If you want to ensure every update you make to your data syncs instantly and effortlessly to all of your Mac or iOS devices, iCloud is exactly what you need. You’ll be able to store 5 GB of data in iCloud for free- and you can always pay for extra space. Moreover, purchases made through the iTunes and App stores won’t count against this limit. I’ll walk you through how to check if your devices support iCloud; this will lead to a discussion of how to activate it.
To use iCloud, you will need to be using an Apple device running a relatively new operating system (OS)- specifically, iOS 5, OS X Lion 10.7.2, or a later version of one of these. First see if your device already has iCloud available: for iOS devices, tap Settings and see if iCloud is listed; for Macs, check for an iCloud icon after clicking the Apple logo and then System Preferences. If you see iCloud is available, skip the next paragraph.
If your device does not currently offer iCloud, you can download Mactracker from the App Store or Mac App Store to check if your device supports the minimum OS needed for iCloud. If it does, all you need to do is update your OS. You can do this on iOS devices by tapping Settings, then General, and then Software Update. For Macs, click on the Apple logo and then Software Update. Keep in mind that if you are not using iOS 5 or later, you will need to update your iOS device by connecting it to a Mac or PC running iTunes 10.5 or later; and if you are not using OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later, you will need to purchase the installation DVD for this OS by going to <apple.com/support/snowleopard>. That said, so long as your device supports the minimum OS that iCloud requires, you should now be able to access iCloud settings using the steps above.
Now that you have iCloud available, follow the steps I suggested earlier for checking if iCloud was already available on your device and click or tap on the iCloud icon. After following the prompts on your devices, iCloud will be enabled by default to sync most of the data on them. For instance, any contact added to a device will be immediately available on your other devices; the same holds for tabs opened in Safari (called iCloud Tabs). Find My Device makes it possible to locate your device remotely in the case of theft or loss so long as the device is on and has either an Internet or cellular connection. You can do this by using the Find My Device app on another Apple device or by going to icloud.com; this website also grants access to your synced iWork documents, Mail, Reminders, Notes, Contacts, and Calendar.
When Photo Stream is on, you’ll be able to access all of your recent photos on any of your devices regardless of which ones you used to take or upload the pictures. The last 99 photos taken with your iOS devices or uploaded to your Mac iPhoto library will be permanently added to your Mac’s iPhoto library and temporarily to your iOS device’s Photos app as a synced Photo Stream album. Any photos taken by an iOS device will also be permanently stored in the Photo app’s Camera Roll album. You can even share only the photos you want with only those people you want by activating Shared Photo Streams.
You can prevent certain things from syncing to and from a given device by deselecting the checkbox next to the data in question. If you’d like to back up key information on your iOS devices with iCloud instead of or in addition to iTunes backups, tap Storage & Backup. Once set up, your iOS device will now back up to iCloud whenever it is on, plugged in, locked, and connected to Wifi. You can see how much data is being backed up on all of your devices by tapping Manage Storage under Storage & Backup, and you can deselect anything you would rather not back up on iCloud. For example, you may choose to only back up your Camera Roll when doing an iTunes backup so as to save space in iCloud.
Feel free to comment and offer suggestions for related topics you would want to learn more about. As always, Apple will be happy to offer support for iCloud-related questions at 1 (800) APL-CARE.
- iCloud: How to reset Photo Stream
- iCloud not working. How to troubleshoot iCloud problems
- How to sign up for iCloud
- How to enable and view iCloud backups on your iOS device
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.