Ok, I am getting really annoyed with macOS now, so I asked this question

How can I clear pending iCloud Downloads?

and the answer worked! Great!

However after signing out of iCloud and signing back in this time with documents switched off and Optimise switched off, my Mac is still insisting on downloading my documents folder!

enter image description here

As you can see from the image both Desktop and documents is not selected, Optimise is unchecked and yet you can see it is still downloading 44GB of data I don't want on my mac! Thats why I bought the external storage plan!

Why? This is driving me crazy!!


6 Answers 6


have same problem.

The x button is not clickable


As you can see, those downloads generate a lot of traffic. And if I (right) click on files or folders and choose "Remove Download" - it removes files locally (which is great!) with only one exception: it starts to download files again very next day.

Already tried to turn of icloud sync with my Mac and as soon I added it back - it started to download files. Yesterday it finished downloading and I removed local copies. Today the download started back.

I don't understand why it's so, I don't want to keep local copies. If I will need a file from icloud I will click "download now" and that's it.

OS: Big Sur 11.2.2


What helped me to get rid of constant re-uploads/re-downloads was this:

cd ~/Library/Application\ Support
killall bird && rm -rf CloudDocs

It is another issue solving but helped me as well: https://superuser.com/questions/1045791/icloud-drive-sync-stuck

  • I've been very frustrated about this lately too. iCloud Drive just decided to download 50 GB of files to my local computer that it eat up the whole internet bandwidth. Apr 29, 2021 at 12:06
  • It works by default like this on iPad but it seems that on the MacBook there's a different default where it tries to download everything. Very frustrating if your MacBook SSD is smaller than your iCloud storage space.
    – geoidesic
    Jul 2, 2021 at 8:39
  • Still an issue even on Ventura in 2023... killall bird still works like a charm, thank you!
    – HeySora
    Mar 13, 2023 at 22:39
  • Open Finder.
  • Click on iCloud Drive.
  • Right-click on the folder you want to remove its downloaded content, and then click on Remove Download.

However, you wouldn't see the "Remove Download" option for app folders. For instance, as in your image, you can't right-click on the Numbers folder and then click on Remove Download.

Instead, you have to open the Numbers folder, and then right-click on all the files and folders inside it to remove all its downloaded content from your Mac.

  • After doing this, iCloud still attempts to re-download these files all of a sudden, which fills up my local hard drive. Other large files (that I've previously clicked "Remove Download" for) then read as failing to download. I can't click "Remove Download" on these (or prevent their download) until it's fully downloaded, so the situation is locked with files needing to download to stop it from attempting without enough local space to do so
    – moth
    Jan 31, 2023 at 3:46
  1. In your finder app, go to the sidebar to iCloud Drive and hover over the download cake diagram

enter image description here

  1. The icon will change to an ⓘ

enter image description here

  1. Click on the ⓘ and a small pop up will open showing you the current download status

enter image description here

  1. Now just click the ⓧ and you're done
  • 2
    that is not an option as with automatic sync you cant stop it.
    – Raykud
    Jun 5, 2020 at 18:08
  • 1
    Super! This worked for a download which was triggered manually. Nov 21, 2020 at 11:09

I think that dialog you have up is pretty clear but based on the last question I would encourage a couple changes in how you're using iCloud.

  1. Look for words like "if there is space" in the description. That means Apple downloads everything and then frees up space when it sees you have little space left. It doesn't do the calculation first - it actually downloads.
  2. Look for confusion around Documents and Desktop. If you opt in to syncing on one Mac - now you have 4 folders on any one Mac signed in to iCloud - the cloud version of desktop and documents and the local version.

To clean things up, you will want to sign in to https://www.icloud.com/#iclouddrive and delete anything you don't want syncing down in the short term.

Then you'll want to let the machine get in balance with iCloud (which can take hours if you are in the 200 GB storage size for iCloud - even if you have a local caching server on your network) and then revisit the settings and adjust your plans.

Just be sure to store files outside the buckets that sync locally and I think you'll be able to have iCloud storage for things you don't want on your Mac. I'm quite happy with 200 GB in the cloud for the past three years and three Mac with 256 SSD. My Photos library is now at 120 GB alone so my one device that downloads the full versions of everything so I can make a separate backup has that photo library on an external drive and not the 256 SSD. Everything else fits on the boot drive and the thinning process is quite solid.

I expect I'll add another 50 GB of photos and tip over to needing an even larger cloud subscription and I think I can keep all my iOS and macOS devices using 256 SSD or less even as my total storage grows.


The Documents folder in your screenshot is simply a regular folder in iCloud Drive. The checkbox you are referring to syncs the Documents and Desktop folders on your Mac with corresponding folders in iCloud Drive.

Unchecking the documents folder button simply gives you a separate local Documents folder. It doesn't delete or alter the files you've already synced to the cloud. If you don't want those files in iCloud, simply move them out of iCloud or delete them.


All you need to do is right click on a folder in icloud using finder, takes a second. Right click on the folder and select "remove download".

This simple way icloud storage works as everyone always wanted it to work.

  • This info seems to be incorrect. This does not work with folders.
    – rimraf
    Sep 17, 2022 at 21:29
  • I think this only works consistently if all of the contents of the folder are fully downloaded
    – moth
    Jan 31, 2023 at 3:50
  • For example - if a folder has 500GB worth of images and iCloud downloaded 200GB worth of images, I either need to remove 200GB worth of images individually or download the whole 500GB and remove the whole 500 GB via folder, right?
    – JSVJ
    Sep 6, 2023 at 0:53

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