Here’s a funny thing about Apple: When they introduce new features—like Desktop and Documents syncing under Sierra, say—I think they’re not always the best at communicating what’s going to happen, especially considering that new options are often on by default. I’ve had a lot of users complain about being asked to buy extra iCloud storage because they didn’t understand what they were agreeing to when they clicked through Sierra’s installation screens and accidentally left the “Store files from Documents and Desktop in iCloud Drive” toggle on. Whoops.

If that’s the situation you find yourself in (or if you’re just not getting any use out of the feature!), you should know that there’s a simple way to turn this syncing off, but it’s a bit…weird…in how it works. To get started, you’ll click on the Apple Menu at the upper-left corner of your screen, pick “System Preferences” from that menu, and then click “iCloud.” When that opens, click on the “Options” button next to “iCloud Drive.”

macOS iCloud Drive Options Button lets you set what files sync to the cloud

On the next screen, you’ll see the choice we’re looking for right at the top.

Turn off Desktop & Documents Folders syncing in iCloud Drive Options settings

If you turn that checkbox off, you’ll get a warning:

Turning off iCloud Desktop and Document Folders syncing shows a Dialog Box warning they'll be removed from your Mac

Here’s what I think is pretty odd. As that dialog box explains, turning off Desktop and Documents syncing will remove those folders from your Mac, leaving them only in iCloud Drive. As you can imagine, that’ll mean that the contents of your Desktop and Documents folders will vanish, and if you didn’t read what you were agreeing to there, this could mean a moment of panic. Or many moments of panic! But it’s all OK, because after we turn this off, we can still download all of our stuff and put it right back where it came from. So let’s do it! Click on “Turn Off” on that box and watch your files disappear before your eyes. Helpfully, though, you’ll get a reassuring pop-up afterward:

Click Show in Finder to see where your files are in iCloud Drive

If you click “Show in Finder” there, you’ll be taken to the place where all your files went—under the “iCloud Drive” section in Finder’s sidebar.

The Finder shows where your Desktop and Documents files are in iCloud Drive so you can copy them back to your Mac

From here, you can drag items out of those Desktop and Documents folders and back into their locations on your Mac (which will in turn remove them from iCloud Drive). Or if you’re regretting your decision, you can also go back to System Preferences > iCloud> iCloud Drive > Options and turn the feature back on, which’ll plop all the files right back into their original locations. (And just so you know, you can log in to iCloud.com to download your files as well if you’d rather do that for some reason.)

And now is a good time to point out that you should definitely have a backup or three before you attempt anything like this, right? Right. You should have a backup or three anyway, but I figure you all know how I feel about that by now.

In case you don’t, though: MAKE A BACKUP BECAUSE I SAID SO. RIGHT NOW. Okey-doke?

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AdamBerkey

The only time I really needed to have a backup of my files was when Apple decided to take my files off my hard drive and put them on their cloud…

Go figure.