When you transition to iOS 8, Apple offers you the option to migrate to iCloud Drive. This effectively replaces Documents and Data , which on previous iterations of iOS, allowed for syncing of files using iCloud. So if you used a text editor like the wonderful Byword, the resulting files or changes could sync between your Mac, iPhone and iPad. There are some developers who don’t yet support Cloud Drive. Prior to making the jump to Cloud Drive, you might want to take inventory of which apps are syncing through iCloud. It’s an incredibly powerful feature and remains so, despite limited storage and pricing that still falls short of the competition. Here’s how to setup iCloud Drive on iOS 8, Mac and PC.

How to setup and use iCloud Drive

What’s required and what you should know before upgrading to iCloud Drive

The upgrade requires that your iOS devices are upgraded to iOS 8 or later. If you are a Mac user, you’ll need to upgrade to Mac OS X Yosemite, available as a free download in the Mac App Store. iCloud Drive replaces documents and data syncing through iCloud. If you have iOS devices or Macs that have not been upgrading, they will lose document syncing functions. When you transition to iCloud Drive, you need to be all in. You cannot downgrade to Documents in the Cloud. Again, developers of third party apps might need additional time to add support, so check before you migrate. There is no turning back.

Requirements: All of your iOS devices need to be on iOS 8 and your Macs must be using Mac OS X Yosemite or greater. If you are using a PC, it needs to be running Windows 7 or later and you’ll need iCloud for Windows 4.0.

Key Takeaways: Some developers who currently support Documents in the Cloud, have yet to add support for iCloud Drive.

Advantages of iCloud Drive

So why should you be jazzed about iCloud Drive? For one, supporting applications will be able to support syncing through iCloud Drive. You make a change to a document on your iPhone 6 and boom, it’s available on your Mac, PC or iPad. More importantly, iCloud Drive is the closest we’ll get to file management on iOS. Applications get their own folders within your account, where you can access files. These are accessible from any of your devices. Additionally, you can create folders and organize your files based on your personal preference. This can be done from either your Mac’s desktop or online at iCloud.com. You can store any file type, provided they are under 15GB. It has a very similar feel to Google Drive or Dropbox, but with deep integration through all of your devices and your computer. All of your files, organized to your liking, perfectly in sync and accessible from anywhere.

How much storage comes with iCloud Drive and costs

Every iCloud account comes with 5GB of storage. Music, apps, books, TV shows, and My Photo Stream do not count against your storage allotment. Files in your iCloud Drive, iCloud Photo Library beta, your iCloud mail account and your iCloud backups do subtract from the 5GB storage. It’s become increasingly easy to bump up against storage limits and when you do, it can be incredibly inconvenient. For one, if you are backing up to iCloud, those backups are suspended until you either free up or add more storage space.

  • The good news is that Apple has drastically cut the costs of iCloud Storage. Here’s the total iCloud Storage (including the free 5GB) and associated monthly cost. There are no yearly plans or discounts.
    20GB: $0.99
    200GB: $3.99
    500GB: $9.99
    1TB: $19.99

Comparing iCloud Drive Storage Pricing to Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox

While these are significantly less than previous pricing, they still fall short of competitor prices on cloud storage. Google Drive and Dropbox both offer 1TB for $9.99. Microsoft matches that price and in addition, you receive a subscription to Office 365 enabling use of the latest Office applications. While these are fantastic storage deals, nothing will be easier and more integrated than Cloud Drive. The price you’re paying isn’t for just storage, but for the convenience built-in.

How to enable iCloud Drive on iOS

From your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 8, follow these steps to turn on iCloud Drive.
1. Tap on Settings > iCloud > iCloud Drive > Tap on iCloud Drive. Apple will notify you of current devices that are not capable of accessing files. Again, this can be resolved by upgrading your mobile devices to iOS 8 and your computers to Mac OS 10.10.
2. Next to the iCloud Drive, you’ll see a message “Upgrading” with a spinning progress wheel. During this process, Apple is moving all of your files to your new iCloud Drive. My migration took all of three minutes, but your mileage may vary.
3. Once completed, it’ll switch to ‘On’ and you’ll be prompted to enter your iCloud password. You can then review what apps are permitted to save documents to your iCloud Drive.

Upgrade to iCloud Drive

How to enable iCloud Drive on Mac

If you’ve followed steps to enable your new cloud storage on iOS, it doesn’t automatically upgrade your Mac’s preferences. You still need to enable iCloud Drive if you’d like to use on your Mac.

iCloud Drive Mac
1. From the Apple menu (top left), select System Preferences > iCloud.
2. Check the box next to iCloud Drive.

How to access your files on iOS and Mac

Now that you’ve migrated, let’s take a look at some of the changes and how you’ll access your files. On iOS, there isn’t a dedicated iCloud Drive apps. Applications that support the new cloud storage will present options to access your files. Here’s an example of Apple’s Pages app. When select the ‘+’ option, you’ll gain this view of your documents in the cloud.

iCloud Drive iOS app

On the Mac side, things are similar, but you have much more flexibility. When you open any Finder window, iCloud Drive is listed on the left hand column as an option. You’ll see a similar listing of files. From your Mac, you are free to add folders and files.

iCloud Drive finder

This is where you can organize your files. For PC users, you can do the same at iCloud.com.

iCloud Drive online

Change is hard and while the upgrade takes seconds, much of the migration to iCloud Drive is about preparation. If you’re only using iOS devices, it’s a much easier task. The only real pitfalls being lack of support from some third party app developers. Upgrading your Mac to Yosemite is a different story. It’s possible you could deal with some of your existing applications not working and they could require paid upgrades. There are also sporadic issues that seem to occur during the first few weeks of a major Mac OS X upgrade. I always recommend researching whether your critical applications are working before talking the leap. Personally, I’ve had only a few issues with Yosemite. One was major and wouldn’t allow copying files to my home server. That’s since been resolved and aside from a few WiFi drop-outs, it’s been smooth sailing. The positives of upgrading to Yosemite far outweigh any issues. iCloud Drive makes it easy to share files between all of your iOS devices, Macs and PCs.

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