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How To: Use iCloud’s Hidden ‘Drop Box’ Feature To Sync Files Across Your Macs

How To: Use iCloud’s Hidden ‘Drop Box’ Feature To Sync Files Across Your Macs

Apple has advertised their new iCloud service as doing a number of things, such as syncing contacts, calendars, and even iWork documents. iCloud has one unique feature that Apple hasn’t spoken up about, however: a Dropbox-like way to keep files in sync across multiple Macs.

iCloud officially only supports the syncing of data through applications themselves, restricting users from syncing data of their own choosing. According to MacWorld, however, there’s a fairly simple way to take control of iCloud data on your Mac. Here’s how it’s done:

Apple stores iCloud documents for syncing in a special folder on your Mac, located in a folder called Mobile Documents within your user Library folder. To access this folder and use it for syncing your own files, simply follow the below steps:

  • Open System Preferences and select the “iCloud pane, then make sure the “Documents & Data” preference pane is checked.
  • Navigate to ~/Library/Mobile Documents and place any files you want to sync inside (if you can’t see your user library folder, here’s how to make it show up). If the “Mobile Documents” folder isn’t there, create a save a document using iWork for iOS.
  • To view these files on any other Mac linked to your iCloud account, simply make sure the above settings are checked on the other Mac and enter the Mobile Documents folder – your files will all be there.

You can now create an alias of this folder, and place it in a more convenient location, such as the Documents folder. While this is an interesting solution for keeping files in sync, its not necessarily a great alternative to a service like Dropbox, as Dropbox was specifically designed for this purpose, and allows you to access your files through the web.

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  1. Joe says:

    I tried this and it worked for about a week, maybe 10 days.  All my normal Dropbox docs were moved to the Mobile Documents folder and were accessible on all my linked computers/devices.  Then one day I went on one my work computer to pull up a document I’d copied to Mobile Documents the night before.  Nothing was there.  All the docs were gone.  Thankfully I have a backup.  But I’ve been scared of using this solution ever since.  It would be great if it worked without difficulty because iCloud’s capacity works better for me.

    So, for what it’s worth, keep a backup if you use this solution.

    1. Jonas says:

      This exact thing happened to me today – all the files that I had put into the Mobile Documents folder are just gone! – does anyone know how to retrieve them?

  2. Benny says:

    Does this use the 5GB of free data? Or is it unlimited storage?

  3. Cyberhusky says:

    SInce OSX 10.7.3 this solution doesn’t work anymore!

    1. Yes it does. I just went back through and tested it. Which part are you having trouble with?

  4. Agaethon says:

    I’ve found a good solution that works well between your Mac and an iOS device. Get yourself a copy of GoodReader for iPhone or iPad. It works with iCloud and makes its own documents folder right inside of iCloud. Then if you use that folder for your “drop box” you’ll be able to access your files from OS X and iOS and iCloud doesn’t just wipe out the files like in the case of Joe in the above comments because it doesn’t go mucking around a third parties files, but it will mess with Pages files if it feels like the data doesn’t belong there.

  5. impaler says:

    Doing this is a bad idea. Apple doesn’t want it to work this way, and I’ve seen nothing but frustrating reports from folks that have tried it, only for iCloud sync engine to mess everything up.

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