I need to sync the Downloads folder to iCloud and then all the downloads should automatically sync with iCloud.

I tried to:

  1. Create a new Downloads folder in the terminal of MacBook in the Documents directory.
  2. Tried to move the default Download folder to the newly created folder.

When I tried to use the mv command to move the default Downloads folder to the newly created Downloads folder in Documents in the terminal, it gives permission denied error.

I am trying to achieve what was suggested by user PhillipHolmes in the below thread, please. Thank you:

How to sync an additional folder to iCloud Drive similar to how macOS Sierra does it?

Thank you

  • All these answers give ways of doing this - but I would ask why do you want this. Downloads should be a temporary store before you process the file e.g. unzip it, use a dmg to install or read a document before filing
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:24

4 Answers 4


Designate a new Downloads folder in the iCloud parent folder.

  1. Create a new "Downloads" folder within iCloud. Either

    a. In Finder → iCloud Drive, make a new folder called Downloads, or

    b. In Terminal.app, run

    mkdir ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Downloads
  2. Optional. Move the contents of your old Downloads folder(s) to the new folder.

  3. Delete your old Downloads folder on each computer

  4. Make a softlink from your new iCloud folder to the traditional location on each computer.
    In Terminal.app, run

    ln -s ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Downloads ~/Downloads
  5. Check that macOS knows about the new location on each computer. In Safari → Preferences → General, check that File download location is ~/Downloads.

Note: '~/' here denotes your User folder.

  • @evert, I believe this is the answer you're looking for.
    – Merchako
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:09
  • 1
    Anybody try this and get a permissions error on step 3?
    – Merchako
    Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 22:31
  • You can get around this by deleting it from the terminal sudo rm -rf ~/Downloads just make sure you have all the files out of there first.
    – Mav2287
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 18:54
  • 1
    It seems to me ~/Documents and ~/Desktop are not symlinks when they sync to iCloud. I'm actually not sure what's the behind the scenes setup Apple uses. But can ~/Downloads be configured in the same way as ~/Documents and ~/Desktop?
    – a06e
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 10:12
  • I would love for it to work that way, but I don't know enough about how Apple has implemented ~/Documents and ~/Desktop to mimic them.
    – Merchako
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 16:02

Move and Softlink

  1. Turn on iCloud Sync for Documents & Desktop Folders.

Navigating Preferences

  1. Move your old Downloads folder to iCloud

     sudo mv ~/Downloads ~/Documents/Downloads
  2. Link the new and old locations

     ln -s ~/Documents/Downloads ~/Downloads
  3. Optional. Drag the ~/Downloads link to the sidebar in Finder.

  • 1
    This method also retains the keyboard shortcuts for navigating to the downloads folder, in case that is important to your use case.
    – thchan
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 17:11

Set your Download location as Desktop or Documents in Safari Preferences → General

Then turn on iCloud for Documents and Desktop in System Preferences → iCloud → iCloud Drive Options.

You might need to move existing content in your new download location somewhere else.

For your later edit, just set the Download location in Safari Preferences → General as Documents/downloads_folder_you_made and the turn on the sync. You might need to move the existing content in the default Downloads folder to the newly made one.

  • Thank you ankii I needed help with was was suggsted in this thread.apple.stackexchange.com/questions/270227/… Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 23:19
  • @NoWorriesEducation you might need to update the question then :)
    – anki
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 23:20
  • 1
    User PhillipHolmes suggested to create a new folder and move the content to the new folder in the terminal and they make the computer think that its' downloading in the default Downloads folder. Thank you But I need help with permission denied error . Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 23:22

Designate a new Downloads folder in iCloud Documents

This method doesn't require use of the command line interface, so it's easier for novice and intermediate users.

  1. Turn on iCloud Sync for Documents & Desktop Folders.

Navigating Preferences

  1. Pick a new "Downloads" folder within iCloud:

    a. Documents,

    b. Desktop,

    c. Create Documents → Downloads, or

    d. Create Desktop → Downloads.

  2. In Safari → Preferences → General, set File download location to the new folder.

  3. Optional. Move the contents of your old ~/Downloads folder(s) to the new folder.

  4. Optional. Delete your old ~/Downloads folder(s)

  • 1
    What I don't understand is, why is everyone recommending to create a downloads folder in the iCloud's Documents or Desktop folder? I don't know about you guys, but I just have a Downloads folder in the root of my iCloud. And I don't even remember manually creating it. I think it was automatically created when I downloaded something with Safari in iOS. So why not copying your files over and then delete the folder on your Mac and replacing it with a symbolic link?
    – Evert
    Commented Sep 17, 2022 at 8:13
  • That's a good question. I remember trying what you suggest and deciding to take a different route, but I don't remember why. These are my best guesses: (a) Perhaps there was a time when the iOS Files app wouldn't show a iCloud/Downloads folder, but it does now. (b) The path for iCloud/Downloads is very ugly: ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Downloads, versus the much cleaner /Users/merc/Documents/Downloads for this method. Of course, that can be addressed with a softlink.
    – Merchako
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 14:47
  • Third possibility: (c) @keba was skeptical of the wisdom of creating links within the parent iCloud folder in this answer: apple.stackexchange.com/a/311513/2622
    – Merchako
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 14:52
  • It's completely fine to create folders in the root folder. These are stored in the com~apple~CloudDocs folder as mentioned. If you don't want this, then you have to pick Desktop or Documents.
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 17:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .