sierra and later, iCloud Drive has had the power to save disk space on the Mac and move content to the cloud while still ensuring it is available as and when it is needed. The file remains where it was last saved and automatically downloads when you double-click to open it. Those files that were used recently remain on the Mac, while photos won't be stored at full resolution, but their storage-optimized version.
Which Files Are Stored in iCloud Drive?
In iCloud Preferences the settings can be checked for how a wide range of files – such as Document files, iMovie videos or Mail messages – are stored in iCloud, depending on your storage limitations both on the desktop and in the cloud. Files that are stored in the cloud will be highlighted as such with a download icon.
All original, full-resolution photos and videos are stored in iCloud Photo Library, and when the Mac is running out of disk space, only optimized versions of photos are kept on the machine. If you need the original file, just open it.
When signing up for iCloud, Apple allocates to you 5GB of iCloud Drive storage for free. That's enough for very light users, but the average user will run out of cloud storage space quite quickly. More iCloud storage comes at a price, of course: Apple charges $0.99 per month for 50GB, $2.99 per month for 200GB, and $9.99 per month for 2TB.
iCloud Storage vs Hardware Upgrade
The Mac's storage capacity is limited only by your budget at the moment of purchase, but even so, after using the machine for a short time you will soon realize how quickly it fills up. At this point there are two options: either start saving some money for a hardware upgrade or tap into the iCloud Drive offer and choose a subscription plan. But is it worth it?
It all comes down to whether you choose a hard drive or a solid-state disk. Upgrading your Mac's storage to a 1TB HDD is way cheaper than paying for 1TB of iCloud storage in the long run. The cheapest 1TB HDDs start from $67.75 at OWC, a reliable Apple seller. This means having all your files to hand without having to rent space for $9.99 per month from Apple. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration the stress of upgrading… but that's a price you need to pay if you decide to keep all your files locally and not rent space from Apple.
This is a completely different picture if you are eyeing up an SSD upgrade. The equivalent storage capacity costs $351.75 for an iMac upgrade bundle and $649 for the drive alone to use in a MacBook Pro. The latter means you won’t see a return on the investment for more than five years.
Why Use iCloud Drive
After using iCloud Drive both on mobile and desktop, it's hard to accept the limits of local storage. It is good to keep your files on a hard drive that you own, for privacy reasons, but it’s possible that this drive could fail, and so having a copy of those files is highly useful. This can either be by storing them in the iCloud Drive or on a Time Machine drive.
Copying Files to iCloud Drive Using Terminal Commands
The cp command enables users to copy files to iCloud Drive using Terminal. This is mostly done by advanced users, but you can try it yourself if you want a taste of the Terminal app.
In our example, we are going to copy a file called “bestreviews_icloud_test.zip” from the desktop to the main directory of this service.
cp ~/Desktop/bestreviews_icloud_test.zip ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/
Still, most users will move files to iCloud Drive using Finder since it is more user friendly. And that's alright; we love using that GUI, too.
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