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Apple’s iCloud Drive is a cloud storage service that’s ideal for Apple users. Although not as good as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, there’s still a lot to see here. As with all Apple products, integration is flawless, ensuring a rich user experience.

What Is Apple iCloud Drive?

Apple’s iCloud Drive is a cloud-based file storage and syncing service that is mostly designed for use with other Apple devices and apps. However, it can still be used as a web browser or with non-Apple computers. iCloud Drive is simply the folder-syncing part of Apple’s cloud service, iCloud.

Once you start up iCloud Drive, all of your files get automatically synced to any and all devices that are signed in using your account. This includes all iOS devices and Macs, as well as Windows PCs.

The only exception is Android. So if you’re hoping to incorporate iCloud Drive with, say, your Samsung smartphone, you’ll have to use a different cloud service. Apple’s iCloud Drive allows you to make folders for all of your files while providing online storage for Apple’s many productivity apps, such as Keynote, Pages, and Numbers.

What’s more, iCloud Drive is incredibly well-designed. Although it’s not quite as capable as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, iCloud Drive is still a breeze to use, especially if you’re used to Apple’s operations.

So, who is iCloud Drive for? Well, if you regularly use an Apple device and are reasonably versed in Apple’s office productivity apps, you’ll find iCloud Drive to be an appealing companion. This is largely due to the fact that it integrates so well with them. Plus, it supports all of Apple’s platforms.

Its integration with Apple’s robust ecosystem is near-perfect. So much so that you may have used it and not even known it. And as mentioned, you can use iCloud Drive reasonably well with Windows-based computers and on the internet.

But again, Android users will be better off sticking with Google’s Drive or Microsoft’s OneDrive. You’ll get many of the same features anyway, so it’s not like you’ll be missing anything. Plus, most agree that those two offer more than iCloud Drive.

Ease of Use

You need at least Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or iOS 8 to use Apple iCloud Drive. And if you’re on a PC, you’ll need at least Windows 7. And because iCloud Drive apps aren’t offered on Android, Apple’s cloud service is less versatile than Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive.

If you’re wanting to set up iCloud Drive on a Windows PC, doing so is as easy as any other syncing service. First, you’ll need to download and install the iCloud control panel app. This serves to let you create iCloud Drive and Photos folders under your computer’s main user folder. Once installed, you’re ready to start syncing. Therefore, you’ll have to create an Apple ID account or sign in to an existing one.

Whenever you install iCloud Drive, you’ll get a system tray icon, as well. From there, you’ll be able to access and open special folders. Please note that these are made up of custom icons, not typical folder-sharing icons.

Any files that you choose to add to your new iCloud Drive folder (or subfolders) will now appear on all other iOS devices and computers that have iCloud Drive enabled (you will, however, have to be signed in to be detected).

If you own a Mac, it’s important to note that iCloud functions slightly differently. As such, it isn’t quite as straightforward as other popular syncing services. However, since iCloud Drive is part of the operating system, you don’t have to download or install any apps.

If you’re running a new Mac, its initial setup activation will automatically walk you through the configuration of iCloud. But if you need to enable it on its own, you’ll have to go into the System Preferences, then choose iCloud. From there, you’ll have to sign in with your Apple ID and select “iCloud Drive.”

After doing this, you will see an icon under Favorites in Finder. This is a lot like a connected drive or folder. What’s more, iCloud Drive can also act as a backup. To use it as such, simply navigate to Preferences and check “Desktop & Documents.”

From there, you’ll be able to drag files to your new iCloud Drive, manage the local documents folder, and create sub-folders. And if you use Keynote or other Apple apps that make use of iCloud Drive for its storage, you will see associated folders have appeared, as well.

The only downside of this is that you can’t see iPhone backups and other data that might be using your storage. As such, you don’t get an accurate reading of how much space is truly left. You’ll have to go elsewhere to find this information. Fortunately, it isn’t too difficult.

Over at iCloud’s System Preferences, you can see exactly how much storage is being used and where. To do this, simply hover your mouse over any storage progress bar (with the colored blocks). From there, you’ll be able to see what’s using your iCloud Drive storage.

Once you’re in this setting, you’ll also be able to choose whether to include data that are associated with other programs that are presently installed on your system. This is ideal for things like Preview, TextEdit, QuickTime Player, and so on.

Apple Photos is handled separately. This is due to it being under iCloud rather than iCloud Drive. That said, you can always upload your images directly to iCloud Drive. However, they will still use up the same storage.

Understandably, some users get confused over the differences between iCloud Drive and standard iCloud. To simplify things, Photos, Notes, Reminders, and Contacts all get backed up to iCloud. Your data from TextEdit, Mail, and iMovie is located in iCloud Drive.

With that said, there is a problem with how fast your free allotment gets eaten up. This is especially the case if you’ve chosen to sync your Mac and iPhone. And it won’t take long for additional storage alert messages to start showing up on your computer and phone.

You will therefore need to choose to stop device backups or upgrade to one of the other storage plans. As you can imagine, you’re not given many other viable solutions to combat this storage limit concern. And as such, you’re pretty much forced to take Apple up on its upgrade option.

Another notable absence is the ability to save versions. This becomes especially noticeable when you compare iCloud Drive to Google Drive or any other cloud storage solution services. You’ll almost always find a way to save versions, but not so with iCloud Drive.

Features

One thing that is likely to appeal to many users is the fact that iCloud isn’t weighed down with a bunch of useless features. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Apple iCloud instead focuses on giving its users a relatively streamlined cloud service.

With that said, there are likely to be just as many users looking for something with more features. If that’s your preference, you might want to look into Google Suite.

Now, although Apple iCloud isn’t exactly robust, it has the uncanny ability to work so well that you never even notice it’s there. And if you’re a Windows user, you get a handy desktop client that lets you sync folders and files from your computer’s desktop.

Not only that, but there’s also a nice web-based interface that gives you even more options to work with, as well as the ability to use file sharing with other users.

As with all Apple products, iCloud excels in its security. With it, you’re offered two-factor authentication during log-in for greater protection. You can also use it to store a litany of different file types, including DOCX, PSD, PDF, and PPTX.

As touched on earlier, the only drawback here is the fact that there isn’t Android support. Sure, there’s a serious lack of advanced features to mess around with, but Android support would have been a nice addition.

So you won’t find an app available for iCloud Drive on Google’s Play Store. Furthermore, trying to use iCloud’s web interface on mobile devices is an exercise in patience. So for many users, that’s out, too.

Interface

Whether or not you’ve noticed it, if you’re an Apple user, iCloud is a core feature that comes built into your operating system. As such, your folders, files, and app data is automatically synced with the cloud. You don’t have to do anything special to get this to happen, as it’s all part of the Apple experience.

There also isn’t a separate iCloud app to be found on Apple devices. This is because it’s ingeniously worked into the cloud ecosystem. Moreover, you’ll also find iCloud Drive to be a part of your system. As a section within iCloud, you can use Drive to store whatever files and folders you choose. And you can do it in just about any format.

If you’re a Windows user, you don’t be able to sync just any file you please to iCloud. You can, however, use the previously mentioned desktop client to sync to the cloud. Once again, Android users are left out in the cold here, as there isn’t an official app or client.

Instead, you have to navigate via the web interface, which again, is a cumbersome, tiring venture that is better left alone than attempted. Seriously, there are many other cloud storage service options available that will serve you well.

In fact, better than iCloud Drive. Check out Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or any of the other available cloud storage services. You won’t be disappointed.

Apple iCloud Drive Pricing Overview

If you’re an existing Apple user with an iOS device, Apple iCloud initially gives you 5GB of free storage. In fact, this is the exact same amount of storage that you get with Microsoft OneDrive as a new user.

Keep in mind that other iCloud services are counted against your 5GB allotment, not just your iCloud Drive files. This includes any of your photos, as well as backups of your Apple devices, such as an iPhone or iPad.

If you don’t have an Apple device and you want to use iCloud Drive, you only get 1GB of free storage. If you’re like most people, 1GB isn’t going to get you anywhere. As such, you’ll need to upgrade your basic plan to one of the paid monthly plan accounts.

These plans start at 50GB for $0.99 a month. If you need more storage than 50GB, $2.99 will bump you up to 200GB. Finally, for $9.99 a month, you get 2TB of storage space. By comparison, Google’s One pricing plans mirror Apple’s pricing structure.

Ironically, Apple recently introduced “Apple One.” Sound familiar? This service essentially acts just like Google One, where all of the pricing plans are lumped under one umbrella. And in case you were wondering, Google One has been out since 2018, whereas Apple One rolled out in 2020.

Under Apple One, you get access to Apple’s other digital media services, like Apple Music, Apple TV+, or Arcade. Plans start at $14.95 a month for a single user. With it, you get all of the aforementioned services, plus 50GB of iCloud storage. Honestly, one would expect to get more than just 50GB for $15 a month.

If you want the Apple One Family Plan, it’ll cost you an extra $5 a month. So for $19.95 per month, you’ll be able to share with five users, along with 200GB storage. And then there’s the Premier plan, which costs $29.95 a month.

Things look better here, as you get 2TB of storage, as well as access to Apple Fitness+ and News+. It’s worth noting that these plans offer decent savings when you compare them to purchasing each service separately.

However, you don’t get a discount for signing up on an annual plan. If you’re familiar with other cloud storage services like Google Drive, you do get this discount. It’s another example of Apple’s iCloud Drive not quite measuring up to the competition.

That said, iCloud Drive is still fairly comparable to Google’s Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive, largely because all three are juggernauts in the cloud storage industry.

For comparison, Google Drive starts you off with 15GB of storage. Although what actually counts against your data allotment can be tricky at times, it’s still leaps and bounds better than Apple’s 1GB and 5GB offerings.

Security and Privacy

As mentioned, Apple’s security and privacy are incredible. Although there isn’t client-side encryption, the rest of the protection and privacy features are world-class and better than just about any other service.

Any data that you have stored on the cloud is encrypted, with iCloud featuring two-factor authentication. This is a must-have security measure for anyone who values their privacy. If you choose to activate this option, you’ll not only have to enter your user name and password to log in but also a special real-time code that Apple sends to your registered device.

Without it, you won’t be able to access your account. It’s highly recommended that you activate this feature and keep it turned on at all times.

Customer Support

Apple iCloud gives you access to a comprehensive support system. It is complete with an extensive knowledge base that is chock-full of helpful information. You can also access Apple’s community forum and call into customer service (available during regular working hours).

If you’re a Premium member, you get access to even more features, such as online chat support and a 24-hour hotline. Being a Premium member just means you own an Apple device, such as a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Pros

The user interface is your typical Apple fare, which is to say excellent. iCloud Drive is a breeze to navigate and use, making it ideal for those who are unfamiliar with cloud service in general and need to learn the ropes.

And like other Apple products, integration is seamless. Regardless of the Apple device you’re using, you’re going to find that iCloud Drive is a cinch to use. So much so that you might not even know it’s there.

Cons

The free storage that is offered is pretty paltry compared to the competition. And if you’re not an Apple user with an Apple device, it’s even worse (only 1GB).

There’s still no Android support to speak of. Yes, you can always use Apple’s web interface, but it’s virtually unusable on a small screen.

Alternatives

There are a plethora of alternatives available for you to try out, especially if you’re an Android user. Google Drive is a phenomenal cloud storage service, with lots of goodies and features that you won’t find on Apple iCloud Drive.

And if you’re a Windows user, Microsoft OneDrive works incredibly well for a comprehensive cloud storage experience. Just as files app options from Apple work flawlessly with Apple devices, the same is true for Windows and OneDrive.

Another option is IDrive. This is a cloud storage solution that offers cheap service and tons of features to keep you busy. There are many other apps worth checking out, but these are the top three.

FAQ

Is iCloud Drive any good?

If you’re an avid Apple user, yes. There’s enough here to ensure a seamless user experience, although those looking for robust features might want to look elsewhere.

Is iCloud Drive reliable?

Quite so. Apple excels at delivering working software with little hiccups along the way. As an Apple user, you’re going to feel right at home with iCloud Drive. Even newcomers will appreciate the reliability and ease-of-use of iCloud Drive. It’s the perfect service to test the waters of cloud storage, although the free storage offerings are a bit paltry.

How safe is iCloud Drive?

Very much so. Apple dominates in the security category. When you use any Apple product or service, iCloud Drive included, you can trust that you’re getting a safe experience that protects your privacy.

In fact, iCloud Drive is safer than many other cloud storage services. If you’re at all concerned with your privacy and data, you can’t go wrong with choosing iCloud Drive.

Is Apple iCloud Drive free?

Yes. As a new user who already owns an Apple device, you get 5GB of free storage. But if you’re not an Apple user and you don’t own an Apple device, you only get 1GB of free storage.

How much does iCloud Drive cost?

For $0.99 a month, you get 50GB of cloud storage. For $2.99 a month, you can bump that up to 200GB of cloud storage. If you need even more storage space on the cloud, $9.99 a month will get you 2TB.

This is comparable to Google Drive and many other cloud storage solutions. So if you’re looking for the best deal on cloud storage, it’s about the same across the board as the competition.

Is it worth paying for Apple iCloud storage?

As long as you’re already an existing Apple device user, Apple iCloud Drive is a viable option. You’ll find that it works seamlessly with other Apple platforms, giving you a rich user experience that you barely even notice is there.

However, non-Apple users can find better options for their needs. Although the pricing is about the same, you’ll get many other features not offered on iCloud Drive. So if you’re one who appreciates having a lot of features to tinker around with, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive will serve you well with plenty to keep you busy.

Are iCloud and iCloud Drive the same thing?

iCloud Drive is the files and folder subset of iCloud.

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Anthony Cornell

Anthony Cornell is a freelance technology journalist. He reviews educational software and writes in-depth online course reviews from popular e-learning platforms. You can reach Anthony at anthony@learnacourseonline.com

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