Back Up Mac to iCloud 101

* This article is from our Tip of the Day newsletter. . *

Did you know that you can use iCloud to back up your Mac's files, photos, and more? Learn how to back up your MacBook Pro, Air, or iMac in the easiest way possible! Setting up an Apple backup through iCloud is best to do before a software update, when upgrading to a new Mac, or just as a routine precaution to keep your data safe.

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How to Back Up Mac to iCloud

How do I back up my MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac? 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! To find out what kind of iMac you already have and check your software compatibility, check out our article on all the different iMacs and how to identify them. In the market for a new M1 MacBook? Check out our review on the MacBook Pro M1 Max to help make your decision. 

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Here's how to create an iCloud Mac backup:

  1. Click the Apple icon.

    Click the Apple icon - how to backup MacBook, easiest way to backup computer
  2. Open System Preferences.

    Open System Preferences - how to backup macbook pro, how to backup macbook air
  3. Click on Apple ID.

    Click on Apple ID - backup macbook to icloud
  4. Select iCloud in the menu on the left if it isn't already selected. Sign in to iCloud if prompted.

    Select iCloud in the menu - how to backup my macbook
  5. Click to check the box next to iCloud Drive if it's not already checked.

    Click to check the box - backup macbook pro, back up computer to icloud
  6. Click the Options button next to iCloud Drive.

    Click the Options button - how to backup macbook to icloud
  7. Check the box next to anything you want stored in your iCloud drive, such as your Desktop & Documents or your Mail data.

    Check the boxes - macbook transfer to new macbook, backup macbook air
  8. Click Done.

    Click Done - how to backup my macbook pro
  9. 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.

    Select Optimize Mac Storage - how backup on icloud
  10. If you need to purchase more data storage and sign up for a monthly subscription, click Manage.

    Click Manage - how to backup computer to icloud
  11. Select Change Storage Plan to purchase more iCloud storage space.

    Select Change Storage Plan - how to backup your mac
  12. To see your Mac iCloud Drive, open a Finder window.

    Open Finder - how to backup macbook pro to icloud
  13. Then, click on your iCloud Drive folder to open it. You can copy and paste or drag any folder from your Mac to add it to your iCloud Drive.

    Click on your iCloud Drive folder - backup macbook pro to icloud

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.

Pro Tip: Are you wondering how to save everything to iCloud? Go back to the steps above and make sure to check everything you can under step 7.

Related: How to Back Up a Mac with Time Machine

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What Is iCloud Backup & iCloud Drive?

An iCloud backup is essentially a copy of the information on your device saved online so that if anything happens, you can quickly access and restore your data. When you create an iCloud backup, you can select what you want included, and it will happen automatically. 

You can access your iCloud Drive by going to You can also save files to this iCloud folder manually as you please. iCloud Drive can be compared to Google Drive and DropBox, and it is compatible across various devices, even PCs and Android phones and tablets.

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How Much iCloud Storage Do I Need?

For a full Mac backup (like the 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 specific 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 pretty affordable! If you already have other Apple subscriptions, you may even be able to save money with an Apple One bundle.

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Now you know how to back up a Mac to iCloud! You can 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 most straightforward option you have available, although there are other ways to back up your Mac, including Time Machine backups. Keep in mind that every 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. Paid plans also give users more features through iCloud+!

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Author Details

Ashleigh Page's picture

Author Details

Ashleigh Page

Ashleigh Page is an Associate Editor for iPhone Life. A longtime Apple enthusiast with a Bachelor's in English and Computer Science and three years of experience writing about tech, Ashleigh has written and tested hundreds of articles about devices and features within Apple's ecosystem. She specializes in iPhone, iPad, AirPods, and Mac content and has authored a 60-page in-depth guide about the Apple Maps app. Based in North Carolina, Ashleigh is often crafting whimsical (and sometimes nonsensical) short stories and hiking when she's not working.