How do I separate iCloud Drive from Desktop and Documents?

I accidentally clicked on an option to have iCloud store all of the desktop files, then all of the sudden, iCloud ran out of storage.

I got rid of iCloud Drive but all my files disappeared off the desktop. Luckily, I was able to restore them through iCloud.

Now I am looking for a way to have iCloud and the Desktop back to default behavior (separate) - without deleting all my files. How do I do that?

Side question:
If I used TimeMachine with iCloud backing up my desktop, all files on the desktop would also be copied to TimeMachine, right?

  • This article is a fantastic starting point for you. It walks you through the steps required to achieve the desired result. – ProGrammer Feb 14 '18 at 5:40

To answer your first question:

Deactivate storing your Desktop & Document files in iCloud by doing the following:

Click Apple Menu (in the upper left corner of the menu bar) -> System Preferences -> iCloud -> Click Options (next to iCloud Drive) -> Uncheck Desktop & Documents Folders -> Turn Off -> Done.

What may seem counterintuitive is that your files are still stored in the iCloud ( which is perhaps why you thought you lost them).

To retrieve your files, you should open Finder and navigate to iCloud Drive, and then to the Documents folder within iCloud Drive. You should then manually transfer or copy the files from that directory to the local Documents directory on your computer. You should then do that same with your Desktop folder.

Answer to your second question here: Does Time Machine backup iCloud Drive files that are not stored locally?


First of all: after ticking off the iCloud Drive box in iCloud preferences in macOS, you should be presented with the option to either delete the copies from your Mac, OR leave a copy on your Mac...

If not (which would be strange) you can, before disabling iCloud Drive, move you files from your Desktop and Documents folder to folders with the same names (to help you distinguish them) outside of the synced Documents and Desktop folders. That could be a newly made folder in your Home folder (a level higher). While moving, iCloud Drive will warn you that these files will be delete from iCloud (which is exactly what your want).

After the proces, you can disable iCloud Drive.

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