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  1. I have a big file in iCloud and I need to get it on my Mac.
  2. In Finder, in left side menu "iCloud > iCloud Drive" I have access to iCloud contents. So, I download my big file by clicking a cloud with down arrow icon near the file title. It takes some time to download the file from iCloud to Mac. The big file icon becomes more "materialized" and the cloud with down arrow icon disappears, indicating that now this file is already present on Mac.
  3. Now I need to get this big file on my Desktop folder. But how can I do that?

Of course I can copy/paste this file from "iCloud Drive" folder into "Desktop" folder. But this duplicates my big file (if I am correct) - it appears on my Desktop and still exists in the place where it was downloaded to, so it takes double space after copying/pasting it. But I don't want to duplicate it - I just need to move this downloaded file to my Desktop without duplicating it. Of course I still need this file to stay in iCloud.

So, the question is: how to get my file, downloaded from iCloud, into my Desktop without duplicating it? I would expect that some cache exists somewhere where this file was downloaded, but I have no idea where it is. If I knew where it was downloaded, then I would just move it from cache right into Desktop without duplicating it by copying/pasting.

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    Why don't you just move that file to the desktop folder using your mouse via Finder? Just drag and drop it. Wouldn't that meet your original purpose, i.e. "just need to move this downloaded file to my Desktop without duplicating it"? The desktop folder is also synched to iCloud assuming you have not deselected the desktop option in iCloud. Check System Preferences -> Apple ID -> iCloud -> iCloud Drive (Options) for Monterey to make sure. I guess the file would need to be re-uploaded to iCloud if moved to the desktop folder but there appears to be no reservations against this in your post.
    – Alper
    Dec 20, 2021 at 17:46
  • @Alper They don't want to remove it from iCloud
    – Ezekiel
    Dec 20, 2021 at 18:40

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Local iCloud files are stored in ~/Library/Mobile Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/. So you could make an iCloud file accessible in ~/Desktop by running

ln ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/PATH/TO/FILE ~/Desktop/

This assumes that a new file gets created by macOS in case an iCloud download expires (honestly not sure whether this is true).

If this is not the case, you can fall back on

  • removing the local file
  • downloading the big file from iCloud via the browser
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  • Apologies for my ignorance but how different is this from creating an alias using Finder for the file and moving the alias to the desktop folder?
    – Alper
    Dec 20, 2021 at 18:00
  • @Alper A hard link creates a new directory entry for the same file/inode. So even if the file in iCloud gets deleted, the other directory entry (in Desktop) will still point to the file. An alias on the other hand is just a reference which will break if the target file gets removed.
    – nohillside
    Dec 20, 2021 at 19:38

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