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I have many devices connected to an iCloud account, and for some devices (specifically laptops with small disks) I would like to exclude folders from sync'ing DOWN to the laptop from iCloud. I know there are solutions from excluding folders from sync'ing UP to iCloud, but I want the opposite. Is this possible (in any MacOS version)?

Additionally, at Apples support site "How to free up storage space on your Mac" it says: "Files stored only in iCloud show a download icon", but this is not true, I have folders with that icon that are stored locally on my drive, taking up huge amount of space on my Laptop with a limited size disk.

I have the 2TB storage plan on iCloud but the typical SSD laptop disk is way smaller than this, so it seems obvious to me that I don't want the full iCloud drive sync'ed to my Laptop.

Sidenote: I'm starting to believe that my sync functionality have mucked up some way, since folders and files marked with the "cloud" icon is still stored on my laptop and in my Library -> Mobile Documents folder there is an iCloud Drive folder which IN-TURN contains an iCloud Drive folder.

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  • Welcome to Ask Different. There's no such thing as stopping a sync process in only one direction. iCloud is a sync solution. When you stop it you stop it in both directions, up and down.
    – fsb
    Nov 13 '20 at 13:47
  • Well, I was thinking that since it is possible to stop it in one direction (i.e from laptop to cloud (by adding the ".nosync" extension)) there could exist solutions for stopping it in the other direction also, i.e from cloud to laptop...
    – lejon
    Nov 13 '20 at 14:00
  • What you're doing by adding .nosync is completely stopping the iCloud sync of that folder and only keeping a local copy on your device. If you look at Settings -> <your name> -> iCloud Drive you uncheck some documents/folders at a high level, primarily by use.
    – fsb
    Nov 13 '20 at 14:43
  • I can see the settings where I can select which applications that are allowed to store data in iCloud drive, but there is no option for selecting which documents/folders there. Perhaps I'm not looking where you mean? I'm looking at Settings -> <my user> -> iCloud Drive -> options But there I can only select applications, not specific folders, and again, I believe this refers to sync'ing TO iCloud not FROM iCloud. So it doesn't really solve my problem. I understand that the .nosync feature, but I'm essentially looking for the opposite functionality.
    – lejon
    Nov 13 '20 at 14:54
  • Just to reiterate, there's no such thing as stopping syncing to or from iCloud. Syncing is always two-way. There is no way to do what you've asked.
    – fsb
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:08
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iCloud Drive is a syncing solution so you can't exclude folders from getting synced from the cloud onto your computer. You can have macOS manage the space on your Mac though by going to System Preferences->iCloud, clicking on "Options" at the end of the iCloud Drive line and selecting "Optimize Mac storage". This will just sync the whole folder structure without downloading the content unless you need it. Non-downloaded files/folders will show a Cloud icon in Finder.

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  • Ok, perhaps the "don't sync" functionality is only one-way since the ".nosync" is only computer to iCloud but no obvious way for the opposite "no sync" functionality. Do you know if there is some way to tell macOS that "I don't need this folder locally any longer, please only store it in iCloud"? Because now it has synced down a huge folder that I have no use for on my work laptop, but still want to access from all of my private laptops?
    – lejon
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:44
  • AFAIK you can't. macOS will manage the space for you and remove files/folders you don't use any longer if disk space gets tight.
    – nohillside
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:49
  • I'm starting to suspect some bug in my system since, according to you (and the Apple support site): "Non-downloaded files/folders will show a Cloud icon in Finder", but I have files on my laptop WITH the icon, but they are still stored locally on my machine.
    – lejon
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:49
  • How do you know that they are stored locally? And do things change if you reboot?
    – nohillside
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:50
  • I can see the files using the Terminal. I'll try to reboot and see if they go away. I have noticed one source of (my) confusion at least, and that is that the cloud icon is on a folder even though SOME (but not all) files are stored locally.
    – lejon
    Nov 13 '20 at 15:55
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I have same scenario, and found this solution which worked for me..

Apparently as of Catalina 10.5 you can right-click and "Remove Download" to clean up your local file system, but still keep it in iCloud to download again if needed.

Delete a file locally, but keep it in iCloud

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  • 1
    I wish Catalina was 10.5 :). That aqua ...
    – anonymous
    Jun 10 '21 at 2:03
  • 1
    Yeah.. 10.15... oops.
    – CEC772
    Jun 13 '21 at 0:36

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