How to force iCloud to download files

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Catherine Le Nevez
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For many (who have experienced the situation), the option for macOS to move Desktop and Documents folders to iCloud, freeing up hard drive space, is a trap disguised as an advantage.

For years we have assumed that, slowly but surely, we were walking towards the virtual PC, our user in the cloud, available from any computer, including our applications, email accounts, etc.

This is the most logical explanation why Apple is asking us to get used to not having the files locally. The one and the one in Cupertino must have superfiber accompanied by superwifi, so they don't notice the difference between having the files on the hard drive or having them in the cloud.

But outside of that bubble, life isn't that simple. Do a search with Spotlight to locate a file (a presentation, a Photoshop image, etc.) and when you find it, double-click to open it and… nothing happens.

Sometimes, for no apparent reason, iCloud seems to have gone out for coffee, and your request to retrieve files hangs there, with no progress, waiting for some cyberspace god to stamp it.

Fortunately, Apple left us a loophole to tell iCloud that we really want that file Now. This is how it's done:

How to force iCloud to download a file

  1. Exit the app and go back to the Finder
  2. Go to the location of the file
  3. Click to select it
  4. Right click and select Download now

Now you can double click on the file to open it. Or you can go back to the app and open it from there if you prefer.

This can be done with both files and folders.

How to prevent iCloud from taking files from your hard hard drive

Unfortunately, there is no effective or real way. Apple left no option to mark files as “Always Local” or “Off iCloud”. So, if you haven't worked on your Final Cut project for a long time and decide to take it back, you may find that it's no longer on your hard drive but in the blessed cloud.

The only way to stop the operating system from deciding for you if a file is too large and which is better for you if that file is "moved" to the cloud is to save it in a place where iCloud cannot find it. Obviously this implies that you don't have it in the iCloud drive.

In case you wonder why these things happen to you and when you have activated the option that the Mac decides by itself when to remove files from the hard drive, it is a box found in the Apple ID preferences.

To find it, open Preferences of System . Click on your Apple ID (which you will see at the top next to your profile photo) and just below the list of apps that can backup to iCloud, there is a small box where - if you select it - you will give the Mac the power to decide how little space your hard drive is and start working for you by deleting older files and copying them to the cloud.

If you are not aware that it is doing this, chances are you will happily continue copying and saving files to disk, then more and more files will be copied to the cloud and eventually your entire desktop, documents, etc. they will end up in the cloud.

So if you want macOS to leave your files alone, save large files to an external drive, remember to make backup copies (for which you'll have to tell Time Machine to backup that drive as well) and , if you feel calmer, uncheck the box above.

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