I have 2015 Macbook Pro which was always regularly updated (currently has Big Sur). I would like to upgrade to Monterey, but not like it'a usually done. I want to erase whole drive and install fresh copy of Monterey. I have Monterey installer on a USB drive. I have found instructions which suggest I should backup with Time Machine but I don't have drive big enough for that. So my question would be, in case I erase whole drive, and install Monterey, can I just connect Mac back to my Icloud and it would pull all the data back to my Mac, or erasing whole drive will also erase all the stuff stored on my Icloud? Anyone has suggestion how to do it in order to make fresh install and pull Icloud data later on?

  • How do you currently have your data in iCloud? Do you just have iCloud Drive enabled and sync Desktop & Documents, or do you manually sync more data?
    – nohillside
    Aug 31, 2022 at 9:45
  • I don't sync manually. I am logged in with my Apple ID, and I have enabled Icloud drive, Contacts, Photos, Keychain etc. There is one folder on my Desktop where I keep all the important stuff and when I change something in that folder, it's automatically updated to cloud. Deleting whole drive would delete that folder as well, so I'm thinking it would be removed from cloud as well.
    – mm6643
    Aug 31, 2022 at 9:49
  • To be on the save side, you can (and should) log out of iCloud before erasing the whole drive. You will loose all your settings, mail accounts etc though.
    – nohillside
    Aug 31, 2022 at 10:32
  • As I log out, I assume data will stay on Icloud but will be deleted from local drive?
    – mm6643
    Aug 31, 2022 at 10:56
  • You probably will be asked whether you want to delete it locally. But honestly, even just having data in the cloud is risky (a cloud storage is not a backup), so getting a small external drive for a local copy is highly recommended.
    – nohillside
    Aug 31, 2022 at 11:20

2 Answers 2


Repeat after me:

  1. iCloud Drive is not a backup.

  2. Files without a backup are waiting to be lost.

iCloud Drive does not make copies of your applications; system settings; user settings; or anything else like Fonts, audio and video files (not bought from Apple), etc, etc.

iCloud Drive synchronises whatever is on your computer. If you delete a file, iCD deletes that file, too.

It's likely that if you boot to Recovery, or an installer disk, then you could erase the internal drive without sync-ing that erasure to the cloud, because you're not logged in.

But, you should never perform any operation where there is a risk of losing your files (and by 'perform any operation', I mean 'use your computer') without one or more copies of your data on one or more separate physical devices.

Also: restoring large amounts of data from the cloud will be SLOW...... like, hours.

Also: the benefits of a 'fresh' OS install are over-rated. It's usually possible to tidy up an existing installation by deleting a few files in a few places, rather than deleting everything and putting most of it back.

  • I understand what you're saying. Even if I do a backup, I won't be using that backup if installation goes well. But I would still need to log into my Icloud and pull all the data down. And it boils down to what is on Icloud drive (about 4gb) and in my Photos app. So, what would be the best way to do it in your opinion, if I was to install a fresh copy?
    – mm6643
    Aug 31, 2022 at 19:14
  • Basically just upgrade why make a fresh copy, unless you have a good reason then don't. Either way install from a complete localbackup in Time Machine, Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper etc.
    – mmmmmm
    Sep 1, 2022 at 10:34

As @nohillside answered above, I logged out from my Apple ID. Booted from USB, formatted whole drive and then ran a fresh Monterey installation from the USB. Now I'm logged back with my Apple ID and Icloud is still being synced. Thanks for all the suggestions.

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