iCloud: How to Access and Use It Effectively

iCloud: How to Access and Use It Effectively

What is iCloud?  

iCloud is Apple's cloud-based service which lets users sync their photos, videos, music, documents, apps, calendars, and other files across their devices. All you need to access your files is a device with an internet connection.  


Take a photo with your iPhone and access it from your Mac with no extra steps of sending it there. Sounds magical, right? 

How to use iCloud?  

To use iCloud, you’ll need two things—an Apple ID and a device to sign in on. Once you’ve set them up, you’ll be able to automatically store your files in iCloud and access them from other Apple devices.

iCloud welcome page in browser

If you still don’t have an Apple ID—create it here. When setting up a new device, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your iCloud login. If you’ve skipped this step or have signed out, you can still do this in the settings.


On your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings—tap Sign in to your iPhone or iPad
  2. Enter your Apple ID and password
  3. Enter the six-digit verification code that was sent to a trusted device or a phone number


On your Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences—click Sign in. In macOS Mojave or earlier go to the iCloud tab—enter your Apple ID and password
  2. Enter the six-digit verification code that was sent to a trusted device or phone number to complete the sign in

How to access iCloud  

Let’s start with the basics: you can access iCloud on your iPhone and iPad, Mac, or in your web browser. Here’s how:  


From your iPhone and iPad:

  1. Go to Settings—tap your account name
  2. Look for the iCloud tab
  3. Tap a toggle next to an app you want to sync with your iCloud


From your  Mac:  

  1. Go to System PreferencesiCloud
  2. Tick or untick the boxes next to the apps you want to add or remove from your iCloud


From your browser:

  1. Navigate to icloud.com
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and password
  3. Click on any app from the list to manage it

How to access iCloud Photos  

With iCloud Photos, you can access, view, and share photos and videos across your Apple devices.


From your iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open the Photos app
  2. Tap the Albums tab to see Recents, My Albums, Shared Albums, People & Places, and Other Albums


From your Mac:

  1. Open Photos app
  2. Navigate through the left sidebar and choose which photos to access


From your browser:

  1. Open icloud.com
  2. Sign in with your email address and Apple ID password
  3. Click on the Photos icon
 icloud account with photos highlighted


By the way, if you’d like to move your photos from an iPhone to a Mac, check this guide on how to operate photos with and without iCloud.

How do I check my iCloud Mail?  

Before accessing and checking iCloud Mail you need to create an email account with iCloud. After activating it via settings on your iPhone or System Preferences on your Mac, you’ll be prompted to create a free @icloud.com account.

turn on icloud mail with create icloud mail option


`To check your iCloud Mail:

  1. Open your preferred browser—go to icloud.com
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID and password
  3. Click on the iCloud Mail icon

What is iCloud Drive?  

With iCloud Drive, you can automatically store files from your Desktop, Documents, and other folders in iCloud. No need to transfer data manually across your Apple devices. With iCloud Drive, you can access all stored folders from all your gadgets and on the web. Another cool perk is that you can add collaborators to work on some files.  

How to use iCloud Backup?

iCloud Backup copies the information on your iPhone and iPad. When your device is backed up in iCloud, you can easily set up a new device or restore information on the one you already have. iCloud also provides a convenient way to back up certain files and folders on your Mac—read more about it in this step-by-step guide. In addition, watch this short Apple guide on iCloud Backup if you’re more into visuals.


iCloud Family Sharing

Family Sharing lets you and up to 5 other people share multiple Apple features—App Store and iTunes purchases, music, movies, calendars, notes, iCloud Storage, and so much more. To access iCloud Family Sharing, do this:


From your iPhone and iPad:

  1. Go to Settings—tap your account name
  2. Navigate to Family Sharing tab
  3. Tap Add Family Member or click on the existing one from the list to edit settings for this member
apple id menu with family sharing option highlighted

From your Mac:  

  1. Open System Preferences—click iCloud icon in macOS Mojave and earlier or Apple ID icon in macOS Catalina
  2. Click Manage Family button
  3. Click on the + or - buttons under the list of members to remove or add a person
  4. Click on the My Apps & Services tab to manage subscriptions for your family
icloud my apps & services tab with apple music highlighted

What is iCloud Keychain?  

iCloud has many pleasant surprises for Apple users—iCloud Keychain is one of them. iCloud Keychain remembers passwords so that you don't have to. And it’s not just about passwords to your social accounts—iCloud Keychain auto-fills credit card information and Wi-Fi passwords too, on any device that you approve. Let’s see how to turn it on.


On iPhone and iPad:

  1. Go to Settings—tap your name
  2. Navigate to the iCloud tab—Keychain
  3. Slide to turn it on


On Mac:  

  1. Open System Preferences—click iCloud in Mojave or earlier or Apple ID in macOS Catalina
  2. Go to iCloud—tick a checkbox next to Keychain
 icloud apps list with keychain option highlighted

How do I use iCloud to find my iPhone?  

The reinvented Find My feature now includes Find My iPhone and Find My Friends apps. They let Apple users locate their own devices or the ones belonging to friends and family to see where they are on a map. Besides, from now on you can find your gadgets even when they’re not online.  


To find your iPhone using iCloud you need to:

  1. Go to www.icloud.com
  2. Sign in using your Apple ID and password
  3. Go to Find my Phone on the welcome screen
  4. Enter your Apple ID password once again—click Sign in or press Enter
  5. Check the location of your iPhone on a map

How much storage does iCloud have?

You’ll get 5 GB of free storage across all your Apple devices. Some users stick to this free plan. However, if you have multiple devices—you can consider the following upgrade options:

  • 50 GB: 99c per month
  • 200 GB: $2.99 per month
  • 2 TB: $9.99 per month

To upgrade your iCloud plan:


On your iPhone and iPad:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap on your profile picture
  3. Navigate to the iCloud tab—Manage Storage—Upgrade or Change Storage Plan in case you already have bought additional space and want to upgrade or downgrade
iphone icloud manage storage option

On your Mac:

  • Open System Preferences—go to the iCloud tab
  • Click Manage button at the right bottom of the window
  • Click Buy More Storage in the right upper corner
  • Choose the preferred plan

Here we have a 50 GB plan. But if you ever decide to go back to free 5 GB—remember that you always can. To avoid being charged, you must downgrade your subscription at least a day before each renewal date. And you’ll be notified about the upcoming charge a week before via email.

upgrade icloud storage with downgrade options highlighted

How to clear iCloud storage?

If you feel reluctant to spend some extra money on upgrading your iCloud storage plan and you’re running out of space—try clearing iCloud storage. So, to free up space in iCloud you can take some of the following steps.

Manage your iCloud Backup

Many iOS apps tend to automatically back up to iCloud after the installation. One way or another, turning off backups for apps you use occasionally is a good idea. Some apps are always backed up, so it’s not possible to turn off iCloud backup for them. However, you can do this with the rest of the apps:


On your iPhone or iPad:

  • Open Settings—tap on your profile icon—go to iCloud
  • Click Manage Storage—then Backups
  • Choose the preferred device
  • Turn off backup for any apps that you don't want under Choose Data to Back Up section
  • Tap Turn Off & Delete

By confirming Turn Off & Delete you turn off iCloud backup for the chosen app and remove all of its information from iCloud storage.

Reduce the size of your iCloud Photos

Photos tend to occupy much space as taking them is faster and easier than manually deleting them, right? Still, if you want to clear iCloud storage, try removing some photos you don’t need, like pics with poor quality or photos that are just the same. Let’s see how to clear your iCloud storage:


On your iPhone and iPad:

  • Open the Photos app—go to an album you’re ready to say good-bye to
  • Tap Select in the right upper corner—select photos and videos to delete
  • Tap Trash icon—Delete

On your Mac:

  • Open the Photos app
  • Select which photos and videos to delete by pressing the Command (⌘) button and clicking on them
  • Press Backspace—Delete

Through iCloud.com:

  • Sign in to icloud.com from your Mac or your iPad
  • Go to Photos
  • Choose the photos or videos to delete
  • Click the Trash icon the upper right corner—then Delete

Note: these photos and videos will be deleted from iCloud photos on all devices. If you’ve deleted a photo by mistake—don’t worry as you can recover it from a Recently Deleted album within 30 days.

How to change iCloud password?

iCloud password equals the Apple ID password. So, to change your iCloud password, let’s do this:

  • Open System Preferences—click iCloud
  • Go to the Security tab—click the Change Password button next to Apple ID Password
  • Type in the new password
  • After changing the iCloud password you’ll receive a message saying "Sign out other devices using your Apple ID?" Here, choose the desired option
sign out other devices using your apple id window

Alternatively, you can change your iCloud password here.

How do I fix errors connecting to iCloud?

From time to time, everyone might experience problems signing into their Apple accounts. Let’s try to fix the errors when connecting to iCloud.

Can't remember your Apple ID or password?

With the growing number of passwords, it’s not that hard to forget the combinations for your iCloud sign in. If you forgot your Apple ID or the password and can’t sign into iCloud, try fixing it by following the steps here.

Is your Apple ID locked or disabled?

We all have been there, hoping that adding another digit to the password will let us sign in. Well, sometimes we get lucky—and sometimes Apple locks the Apple ID after a few attempts to type in the password incorrectly. Unlocking it requires a few steps:

  • If you’re using two-factor authentication—you’ll see a six-digit verification code automatically displayed on one of your trusted devices or sent to your phone number
  • If you have a recovery key—use it to help you regain access to your account
  • If your iCloud account was disabled—contact Apple Support

“Verification Failed: There Was an Error Connecting to the Apple ID Server”?

This message doesn’t necessarily mean that something’s going on with your Apple ID or password. Very often the poor connection is the reason for this problem. Let’s see how to fix this:

  • Turn on and off Wi-Fi or reconnect to a cellular network
  • Restart your device
  • Log in again

Checking the Apple System Status page for scheduled maintenance affecting iCloud is a good idea.

How to turn off iCloud?

If you’re giving your parents your old MacBook or iPhone 6s because you got yourself a new one, turning off iCloud might come in handy. It’s pretty simple—all you need to do is to sign out.


On your iPhone or iPad:

  • Open Settings—tap your account
  • Scroll down—Sign Out
  • Type your Apple ID password—then tap Turn Off
  • Turn on the data you want to keep a copy of on your iPhone or iPad
  • Tap Sign Out
  • Tap Sign Out once again to confirm that do want to sign out of your iCloud

On your Mac:

  • Open System Preferences—iCloud
  • Click Sign Out
  • Keep a copy of your iCloud data on your Mac before you sign out—tick the appropriate checkboxes—then click Keep a Copy
icloud sign out window with keep a copy option

Tip: Before turning off iCloud on your device, consider making an archive or a copy of the information or you store in iCloud on your computer. The thing is that once you sign out of the iCloud account, you won’t be able to access or use its services like iCloud Photos or Drive.


We hope you found the answers you were looking for and discovered some new iCloud features and hacks!

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