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15 Best iCloud tips and tricks (2021)

Best iCloud tips and tricks

iCloud is the wireless glue that connects all your Apple devices and services effortlessly. Besides storing your documents and device backups, it is responsible for syncing your device data, share your purchases with family, and do so much more. To make the most of Apple’s online service, here are the 15 best iCloud tips and tricks.

1. How to access iCloud on different devices

You can access iCloud through a web browser on any computer or mobile device, but the options on the latter are significantly limited. Here is how to access iCloud on Apple as well as non-Apple devices.

On Mac

  1. Click the Apple logo at the top left and choose System Preferences.
  2. Click Apple ID.
  3. Choose iCloud.
  4. From here, enable the desired options.

    Access iCloud on Mac

On iPhone and iPad

  1. Open Settings and tap your name at the top.
  2. Tap iCloud.
  3. You will see various options that can be toggled on or off.

    Access iCloud on iPhone or iPad

On Windows PC, You can download the official iCloud app from the Microsoft Store.

2. Control your iCloud backup

You probably already know that you can backup your iPhone to iCloud by going to Settings → selecting your name at the top → iCloudiCloud Backup.

But did you know that you can choose which apps to back up exactly? This is especially useful if you are on the free 5GB plan and wondering how to save space on iCloud.

You can stop apps like Facebook, Instagram, etc., from backing up to iCloud and eating your space. There is no downside to it as Facebook, Instagram, and such apps already keep everything on their servers.

Here is how to disable unnecessary apps from backing up on iCloud.

  1. Open the Settings app and tap your name from the top.
  2. Tap iCloudManage Storage.

    Inside Settings app tap iCloud and Manage Storage
  3. Tap Backups.
  4. Choose a device under BACKUPS.
  5. From under CHOOSE DATA TO BACK UP, turn off unnecessary apps. The next iCloud backup won’t have data from these apps.

    Tap Backups choose device and which apps you want to backup

3. Free up iCloud space

If you enable iCloud Photos and device iCloud backups, chances are you will fill up 5GB in a couple of weeks! Now, you can either free up space or subscribe to a paid plan.

If, like me, you are comfortable using iCloud alternatives to back up your photos, you shouldn’t buy the subscription plan. I use Google Photos to back up my pictures. It gives me 15GB (that comes with every Google account) of free storage, unlike Apple’s 5GB.

Additionally, if you choose to backup only the essential apps to iCloud (method explained above), you can easily have a decent experience with the 5GB free iCloud plan.

4. Sync your passwords everywhere with iCloud Keychain

iCloud Keychain is magic! Sure, there are tons of third-party password managers, but if I have something made by Apple, chances are I will rarely use one from a different developer.

iCloud Keychain encrypts and stores your username, email, passwords, etc., and makes them available on all your Apple devices.

You can enable it from iPhone Settings → tap your name at the top → iCloudKeychain. On Mac, the same can be done from the System PreferencesApple IDiCloudKeychain. You can learn in detail about the iCloud Keychain here.

Note: Now, there is an iCloud Passwords Chrome extension for Windows as well.

5. iCloud Family Sharing

Apart from paid apps, music, and movies, Family Sharing also enables you to share iCloud storage with your family members who use Apple devices. This means that your family doesn’t have to pay for an iCloud subscription again.

In addition to sharing purchases, you can also share location, find each other’s misplaced devices, set Screen Time restrictions and communication limits on kid’s devices remotely.

To enable Family Sharing, open Settings → Tap on Apple ID Profile → Set Up Family Sharing → Follow on-screen instructions.

6. Access your iCloud content across multiple devices

iCloud is my go-to location for saving Contacts, Notes, Siri data, Photos, Wallet, Calendars, Mail, etc. I have enabled it on all my Apple devices. This lets me make changes on any device, and everything is synced effortlessly via iCloud on my iPhones and Mac.

To do the same, ensure you have the same Apple ID on your other devices, and follow the steps below.

  1. Open iPhone or iPad Settings and tap your name at the top.
  2. Tap iCloud.
  3. Toggle on the apps you want to sync with iCloud.
  4. On Mac, open System PreferencesApple IDiCloud and check these options.

    Use iCloud for Contacts Notes Reminders and Calendars

Tip: You can add and sync contacts and calendars from Gmail on your iPhone too.

7. Share Photo albums with non-Apple devices!

Did you know that iCloud makes it easy to share photos and video albums with anybody? It does not matter if they use iPhone, Android, or a computer! This makes it perfect for sharing all the office pictures you clicked on your iPhone with everyone on the team, irrespective of which device they use.

8. Sync your documents and data from Mac with iCloud

You can configure iCloud on your Mac to store all your documents and files on the Desktop to the cloud.

To do this, launch System PreferencesApple IDiCloud → check iCloud Drive, and click Options next to it. From here, enable Desktop & Documents Folders if not already.

Sync your documents and data from Mac

If you use apps like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, etc., you may check them as well. (I use Pages on my iPhone and Mac. Having iCloud Drive enabled syncs everything on both my devices!)

9. Sync Safari browsing and reading list across devices

Safari is one of the finest browsers, even when you compare it to Chrome or others. If you have multiple Apple devices, you can choose to sync your history, bookmarks, reading lists, etc.

  • On iPhone: Go to Settings and tap your name. Tap iCloud and switch on Safari.

    Sync Safari browsing and reading list across devices iPhone
  • On Mac: Open System PreferencesApple IDiCloud → check Safari.

    Sync Safari browsing and reading list across devices Mac

10. Use iCloud Drive on iPhone and iPad

Do you know Google Drive, One Drive, or Dropbox? iCloud Drive is a similar tool by Apple – that is an online cloud storage service. You can use it to save files of any kind, and apps like WhatsApp can also save data on it.

To enable iCloud Drive on iPhone or iPad, open Settings → tap your name at the top → tap iCloud → scroll down and enable iCloud Drive.

Use iCloud Drive on iPhone and iPad

Additionally, you can also choose which apps are permitted to save data to it. For example, if you want your Voice Memos everywhere, enable iCloud Drive sync for it on all your devices.

To enable iCloud Drive on Mac, open System Preferences → click Apple ID → choose iCloud → enable iCloud Drive → click Options to fine-tune which apps are allowed to save data to it.

Use iCloud Drive on Mac

11. Use iCloud to automatically download your purchases

iCloud lets you automatically download music, books, apps, etc. This ensures that when you use a different iPhone, iPad, or Mac to purchase new apps or music, they download without your intervention on your other devices.

For this, you have to enable Automatic Downloads. Here is how to do that on your iPhone or iPad.

  1. Open Settings and tap App Store.
  2. Enable Apps under AUTOMATIC DOWNLOADS.
  3. Go back, and tap Music.
  4. Now, enable Automatic Downloads.
  5. You can repeat the same for Books.Automatically download your purchases on iPhone

12. Use iCloud email on iPhone or iPad

Use iCloud email on iPhone

Enabling iCloud email takes just a few steps! Start by launching iPhone Settings → tap your name at the top → tap iCloud → toggle on Mail. Finally, open the stock Mail app, and there you have it.

Pro Tip: You can even add your iCloud email account to your Android phone!

If you enable two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, the same is enabled for your iCloud Mail as well, which adds an extra wall of security.

13. Configure a new iPhone with iCloud Backup

When you buy a new iPhone, you have the option to restore all your data from the previous iPhone via iCloud Backup. You can learn how to do that here.

14. Restore deleted files from iCloud

If you have accidentally deleted an important file, worry not, as in most cases, you can recover it from iCloud.com (if you act within 30 days).

15. Set up private iCloud libraries on Mac

Finally, let me tell you about a secret trick that is useful if you wish to have multiple Photo libraries in your Mac’s Photos app. I am not talking about albums but separate libraries.

The sweet part is, only the main system photo library will sync to iCloud. The other library will stay discreet. You can use it to locally save some pictures you do not want to sync on your other Apple devices.

Set up private iCloud libraries on Mac

For this, press the option (alt) key and open the Photos app from the Dock or Launchpad. Keep holding the key until you see the above screen. Next, click Create New. Once that’s done, in the future, click Choose Library to select it.

These are some of the cool iCloud tips and tricks that you must know about. Which one was the most exciting for you? Let us know in the comments below.

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