Is there a way to sync/save OSX's own settings, preferences, etc to iCloud?

I use OSX El Capitan.

  • 1
    Update from 2020: when you open System Preferences -> Apple ID -> iCloud Drive (on the right pane) you can see System preferences.app. I searched alot about that and enden up talking with apple's support. They told me that this setting allows to sync Universal Access settings and things like the fact that terms of use were accepted (shown when accessing first time to some apple's apps). I asked about hotkeys settings in Keyboard menu - they told me that it is not synced. The only way to transfer all settings (they told) is to use Time machine and restore its image on the new machine.
    – Arkemlar
    May 9, 2020 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


In short: No, not easily.

There is no officially sanctioned or supported way to sync your preferences to any cloud service.

A longer version: Maybe, but it will be unsafe and prone to breakage.

While you might have some limited success symlinking either folders or individual files into a cloud storage provider's folder, I would advise against it.

  • You cannot be sure what operating system upgrades would do to them
  • You cannot be sure what happens if you accidentally remove the cloud folder and the settings are either no longer there or point to locations which are no longer valid.
  • You risk leaking credentials or tokens (think non-browser cookies used for authentication) to said cloud service if things are not properly secured.
  • You might - for some reason - come across the idea of syncing these files with another Mac at the same time, e.g. to keep settings synced amongst all your machines. I don't want to think about what happens when you start having multiple settings files with "conflicted copy of X-2015-04-02" or similar.
  • You don't know exactly when these files get written to. If there are changes on shutdown, you'll not be able to sync those files until next start. By then, if using two Macs, you'll already have introduced conflicts.

Disclosure: I have synced some user folders myself this way, but only very specific items (e.g. my customized Sublime Text things). However, even with such limited setups I've had problems. (For example the license I own didn't get properly synced without tweaks.)


I use Mackup – it works great, and supports iCloud (as well as DropBox, Google Drive, etc.)

But I highly recommend you configure it to ONLY backup the apps/settings you want. Otherwise it can make a big mess of your system.

Read the README! Especially "Only sync one or two applications"

(Its default configuration is to backup ALL the apps it supports, which in my experience is a bad idea.)

  • I totally agree about the warning! For this reason I've had in my mental to-do list to make a better syncing tool, but it's not such a high priority because Mackup actually does work, although not satisfactorily. Another problem I had was with it syncing vim settings and breaking the relative paths in .vimrc that referred to other files. I think the general strategy of symlinking is a bad one because of this problem, but it's still useful if you know about the pitfalls it has.
    – iconoclast
    Jun 7, 2021 at 17:03

use SyncSettings

It does a great job and it is really easy to setup.

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