UPDATE: This page was updated on August 4, 2020.
I find a lot of people are confused with what iCloud is and what it does.
What is it?
iCloud is a cloud-based service by Apple. It works by syncing your data from your iPhone/iPad/Mac/Windows PC to your other devices signed in to the same Apple ID. Syncing means if you delete a photo on one device, it is deleted on all your devices. Apple gives you 5GB of storage free to sync your devices. If you run out of space, you can either delete some data or you can buy more storage from Apple. Prices are here. If you share an Apple ID with several members of your family, you are all sharing only 5GB of free storage. If everyone has their own Apple ID, they each get their own 5GB free.
iCloud is also a full backup of your iPhone/iPad. You can only restore this data by restoring the full backup over your iPhone/iPad.
What gets synced to iCloud and all your devices:
- Desktop/Document folders
- Safari Bookmarks
- Keychain passwords
What doesn’t get backed up from your Mac
- Downloads folder
- Video folder
When do iCloud backups happen from your iPhone/iPad?
- iCloud will backup your whole device over Wi-Fi every day if these conditions are met – a device is turned on, locked, and connected to a power source.
If you want to be extra safe (like me), turn on iCloud backup for your iPhone/iPad AND back up your computers by using Time Machine on a Mac and File History on a Windows computer. Do not rely on iCloud as your only “backup.”