Apple’s iCloud is at its core a seamless and easy to use remote storage and backup service available to Apple mobile devices using iOS 5, Mac computers running OS X Lion and PC computers running Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or Windows 7. All iCloud use on any platform requires iTunes version 10.5 or later which is a free download from Apple’s web site. Much more than a mere virtual hard drive, iCloud securely automates the backup process for users and keeps their media files, apps and personal data including calendar and contacts effortlessly synchronized while available on all their iCloud ready devices. With any combination of iPods, iPads, iPhones, Macs or PCs, iCloud users can access, interact with, enjoy, backup, restore and share their photos, music, videos, books, apps, ringtones, text messages, and important data in a few simple steps.

How to setup iCloud on Mac, PC or iOS

Using iCloud on an Apple mobile device is simple and requires little management. After turning on a new iPod, iPad or iPhone for the first time or updating the device to iOS 5 or later through iTunes, follow the instructions given to start the iCloud service during the setup process. The iCloud settings can be reached by tapping on the Settings icon found on the home screen and scrolling down to and then tapping on the iCloud icon.

iCloud settings

From the following screen, the Account menu can be tapped to enter the Apple ID and password, and the user’s free five gigabyte storage plan can be upgraded from here to a paid plan of 15 gigabytes for $20 per year, 25 gigabytes for $40 per year, or 55 gigabytes for $100 per year. After setting the account preferences and deciding on a free or paid plan, select the Done button to get back to the main iCloud settings window.

Buy more iCloud storage

Here you’ll be able to set options for individual iCloud services for Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Bookmarks, Notes, Photo Stream, Documents & Data, Find My Phone and iCloud Backup can be switched on or off.

iCloud sync settings

Tip: If you enable iCloud Backup, iOS will inform you that “Your iPhone will no longer back up to your computer automatically when you sync with iTunes.

Bonus Tip: A tap back to the Settings menu then a tap on the Store icon allows users to activate automatic downloads from iCloud for their purchased iTunes content.

How to set up iCloud on Mac

Setting up iCloud on a Mac requires that  you are running OS X version 10.7 (Lion) or later. From the Apple menu, select System Preferences then a click on the iCloud icon in the Internet & Wireless panel.  You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password. Here are our recommendations on which username/password combination you should use:

  • If you have a MobileMe account, use those credentials. Tip: Read this tutorial for help on how to migrate from MobileMe to iCloud.
  • If you don’t have a MobileMe account, then Apple recommends that you use the same credentials as your iTunes Store account used to make purchases.

setup iCloud Mac

If you select ‘Manage’, you’ll be to add storage space along with options to manage your existing storage.

Tip: Here you can delete old backups that might exist by click on backups, selecting a device that no longer needs backing up and then selection ‘delete’.

Bonus Tip: You can easily free up storage within Mail by erasing messages in your Junk and Trash folders.

How to set up iCloud on PC

Making a PC running Windows Vista Service Pack 2 or Windows 7 iCloud ready requires downloading and installing the iCloud Control Panel for Windows from Apple. The iCloud Control Panel can then be accessed through the Windows Start Menu by choosing Control Panels then the Network and Internet submenu and then finally iCloud.

iCloud PC

From here you’ll be asked for your Apple ID and password. Individual iCloud features can be enabled or disabled. Enabling automatic downloads of purchased media is done through the iTunes Preferences menu. iCloud will allow you to sync and merge bookmarks with Internet Explorer or Safari. If you enable Photo Stream, you’ll have the option to set the destination folder for your photos. iCloud supports Outlook 2007 or greater. If you meet those requirements, you can take advantage of iCloud syncing with Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Tasks.

Regardless of whether your a Mac or PC, iCloud is an incredibly useful service that helps you keep all of your digital information synced between your computer and iOS devices in addition to providing you with comfort knowing that all of your data is backed up in iCloud.

How has your experience been using or setting up iCloud?  Let us know in the comments. Join the everythingiCafe forums today for free for full access to our site, along with the free everythingiCafe app.