I have a file on my desktop that is now synced with iCloud using the new feature of macOS.

I would like to delete it, but keep a copy of it in the iCloud.

I am nervous that if I simply delete it from my Mac, it will also be deleted in iCloud.

Is there a way to keep the iCloud copy, but delete the local copy?

For example, here are two directories on my desktop, one is only in the cloud, the other is both in the cloud and saved locally:

enter image description here

I would like to make the Personal Docs folder become like the Datasets folder

  • 1
    Move the file to iCloud drive. There’s no selective syncing of ~/Desktop and ~/Documents AFAIK
    – njboot
    Oct 7, 2016 at 23:33

4 Answers 4


macOS Catalina (10.15) has this feature:

Right click on a file or folder in iCloud, there are either:

  • "Download Now": Download the iCloud file
  • "Remove Download": Remove the file locally (keeps it in iCloud)
  • 1
    What version of OS do you have? I am on 10.15.7 and it seems I don't get this option. Using find . -type f -name "*.icloud" -exec brctl download {} \; worked though. The folder of iCloud is in ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/.
    – George
    Oct 20, 2020 at 13:51
  • This also works smoothly on Monterey.
    – may
    Nov 20, 2021 at 3:33
  • How can I re-download a "remoced download"?
    – Can Rau
    Jan 3, 2023 at 2:22

As Andreas mentioned in his answer, brctl evict purges the files. But for me, it seems to work permanently. Even purges recursively through folders. Maybe it is because I purged 40GB of data, hard for iCloud to reset in a heartbeat

>brctl evict SuperBigNestedFolder
evicted content of 'SuperBigNestedFolder/'


BUT, when iCloud evicts the files it also throws away all metadata. This cripples Spotlight by removing the ability to search for text found inside popular file formats such as word, pdf, pages, keynote, or txt.


A nice finder extension does the trick~



I have done some testing with this in macOS Sierra, but i hit a brick wall. There is the brctl command line tool. See man brctl. The option evict looked promising to me. So i tried it:

brctl evict test2.txt 
evicted content of 'test2.txt'

Well the problem is... this only works temporarily. At some point iCloud deamon (bird?) decides to re-download the files. One possibility would be to monitor brctl monitor -i and/or sudo brctl log -w and re-evict the stuff. I found no other way of stopping the re-download. Of course one could stop the deamon, but that's not really practical.

  • you can use Automator Folder Action to run the shell script
    – Maciek Rek
    May 6, 2019 at 21:55

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