I’m a heavy user of iCloud Drive to synchronise my files across my iOS and Mac devices. It works well, but I’d also like to have an automatic way to maintain offline backups of my iCloud data. This is partially to not be dependent on Apple's servers but also to have backups of iCloud in case I delete something accidentally and it gets removed everywhere.

Since iCloud is only available on Mac, I have an old Mac Mini acts as a server and continuously sync with iCloud and back it self up every hour using time machine. This way (in an ideal world) I’d have hourly time machine backs up of my iCloud Drive and photo library without intervention. That’s way I can make a change on my phone and it automatically gets synced via iCloud and backed up offline by the mac mini.

Currently I have optimised storage disabled on the Mac mini so that it stores everything locally. However the Mac mini frequently doesn’t sync. For example the photo library only syncs when the Photos app is open and sometimes files aren't synced until I actually manually take a look at them. Is there a way to, on a regular schedule, or even better programatically, force iCloud to sync? I know there isn't an official feature but I'm looking for a kludge like keeping Photos app open or iterating through the files?

Or perhaps a better idea to automatically make offline backups of iCloud all-together?

  • 1
    While not ready for mainstream use, I have this tool I started working on here that can handle "Optimize Storage" being enabled. It doesn't properly allow choosing a target for the backup, always copies the entire thing, and doesn't clean up after itself though so use only if you feel like tinkering. github.com/ezfe/iCloud-Drive-Backup/tree/main/…
    – Ezekiel
    Commented Sep 21, 2022 at 21:53

1 Answer 1


This is what I use on my always running iMac (more of an anecdote than answer) and I am splitting it into iCloud Drive and Photos which are stored very differently.

Like you, I do not use optimised storage.

iCloud and iCloud Drive which, as far as I can tell, does get downloaded in the background. This maybe because a) I regularly access it with TM and Carbon Copy Cloner, and b) is is only a few GBytes.

  1. Time Machine.

  2. Scheduled synchronisation of ~/Library/Mobile Documents to an external disk. Currently I am using CCC for this, but have also used Chronosync.

  3. The destination folder of #2 is also a source for Arq Backup to B2 cloud storage - this gives me daily history as well as current state.

The above is surely overkill, but better safe than sorry. :)

For Photos:

  1. Carbon Copy Cloner is scheduled to backup photos libraries to a destination APFS volume with snapshots. So just like TM, but with more control over scheduling and history kept.

  2. Arq Backup (scheduled daily) directly sends the photo libraries to B2 cloud. Again lots of history.

Most of the time, Photos app does not need to be kept open to ensure that the Photos 'system library' is up to date. But it may need kicking to get it started. On a 'server' Mac (like yours) it is perhaps best to keep the Photos app open and connected to the 'system library'.

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