I want to add my Downloads folder to my iCloud Drive so that it can sync just like Sierra syncs with the Documents and Desktop folder.

Can this be done?

  • 1
    Look into symbolic links. Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 5:20

5 Answers 5


Similar answer to one of the others, but in this case I've used a symbolic link to do this rather than use the GUI to create an apple 'Alias', just to be sure it works in all cases.

Rather than add the original Downloads folder into iCloud, I've relied on the standard 'Documents and Desktop' sync option provided by Apple in iCloud without messing around in the background where those files are accessible (~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/) as I'm not confident that adding links in there is a good idea long term.

In terminal (or iTerm2 if you want a more customisable terminal):

  1. Create a 'Downloads' folder in your 'Documents' directory (if you haven't already): mkdir ~/Documents/Downloads
  2. Copy (or move as with this example) your files from the old (presumed to be in ~/Downloads directory to the new Downloads directory: mv ~/Downloads ~/Documents/Downloads
  3. Delete your old Downloads folder (this should require your password, and presumes you are logged in as an administrator): sudo rm -rf ~/Downloads/
  4. Create a symbolic link to your new Downloads folder: ln -s ~/Documents/Downloads ~/Downloads

All those commands again, but without all the extra words :)

mkdir ~/Documents/Downloads
mv ~/Downloads ~/Documents/Downloads
sudo rm -rf ~/Downloads/
ln -s ~/Documents/Downloads ~/Downloads

You will probably have to drag the new Downloads link (or folder) in Finder to the Favourites section/left menu if you want it to display there once more.

  • Are you simply deleting the original downloads folder so you are not redundantly storing data twice? If you did not delete the original ~/Downloads folder and you downloaded, say a pdf from chrome to ~/Downloads, would the data be stored in both the original downloads folder and the sym linked downloads folder? After you delete ~/Downloads would you have to edit your default path for downloads to the sym linked downloads folder, or is the original still there in the background somewhere and that’s how it knows to work?
    – mturch
    Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 6:16
  • @mturchin its a 'replace' rather than 'duplicate' - the OS thinks its the original folder in the original location (so no need to edit default paths for the downloads folder), but its now located in the iCloud via the Documents folder. The third command is the one deleting the old Downloads folder, and the fourth command is the one creating the presentation of the new folder in the original location, even though its not physically there...
    – keba
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 0:01
  • This is a great answer. To add to it, there is a Service called SymbolicLinker that will allow you to create symbolic links from the Finder. I don't know of a utility that will allow you to delete protected folders without using the Terminal, but surely there is one. Anyone heard of one?
    – Calion
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 13:47
  • Excellent. If anyone is admin for managed accounts (not sudo-ers) that you're doing this for (me, for my kids' Minecraft, etc. saved folders under ~/Library) you will need to (assuming "admin" is an account with admin privileges) change this slightly: mkdir ~/Documents/Downloads mv ~/Downloads ~/Documents/Downloads su admin sudo rm -rf ~/Downloads/ sudo ln -s ~/Documents/Downloads ~/Downloads With so much application data and states under ~/Library, am surprised that Apple hasn't included a mechanism to also sync user-specific Library items to iCloud as well.
    – storsoc
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 20:53
  • 1
    should add a chmod -h 700 ~/Downloads to make the symlink's permissions equal to the old Downloads folder (fixes issues with system services, shortcuts, airdrop) Commented Jul 8, 2021 at 13:45

You could create an 'Alias' of your 'Downloads' folder and move it to iCloud Drive.

To do this:

  • Launch Finder and locate your 'Downloads' folder
  • Right-click on your 'Downloads' folder and select 'Make Alias'
  • Drag the new alias to 'iCloud Drive' in the Finder sidebar (You'll notice the animated pie graph icon filling up to the right of 'iCloud Drive' in the Finder window as it syncs)

You can now remove the word 'Alias' from the name of the folder in iCloud drive if you'd like. There is no real technical reason for it to be there other than to remind you that it's an alias and not the original folder.

  • 9
    This only uploads the alias file to iCloud Drive and not the contents of my Downloads folder. :/
    – Tre S
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 2:15
  • @TreS I just tried my steps again in case I missed something and it's working perfectly for me. It's uploaded all contents of my Downloads folder including all sub-folders. I even went as far as to download a few new files to test and everything new that I download immediately syncs with the Downloads folder alias in iCloud Drive as well. What is the exact version of macOS Sierra that you are running?
    – NYKg
    Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 5:18
  • 1
    I do confirm @TreS is correct. Only the alias but the contents is uploaded.
    – Wayne Liu
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 2:10
  • 2
    Same here. I think @NYKg has put the actual Downloads folder in iCloud and keep the Alias on his personal home folder.
    – John Pang
    Commented Oct 22, 2017 at 21:04
  • Is creating this alias folder going to store the data twice though? Will the data be stored in both ~/Downloads and the new Downloads Alias Folder as well?
    – mturch
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 7:40

Here's how I did it on mine.

You have to understand that as of September 24, 2017, iCloud only allows Desktop and Documents folder to stored on iCloud. Eg. you cannot select yet additional folders you want to be synced to iCloud.

So, I chose to sync my Downloads folder by storing it in Documents folder because had I put it in iCloud-synced Desktop folder, the Downloads folder would be visible on my Desktop.

The Downloads folder is protected by macOS from changes (such as a rename on Finder), but if you can use the Terminal app to circumvent this.

  1. Open Finder, and go to iCloud-synced Documents folder
  2. Manually create a folder named Downloads
  3. Move all your files in the original Downloads folder into this newly created Downloads folder located under Documents folder
  4. Create a symbolic link for the newly-created Downloads folder (keyboard shortcut is: Command + L). It will be automatically be named Downloads alias by macOS
  5. Put the newly-created Download alias under your home directory. Eg. /Users/your-user-name
  6. Using the Terminal app, delete Downloads folder
  7. Now, you can rename Downloads alias as Downloads

Now, all files saved through Downloads (alias) will be stored under iCloud-synced Documents/Downloads folder.

  • 1
    You are mixing up symbolic links and Apple's aliases. Command + L makes alias, not a symbolic link. However, your approach does works, whether using a regular UNIX symbolic link or an Apple alias. Commented Oct 14, 2017 at 5:45

Using Aliases and Symbolic Links may not work. On one of my Mac's, Finder replaced the symbolic link with an empty folder upon reboot. The only way I've been able to consistently do this is to create a directory hard-link. This is not possible with the default OS X command line as ln won't work if you're doing a hard-link to directories.

In order to do this, you need to install Brew and install the hardlink-osx package. Though, before doing so one should consult this question from Ask Ubuntu, as I think this function is disabled in all versions of the ln command. Now, I had issues even with a hard link because the operating system did not notify the sync agent that a file in ~/Documents/Downloads had been altered because the OS call to the file system was for ~/Downloads and sometimes the sync finder extension did not seem to let the iCloud sync engine know there were changes to upload when a new file was downloaded or modified.


preferences>icloud>options and check the box for "Desktop & Documents Folders"

Drag "Downloads" onto the desktop.


  • If you do this, macOS won't use the moved Downloads folder as its File Download Location.
    – Merchako
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 7:21

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