How to Back Up a Mac to iCloud

Use iCloud to back up your Mac's files, photos, and more so you'll never have to worry about losing your data.

Setting up an Apple backup through iCloud is probably the simplest option you have available. Each user gets 5 GB of free iCloud storage with their Apple ID, but users can opt to upgrade their storage amounts by signing up for an affordable monthly plan. We'll show you how to use iCloud to create Mac backups.

* This post is part of iPhone Life's Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

Related: How to Back Up a Mac with Time Machine

How Much iCloud Storage Do I Need?

For a full Mac backup (like one you'd do on an external hard drive), Apple recommends having twice the amount of storage space available to you as you use on your Mac. That said, iCloud backups tend to include a smaller amount of data than external drive backups, since iCloud only backs up certain files and data, not all of the data, programs, and settings on your Mac. You won't need as much storage on iCloud as you would with an external hard drive, but you'll likely still need more than the free 5 GB of iCloud storage that each user has access to by default.

To back up more than 5 GB (remember that iCloud is the backup space for all of your Apple devices), you will need to sign up for a monthly subscription. Fortunately, iCloud storage plan pricing is fairly affordable! If you already have other Apple subscriptions, you may even be able to save money with an Apple One bundle.

How to Back Up Your Mac to iCloud

Creating a Mac backup on iCloud is simple, and can be customized to your liking. If you'd like to learn more about Apple device backups and iCloud, sign up for our free Tip of the Day newsletter to see more top tips!

Here's how to create an iCloud Mac backup:

  1. Open System Preferences on your Mac and click on Apple ID.

  2. Click on iCloud in the menu on the left.

    Click on iCloud
  3. Sign in to iCloud if prompted.
  4. Click to check the box next to iCloud Drive if it's not already checked.

    Click the box next to iCloud Drive if it's not checked
  5. Click the Options button next to iCloud Drive.

    Click Options to manage your iCloud Mac Backup
  6. Check the box next to anything you want stored in your iCloud drive, such as your Desktop & Documents or your Mail data.

  7. Click Done.

    Click Done to save Mac backup choices
  8. To save space on your Mac, you can select Optimize Mac Storage. Note: this means some documents may only be stored in iCloud and not on your local drive, so be aware of that if you also use an external hard drive to back up your data.

    Optimize Mac Storage
  9. If you need to purchase more data storage and sign up for a monthly subscription, click Manage.

  10. Select Buy More Storage to purchase more iCloud storage space.

    Click buy more storage to add iCloud storage for Mac backups
  11. To see your Mac iCloud Drive, open a Finder window and click on your iCloud Drive folder to open it.

    Open Finder to view iCloud Drive Mac storage
  12. You can copy and paste or drag any folder from your Mac to add it to your iCloud Drive.

Once this is done, you should be able to access these files on your other Apple devices! Now that you have a backup of your Mac's data in iCloud, you can rest easy knowing that your data won't be lost if something happens to your computer.

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Author Details

Ashleigh Page's picture

Author Details

Ashleigh Page

Ashleigh Page is a Feature Writer for iPhone Life. With a background in computer science and creative writing, she loves blending aspects of the technical and creative. An avid technology enthusiast, she adores Apple products and keeping up with the latest innovations. When she’s not working, Ashleigh is often found crafting whimsical (and sometimes nonsensical) short stories, hiking, and playing sand volleyball.