If you want to know what exactly Apple's iCloud Drive is and does, you've come to the right place.

Apple is great with hardware and software interfaces, but as you likely know, it’s stumbled a bit in the past when it comes to cloud storage, photo management, and even music social networks (though more recently, with Apple Music, it seems to be doing alright in that department).

Anyway, iCloud Drive is the company’s latest effort at giving you better ways to manage all your files. Apple’s iCloud Drive is an online storage service; a place to keep all your files and access them from across all your Apple devices, including your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It might sound complicated, but thankfully, it’s not too hard to understand.

Apple, in our opinion, has hit a home run with iCloud Drive. Our only complaint is that it still takes guides like this for people to figure out how to enable it, pick a storage plan, access their files, and so on.

What is iCloud Drive?

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iCloud Drive is part of iCloud - Apple's cloud storage service that launched in 2011. 

iCloud Drive lets you save photos, videos, documents, music, and app data to iCloud. Not only does it let you store all your stuff in one place, but it lets you access all of your files and data from your iOS device, Mac, and Windows PC, and then keep those files and folders up to date across all your devices. It even allows you to create new files and folders from iCloud-enabled apps and work on the same file across multiple apps. Simples.

Note: iCloud Drive also works with iCloud.com. You can use it to create, save, and share documents using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. This support page has more information about how to get started with iCloud.com

How much is iCloud Drive?

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When you sign up for iCloud, you get 5 GB of free storage for Mail, Backup, iCloud Photo Library, and iCloud Drive. The backup part includes the backup of your iOS devices and it's often this that sees you reach your limit - especially if you have a lot of photos on, say, an iPhone and an iPad. 

  • If you need more iCloud storage, you can upgrade to a total of 50 GB ($0.99/£0.79), 200 GB ($2.99/£2.49), or 1 TB ($9.99/£6.99) of iCloud storage.
  • Learn more about pricing from here and how to upgrade using your iOS devices, Mac, or PC from here.

You can store any type of file in iCloud Drive, as long as it's less than 15GB in size.

How to set up iCloud Drive

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Before you set up iCloud Drive, make sure your iOS device is running iOS 8 or later and that your Mac is running OS X Yosemite or later. PCs must also be running Windows 7 or later to use iCloud for Windows.

As for iCloud.com, you need Safari 6 or later on your Mac, but it will work in pretty much all modern browsers on Mac and PC. 

You can also sign into iCloud.com and upgrade that to iCloud Drive as well as enable iCloud Drive on your PC with iCloud for Windows and Windows 7 or later.

iPad or iPhone (iOS 8 or later)

  • Tap Settings > iCloud
  • Sign in with your Apple ID
  • Tap iCloud Drive
  • Tap Upgrade to iCloud Drive

Mac (OS X Yosemite or later)

  • Go to Apple menu > System Preferences and select iCloud
  • Sign in with your Apple ID
  • Select iCloud Drive, then select Continue

Windows PC

iCloud.com

  • Sign in to iCloud.com
  • Select Pages, Numbers, or Keynote
  • You'll be asked if you want to upgrade to iCloud Drive
  • Click Upgrade to iCloud Drive

How does iCloud Drive work?

Mac

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To access iCloud Drive from a Mac, click on the Finder icon in your Mac dock, then click on iCloud Drive in the Favorites sidebar, and click on iCloud Drive. You can also find iCloud Drive from the Go menu of any Finder window.

iCloud Drive by default has folders for each of your Apple iWork apps (Keynote, Pages and Numbers), along with folders for apps like Preview, QuickTime Player, Script Editor, TextEdit, and Automator. But you can create any folder and keep it in iCloud Drive. You can also store whatever you want, so long as it isn't bigger than 15GB and doesn't exceed your iCloud storage allotment.

Think of iCloud Drive as any other remote volume, external hard disk, network drive, or storage service. You can create new folders, drag and drop stuff into your iCloud Drive from your Mac or elsewhere, and you have the option to save files and data from apps into your iCloud Drive. This isn't rocket science, folks. It's a hard drive in the sky that you can access from all your devices.

Note: You can create a folder in iCloud Drive just like you would in any other place on your Mac.

iPhone or iPad

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To access iCloud Drive from an iPhone or iPad, first add the app to your home screen. Go to Settings, then tap on iCloud, and tap on iCloud Drive. From there, toggle on “Show on Home Screen”. Return to your home screen and find the iCloud Drive app. If you have trouble finding it, swipe down to bring up Spotlight Search and start typing "iCloud" until it appears.

We love that iCloud Drive for iOS is dead simple. There's nothing for you to do. Just make sure you're signed into your iCloud Drive account, and then any mobile apps that support iCloud Drive will give you the option to open and save files to it when you're using them. Not only can you choose to save files to iCloud Drive from apps, but you can also navigate through folders and choose where you'd like to save.

Also, because iCloud Drive is fully integrated with OS X (and work with Windows), you can drop any files you want into iCloud Drive from your computer, and they'll instantly sync and be available to any mobile app that supports them on your iPhone or iPad, and vice versa.

Windows PC

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To access iCloud Drive from your PC with Windows 7 or later and iCloud for Windows, go to iCloud Drive in File Explorer.

Windows PC owners who want to use iCloud Drive have been able to do so for a while, while Mac users had to wait. On a new support page recently launched, Apple unveiled an updated Windows version of iCloud that lets Windows users download and install a pared-down iCloud Drive.

The Windows version of iCloud Drive lets you sync everything from mail and documents to contacts and calendars (between your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, and Windows PC) You can also store any file in iCloud by dragging your documents and photos into iCloud Drive folder on your PC. The feature will even keep your IE, Firefox, or Google Chrome bookmarks on Windows in sync with your Safari bookmarks on an iPhone or iPad.

How to access iCloud Drive on the Web

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To access iCloud Drive from the web, go to iCloud.com, then sign in, and select iCloud Drive. You will then be able to see all your folders, and you'll be able to create new folders, upload files, download files, delete files, share files. It's really just the web version of iCloud Drive on the Mac.

Check out: Upgrading to MacOS High Sierra? Don't forget to convert your external drives to APFS too