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

how to use icloud
Radek Grzybowski/Unsplash
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.

Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Computing

Delete tracking cookies from your system by following these quick steps

Cookies are useful when it comes to saving your login credentials and other data, but they can also be used by advertisers to track your browsing habits across multiple sites. Here's how to clear cookies in the major browsers.
Mobile

Having trouble logging in? Here’s how to reset your Apple ID password

To use any of Apple's services, you need to have an Apple ID and know your password. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with forgotten passwords and regain access to your account. Here's how to reset your Apple ID password.
Mobile

Join the Apple club with our complete guide to switching from Android to iOS

If Android simply isn’t cutting it for you anymore, then you might be considering Apple’s warm embrace. Here’s how to make the switch from Android to iOS without losing your contacts, sleep, or hair!
Mobile

Is your smartphone frozen? Here's how to reset your iPhone

You can do a lot with an iPhone, but if you ever run into an issue with it, the first thing you should do is restart it. In this guide, we tell you how to reset your iPhone, and explain how it differs from a factory reset.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Computing

Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.
Computing

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents with Adobe or a free option

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.
Computing

Nvidia’s next midrange card might be a GTX 1660 Ti, rumors suggest

Nvidia may be working on a non-RTX Turing graphics card called the 1660 Ti. Rumors suggest it will have around 20 percent fewer CUDA cores than the RTX 2060 and will lack ray tracing support.
Deals

From Samsung to HP, here are the best cheap Chromebook deals right now

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- with most…
Computing

Chromebook 13 vs. Google Pixelbook: Acer model takes on the king

Acer's Chromebook 13 is throwing tons of speed at the Chrome OS market, to go with a midrange build and traditional clamshell design. Is that enough to challenge the Google Pixelbook?
Computing

Data breach compromises 773 million records, 21 million passwords

A security researcher was alerted to a collection of breached data that included more than 773 million compromised records. After digging deeper, the breach was revealed to contain more than 21 million passwords.
Computing

Dell teases new XPS laptop with Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake for summer 2019

After teasing a mysterious Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop during Intel's keynote, Dell confirmed that it will announce a new 10th-generation Ice Lake-powered XPS laptop this year. The new XPS notebook could debut as early as summer.
Computing

Faster new PCIe 5.0 standard leapfrogs the best feature of AMD’s Ryzen 3

PCIe 5.0 will bring even faster data transfers, but it may only be found on HPCs and servers initially. The standard is four times faster than your current PC at transferring data, and new devices could appear later this year.
1 of 3