So macOs just lied to me. I went into storage and recommendations. And saw this

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Which clearly says store all files photos and messages in iCloud and save space on Mac automatically when it's needed.

As soon as I accepted this recommendation what it actually did is this

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Which reads quite the opposite "The full contents of iCloud drive will be stored on this mac" ?!?!?!

I managed to turn it off but now I have these massive downloads pending and not doing anything.

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How do I remove them?

  • I wouldn't say it's lying. It says automatically save when needed. If your drive isn't 100% full, that means you have the files in both places. I also don't see those downloads as pending. I have similar items and no downloads, but my system has reached stasis over days and weeks - not after just electing a change to the directions. See apple.stackexchange.com/a/346586/5472 for details
    – bmike
    Dec 24 '18 at 15:39
  • I do understand how you could make assumptions about how this is engineered under the hood, so I'm not critical of how you want this to work or thinking you can't get it arranged in a way you prefer.
    – bmike
    Dec 24 '18 at 15:40

From this article:

Click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.

Click System Preferences in the drop down menu.

Click on iCloud.

Click on Options next to iCloud Drive.

Click to uncheck the checkbox for Desktop & Documents Folders.

Alternatively, try signing out of iCloud.


You can't change how this works with the controls available in iOS 12 and macOS 10.14.

The "when space is needed" literally means you get the files if you are signed in.

Only when the storage is starting to get full, do the reclamation and offloading processes start.

Also - don't assume the file sizes you see are true. Finder shows the size of the cloud file - not the amount that's locally downloaded. Look for a tool like Daisy Disk to show you actual allocations and not Finder or System Information.

Finder shows you stub files that allow spotlight to index and the cloud download to trigger a request to get data from iCloud CDN and you'll have these stub files stored in ~/Library and then injected into the directory hierarchy. The details change a bit from version to version - so technical articles from 6 months or 12 months ago are now wrong which might add to any confusion we all are experiencing.


The important part here is if you have enough space. What you are seeing are not downloads, but files stored in iCloud that will be stored locally only if enough space is available on your local drive.

The whole point of it is that you don‘t have to worry about it, so unless you suspect something wrong you can just leave it and let macOS do it‘s thing :-)

  • The problem I have is that I need about 100gb free at any spontaneous moment, as I work with large video files and VM images, and when I try to copy them macOs tells me that there is not enough space. Yes macOs will free up space, but it's gradual and slow and not really fit for my purpose. I need to be able to tell iCloud i want to keep x% or xGB free or even better still iCloud drive to only store say xGB locally and work within that remit.
    – Lenny D
    Dec 24 '18 at 23:18
  • I think this feature works a bit different than how you expect and is actually pretty smart. The iCloud files are not deleted gradual and slow, but should be deleted instantly when required. In fact, the Apple file system is designed with this feature in mind: If you go into the "Disk Utility" app and select your hard drive, it should display Available: XX GB (YY GB purgeable). As you can see, "purgeable" disk space is considered the same as free disk space and is also reported to applications as available. Did you make any concrete observations where it behaved differently in practice?
    – BlackWolf
    Dec 24 '18 at 23:34
  • For reference: While not very detailed, Apple talks a little bit about this in support.apple.com/en-us/HT202867
    – BlackWolf
    Dec 24 '18 at 23:38

Unfortunately, it's not possible to pick and choose which files you would like to offload, as this is done automatically.

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