Until 2011, Apple sold a $100/yr package called MobileMe. It gave you a mail address at "me.com", the ability to publish web pages and a photo gallery online, file storage, a "Back to my Mac" service, and the ability to share contacts, bookmarks, and calendars with iPhones for about $9/mo.

MobileMe was superseded by iCloud. Mac, iPhone, or iPad users get a free account. Apple says it "stores your music, photos, documents, and more and wirelessly pushes them to all your devices." Up to 5GB of storage is free. You can buy more capacity: see "iCloud Plus" below. The online publishing features were discontinued.

iCloud lets each user set up a mail address at "icloud.com". (If you had a "me.com" address, you can keep it.) Another feature of iCloud, macOS, and iOS is called Find My. It can locate your device and other iCloud users. You should enable this in case your machine gets lost.

An Apple package called iCloud+ provides a feature called iCloud Sync that copies the contents of my Documents and Desktop folders to my iCloud storage. You can use iCloud to back up the files on your computer offsite. Documents written by other Apple applications can also be synced to iCloud, such as Keychain, Contacts, Calendars, and Notes. You can log into iCloud.com and see your files there. If a file gets deleted, there is the ability to retrieve an old copy.

iCloud allows you to keep your music and purchased books in the cloud, and use them on any of your Apple devices. iCloud is integrated with Music (was iTunes), but I don't use this because it apparently replaces my tracks with DRM locked versions.

iCloud Plus

iCloud+ costs extra for more storage space. It includes additional features: iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and HomeKit Secure Video support. iCloud storage prices are:


Photo Streams

iCloud is also integrated with Photos (was iPhoto), and lets you store your "Photo Streams" in the cloud. There are three related iCloud services for photos:

  1. My Photo Stream stores photos you upload to iCloud from your iPhone or iPad for 30 days. This service is shutting down as of 07/26/2023.

  2. Shared Albums are different: you can add other photos from the Photos app to the shared streams. Although these photos do not count against your iCloud storage quota, Apple has set various limits on iCloud shared album usage: the main one is that each Shared Photo Album can contain 5000 photos or videos, and you can have 100 streams.

    On my iPhone I can find iCloud Photos and turn on Shared Albums.

    Right now I have synced a lot of small pictures to my iPhone from my Mac from iTunes (now done in Finder). These appear as albums in the iPhone Photos app. It seems like I can't do this and use the newer features. Apple wants to manage my phone storage in ways that waste space and destroy flexibility.

  3. The third service is Photo Sync, enabled on the Mac from System Settings... ► Apple ID ► iCloud: it causes Photos on a Mac to sync copies with your iCloud Photos library. I use this feature to sync photos between my Mac and the living room Mac Mini.

    In Settings >> iCloud Photos on my iPhone, I can turn on Sync this Phone but it is not clear what it does. If it tries to copy my whole iCloud Photo library to the phone, it won't fit... then what? Apple says "turn on Optimize Storage" and --something-- will store full size pictures in iCloud and "space saving" versions on the phone. How does this work? How does this work if my phone does not have an Internet connection? https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205703 How will I know what is going on?

Family Sharing

Apple has something called Family Sharing. You pay extra, and then share among up to 6 people with Apple IDs, with one person as "leader." Family members can share storage including Music libraries. To share iCloud space with other family members, you will need an iCloud subscription with either 200GB of storage at $2.99 a month or 2TB of storage at $9.99 a month. Or you can buy an Apple One Family plan ($22.95 per month) or Premier plan ($32.95 per month).

I can't figure out how this works, whether all family members have to share one big Photos database and one big Music database, or if they have the shared one and a separate personal one. It may not work for us.

iCloud Keychain

You can back up the passwords and keys that are stored in Keychain.app to your iCloud account.

Using Network Features with iPhones

If you have an iPhone, you can use your Mac with it in various ways; some of these use your iCloud account as an ID.

What Went Away

MobileMe's ability to publish web pages, its online photo gallery, and iDisk storage are gone: you can find similar free services from other companies. iCloud does not support syncing of Mac Dock items and System Preferences from your Mac. Back to my Mac is gone.

What Else You Need

Cloud integration requires Internet access. Usually this means you open an ISP account, that may include some services like storage and mail: for example, Comcast provides both.

iCloud does not eliminate the need to back up your computer's storage: you should still use Time Machine or full clone backups.

Home | FAQ © 2010-2023, Tom Van Vleck updated 2023-11-08 08:27