The Store in iCloud function that was introduced with macOS Sierra looks interesting to try out. It will store both the Desktop and the Documents folders in iCloud Drive instead of on the local drive.

I want it to store only the Desktop folder in iCloud, and not the Documents folder. Is this possible?

I noticed that by turning On and Off the Store in iCloud function, the files that had already been transfered to iCloud Drive (when the function was originally turned On) stayed there – and empty folders called Desktop — Local and Documents — Local were created in the user home directory.

So is it possible to make use of this circumstance, to keep only Desktop files in the iCloud? Will applications that make use of the Documents folder decide to use the iCloud folder or the local folder?

Update MacOS Catalina:

I don't think toxefa's answer below is working anymore with macOS Catalina. Upgrading the OS created a new empty Desktop folder in the user home directory. I tried deleting that Desktop folder via Terminal (rm -rf /Users/<yourusername>/Desktop) and then created a symlink per the answer ln -s /Users/<yourusername>/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Desktop /Users/<yourusername>/Desktop, but after reboot the symlink is gone and a new empty Desktop folder is always created in the home directory.

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    Also in the documents folder there's a bunch of stuff I'll never need on any other device. I.e. some video games or Adobe are using it to store data.
    – fancy
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 13:52
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    @fancy Not to mention that games etc will store user configurations here that can conflict with another computer's settings.
    – P A N
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 13:54
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    Have you considered renaming your Documents folder to something else? As far as I am aware there isn't anything particularly special about the Documents folder. You could have a Documents folder and a LocalDocuments folder and populate as required....
    – MichaelR
    Commented Jan 12, 2017 at 2:33
  • Consider creating a "Documents II" folder, and keeping all the stuff you want local-only in there. Habit will cause you to use it routinely after a while. Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 20:19

3 Answers 3


Doesn't look like there's a way to single out the Desktop via the 'Manage Storage' GUI.

However, you can always just symlink any directory from your iCloud drive; that way you can ensure that only the Desktop folder is being synced. This is with the caveat that while your Desktop files are being stored in iCloud, they're still taking up space on your HD before, during, and after sync. If you do it on every Mac then you'll keep your Desktop in sync between them all (files added, deleted, changed etc); this might not be what you're after though.

If symlinking isn't something you know how to do, instructions are below.

Backup (via TimeMachine or whatever you use).

Then fire up Terminal and run the following to move your Desktop folder into your iCloud Drive:

mv ~/Desktop /Users/<yourusername>/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/

Then just symlink it to the usual 'Desktop' location:

ln -s /Users/<yourusername>/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Desktop /Users/<yourusername>/Desktop

Now anything that you add to ~/Desktop (by dropping things onto your desktop etc) will actually be dropped into your iCloud drive. They are of course still taking up local space on your machine. When you delete something from your desktop then it's gone from the 'Cloud' as well. The benefits of this are more for sync between machines (+ access via your iPhone of course).

If you've got another mac, move anything you value from it's desktop folder into your iCloud Drive 'Desktop' folder first, then delete ~/Desktop on that machine and symlink again as above.

  • Thanks, I tried this but strangely after symlinking, I got two aliases on the local Desktop named ⤴Desktop and ⤴Mobile instead of the contents of the Desktop folder now in iCloud. The aliases doesn't lead anywhere.
    – P A N
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:12
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    @Winterflags did you escape the spaces in the filepaths as in my answer? A 'Mobile' folder would suggest you didn't use a backslash.. also make sure you use full paths (i.e. starting /Users/).
    – toxefa
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:16
  • You're right – there was a missing escape character. Thanks :)
    – P A N
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:23
  • No idea why Apple named the folder with a space - it can be a real nightmare in Bash files. If you've ever tried to keep Python virtualenvs in sync via iCloud you will know this well!
    – toxefa
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:26
  • It seems like you will need to add "sudo" in the first command after high sierra.
    – Rho
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 13:38

Move all (or some of) your documents to a newly created Local Documents folder in you home folder. Only an empty Documents folder will get synced.

This is suggested by Gary at Macmost.com.

ps. : This will not work for the reverse problem of syncing Documents but not Desktop at the Desktop folder is rather a special one.


Why not just enable iCloud and empty out your Documents folder before you enable syncing? You can make a myDocuments folder that won’t sync or another name. Changing your system agains the clear design intent can and likely will yield instability or breakage when Apple ships updates. As you see, it's already broken once and I hope someone reverse engineers this for science (so we can all learn how this is implemented), but this seems quite contrived of an example if you are going to enable iCloud sync in the first place.

I would just let the system have the empty folder it wants to sync on Catalina and be in awe that it worked in the past.

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