I've saved several files and photos onto my MacBook. I've had iCloud syncing on my iPhone. I have synced my iPhone's media using the Photos app on my MacBook. I don't think I've ever synced my MacBook with iCloud.

I'd like to save things onto my Mac (or external hard drives) permanently, with iCloud as a tertiary backup for my phone. I've heard some horror stories from coworkers where they synced their MacBook with iCloud and rather than just add the files from iCloud, it deleted everything on the MacBook and then added the iCloud files.

Obviously I could take a slower route, like using Air Drop, emailing the pictures, or using a different cloud storage service to transfer, but if I could it to work without deleting stuff, I'd like to use iCloud. How do I avoid losing my non-iCloud files while also syncing the iCloud files?

  • I've heard horror stories about people not having backups and then losing files when something goes wrong.
    – benwiggy
    Aug 31, 2020 at 12:48
  • I'd like to save things onto my Mac ... with iCloud as a tertiary backup for my phone. iCloud is not a backup for anything. It's a synchronization service. If you want a cloud based backup, then you need something like iDrive or Carbonite.
    – Allan
    Aug 31, 2020 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


Enabling iCloud does not remove everything on the MacBook, and then transfer over the iCloud synced files to the MacBook. That's not how it works, so you don't have to be afraid of that.

If you want to ensure that files are always stored on your Mac, and not only in iCloud, then you want to ensure that the "Optimise Mac Storage" setting is not enabled. Open System Preferences > Apple ID and ensure that there's no checkmark besides "Optimise Mac Storage".

If you do have a checkmark there, files stored in the iCloud Drive could potentially be removed from your Mac in case available disk space runs low. They will be refetched from iCloud when needed.

Similarly for photos and videos synced to iCloud using the Photos app, you'll want to ensure "Optimise Mac Storage" is turned off. Open up Photos.app and open Preferences from the menu. In the iCloud tab, you'll want to ensure that "Optimise Mac Storage" is not selected - instead you'll want to choose "Download Originals to this Mac". This ensures that every photo and video store in iCloud is also stored on your Mac.

  • Thank you for explaining the options.
    – zr00
    Sep 7, 2020 at 0:29

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