How to use iCloud for backups on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac

Anyone immersed in the Apple ecosystem can readily access iCloud for no extra charge, but many don’t know how to make the most of it.

iCloud is not an application, but rather an application suite, one that’s directly baked into the framework of nearly all Apple products. It’s designed to be a repository of your digital life, a place to store and backup your photos, personal files, and application data so you never lose anything. Despite its slick design and simple execution however, setting it up for the first time can be a pain. So here it is, our guide on how to use iCloud.

Setting up & signing into iCloud

Signing up with iCloud is completely free and simple to do with an Apple ID. Each free account automatically grants you access to 5GB of remote storage — available for backups, mail, app data, documents, and other components stored in the cloud — with 50GB, 200GB, and 2TB storage offerings available at an additional cost.

If your devices are recent, you shouldn’t have any issues with compatibility, but we recommended quickly scanning over the minimum requirements to get a better understanding of what will and will not work on your device. Afterwards, follow the guidelines for your respective device below.

Setting up iCloud on MacOS

Step 1: Update your Mac (optional) — It’s always a good idea to update MacOS prior to setting up a new utility or application on your iMac or MacBook. If you haven’t done so already, click the apple icon in the upper-left corner of the desktop to access the main Apple menu and select About this Mac, then click the Software Update button. The App Store should open up, head over to the updates tab, then click on the particular software you wish to update, or click Update all in the upper-right corner of the application window to download and install all available updates.

how to use icloud macos software update

Step 2: Enable iCloud — Click the apple icon in the upper-left corner of the desktop to access the main Apple menu once again. Afterward, select System Preferences from the drop-down menu, and choose the iCloud option in the System Preferences panel (the logo is a blue cloud). Enter the Apple ID and password you want to use with iCloud, and click the Sign in button directly to the right of the password field when finished. It’s also never a bad idea to pop that password into a password manager at this point either.

iCloud

Step 3: Select your iCloud services — iCloud will present you with several individual services, from mail and Safari to contacts and calendars, once signed in. Check the box directly to the left of the applications to choose which ones you’d like to sync across your various devices. Syncing options vary from application to application, but you can typically fine-tune the process by clicking Options on the right, or within the main Accounts setting of each service.

iCloud

Step 4: Buy more storage (optional) — Obtaining a little extra storage can’t hurt if you’re on the cusp of reaching your storage cap. To do so, click the Manage button in the bottom-right corner of the main iCloud interface, followed by the Buy More Storage button located in the top-right corner of the window.

iCloud

Step 5: Check out optimized storage (optional) — All right, so you’re all set up, you have your iCloud storage, your Apple ID, and your shiny new Mac. If you’ve been away from the MacOS ecosystem for a while, there’a feature you should know about: it’s called ‘Optimized Storage’ and it uses your iCloud storage to free up even more hard drive space on your Mac. Check out our full guide on how to get it all set up.

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