My intention is to store movies. First I tried adding them to iTunes but if I'm not mistaken, those movies will never be cloud-only unless they were bought through iTunes itself.

My next approach is to store them in iCloud. I know from other files on my computer that they are only a "proxy" for the actual file and that the actual file will be downloaded when needed.

However since the files I'm moving around are movies, they're quite storage-intensive, and I'd love if I could tell iCloud "please just upload them and don't mind the local copy", but I can only choose to force-download them, and not force-delete-the-local-copy, as far as I can tell.

Is there a way to make this happen more readily?

I'm using Mojave 10.14.2 (18C54).

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    iCloud is a sync solution and it's not intended as a storage solution (like Dropbox). You will not be able to keep an iCloud only file as it will by synced across all devices with that same Apple ID. – fsb Dec 12 '18 at 16:20
  • (you probably mean "cloud-only" file instead of "icloud only") I would find it okay if it the file is synced across all devices. I do know that it does keep some files as cloud-only. – jleeothon Dec 12 '18 at 16:23
  • The only solution that works and it is 100% under your control is to buy a USB cable external drive to store your files and it costs way less then iCloud storage. If you want to go fancy you can make it local network drive. – Ruskes Dec 12 '18 at 16:27
  • No, I mean "iCloud-only" as written. iCloud only does file syncing and not cloud-only file storage. Whatever is in iCloud is synced across your devices and I thought you didn't want that? – fsb Dec 12 '18 at 16:29

macOS and iOS make the decision for you. The OSes use a combination of factors such as file size, how recently used files are, and quantity of free space on your device's storage in order to determine which files become cloud-only. Here's the description from Apple's support page on the topic:

If you need more space on your device, iCloud Drive can help. On your Mac, go to Apple menuSystem PreferencesiCloud. Next to iCloud Drive, click Options and turn on Optimize Mac Storage. Then your Mac keeps all of your recent files on your computer, but keeps your older ones only in iCloud, ready for you to download when you need them again. If you want to free up more space on your Mac, follow these steps. On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can search and browse files from all of your devices and download them only as you need them.

There's no way to explicitly tell iCloud Drive which files should have local copies and which should be cloud-only.

:: Update 2020.12.09 ::

I've run across an app named Bailiff that purports to provide the requested functionality: it can evict specific iCloud files from local storage and make them become cloud-only. More info is available at the developer's website: https://eclecticlight.co/cirrus-bailiff/

(Note: I have no relationship with Eclectic Light Co., the developer of Bailiff. Nor do I have direct experience with this product.)

  • I assumed I couldn't force/suggest it to free up some space! Thanks! – jleeothon Dec 13 '18 at 12:09
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    You can actually force macOS to download a file by right-clicking on it and selecting "Download Now" but there doesn't seem to be a way to delete the local copy only. Dropbox is much better in that regard. – Caltor Nov 15 '20 at 18:11
  • There's also no way in macOS to tell it to keep the file downloaded. Once you explicitly download a file in iCloud Drive, macOS still retains the privilege to decide to remove the download, even after you've manually downloaded the file. It's very much meant to be an automatic system. – jefe2000 Nov 18 '20 at 21:41

In BigSur, it sees to have added a feature for the manual removal. Go to the file and right or option click on the file or folder you want to store in the cloud. Then select "Remove Download". This flags it to store in the cloud.

However, it sees to not immediately delete the data, I'm assuming its just a flag and at some cycle the OS still decided what to remove but possibly prioritizes these. The cloud icon to download the item(s) does appear, indicating that its cloud only.

If someone has more info on how this work, please comment.

  • I almost forgot I've made this question before. This feature ("Remove Download") exists since before Big Sur (but since after I posted this question). However, your answer seems indeed the closes to what we have to "suggest" the OS that this file can be removed. – jleeothon Dec 21 '20 at 16:26

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