Cloud syncing services iCloud Drive vs Dropbox

This is probably even lower than a beginner 101 iCloud and Dropbox question but…

I use Dropbox for online syncing of my Macs and iPhone and yes I guess it does provide another level of backup to my CCC backups to my external HDs.

I recently read Adam’s article on “Apple’s File Provider Forces…” of March 10.

In light of Apple’s change and subsequent change in Dropbox who is reminding me daily to upgrade…

I’m trying to better understand the pros and cons of Dropbox vs iCloud Drive. I’ve never used iCloud Drive.

For those experts here who are familiar with both…

Is signing up for iCloud Drive and moving all of my Dropbox files, which is close to 100% of my files, from Dropbox to Documents a good option for syncing between devices?

I noticed in that article a screenshot of Adam’s Finder window with Documents and Desktop under iCloud. I didn’t understand that location nor what happens if one uses iCloud Drive for a period of time and then quit it. Apple’s site write up sounded to me like that data is lost. I always want a local copy of those folders as I do with all of my Dropbox folder.

Thank you for any recommendations.

Let’s start with Dropbox. It has many advantages such as easy sharing of files, syncing to multiple platforms, and selective sync. File versioning is only 30 days unless you opt for one of the more expensive plans. Storage tiers are limited - 2gb for free then $10/month for 2tb. Nothing in between.

iCloud. Integrates nicely with MacOS. I keep my desktop and documents in iCloud but do not turn on optimization so a copy is stored on my Macs. If the file is only in iCloud then backup is a problem. I like having my files always synced between my iMac and MBA. They are also accessible from my iPad and iPhone. Sharing file is not so easy. No selective sync.

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Where do you turn off “optimization”? I am running High Sierraon an older MacBook Pro.r

I don’t have a High Sierra machine handy, but I am pretty sure it is the same as it is on Mojave:

Apple Menu > System Preferences > iCloud > iCloud Drive > Options > make sure the “Optimize Mac Storage” checkbox is not checked.


I find this sentence confusing — I suspect because of a missing comma. System Settings itself explains, “The full contents of iCloud Drive will be stored on this Mac” only when you have it turned ON, not when you have it turned OFF. Correct?


Sorry, I was writing the response on my iPad in bed and can’t type that well so I tend to keep replies short. When “Optimize Mac Storage” is turned OFF, all files are stored on the Mac as long as there is adequate space. When it is turned ON, some files may only be stored in iCloud. If you have the space, I also recommend turning it off so you have a local copy that can be in your backup strategy.

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I have seen the wording Apple uses to describe “optimise” confuse many people, so just to add to what Glen correctly said and hopefully help understanding:

Turning on “optimise” is giving macOS permission to replace a full size local file with a pointer to the original on iCloud. It will not use this permission if there is sufficient local space, in which case it will keep full size copy locally. Apple does not say what sufficient space is required to prevent full size files being replaced with pointers. So with Optimise on, some of your files may have been replaced with pointers.

With “optimise” Off, you are not giving that permission so all files will be full size, hence will be backed up by Time Machine and CCC etc.

OP returning. Thank you for the help.

While awaiting assists via responses to my original post, I tried enabling and then canceling iCloud Drive on my main Mac.

I now find that that action created two new folders in my user folder titled “iCloud Drive (Archive)” and “iCloud Drive (Archive)-1”

Inside those folders are 10 of my documents. The originals are still located in two separate folders within ~/Dropbox/xxxx.

Does that make sense to any of you iCloud Drive users? If yes, please explain what happened.

Thank you.

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An iCloud Drive (Archive) folder is created every time you disable iCloud Drive or sign out of iCloud. If you do this more than once, duplicate archive folders are created. The number at the end of the folder name lets you know which version it is, so iCloud Drive (Archive)-1 will include the most recent files at the time you signed out.

Thank you.

But what determines what docs are in that iCloud Drive (Archive) folder?

Dropbox usually syncs much faster than iCloud in general. Based on having two computers in my house. Transferring file goes much faster with Dropbox. AirDrop can be used but often requires accepting the connection.

But Dropbox pricing got me to drop any paid plan. Dropbox seems to be going after Enterprise and seems quite robust whereas iCloud is more consumer oriented but less robust.

I get confused by how Apple handles documents: in the Documents folder or iCloud Drive? Further exacerbated by the fact that I don’t want all my files synced because I have a large batch of scans and don’t have enough room on my MBA for them. So I have a folder named something like “Documents on Mac Mini” that I keep the scans in.

Yes, the wording on quitting iCloud can be frightening, but so far I haven’t lost anything. You run into problems when you change computers or wipe a computer.

My MBA shows many files not synced from Mac Mini. I have no idea why they don’t go ahead and sync. Can run into problems if you’re off the net.

That’s a big issue if you’re off the net because unless you stay on top of it, some files may not be being synced. And on.

Hi Norm - Apologies for not replying sooner. Your Mac will download a copy of all of the documents in your iCloud Drive at the time you sign out of/turn off iCloud to the iCloud Drive (Archive).

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That information helps.

But I’m still trying to figure out why those specific docs ended up in iCloud Drive. They aren’t in Documents, Downloads or Desktop.

I’m clutching at straws here but are the specific documents Apple’s Pages and/or Numbers? I often forget that those are saved to iCloud by default. Failing that, I’m stumped.

Thanks for trying. I appreciate.

No… One is a screenshot .png and all the rest are PDFs.

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Very helpful thread regarding iCloud drive. I wonder if the iCloud files that apeared in iCloud (archives) came from an iPhone or iPad. For example, on an iPhone, creating a screenshot snd choosing to send it gives an option of saving it to Files which causes it to show up in iCloud.

I use Dropbox mainly to do daily backups of my photos when I am travelling overseas. I back up images taken with my iPhone and DSLR camera in case of theft or loss of either. Dropbox does this backup process reasonably well once you develop a method of working through some of the poor navigation and interface designs.

I would never trust iCloud Drive to do this work. I have had issues before with iCloud that confirmed my belief that Apple does not, and never has, done cloud very well. Consequently I will never let any of my photos anywhere near iCloud.

I am on OS12.6.5 was prompted to “upgrade” dropbox. My DB files disappeared -as promised- & a new DB folder was created in ~library/cloud services. However, the synching (of 43K files) stalled permanently. I was able to access my DB on the web interface but was locked out on my M1 mini. After 39 exchanges over 5 weeks with customer support (upgraded 3 times). I was told that DB does not support this upgrade on OS 12.x --but was offered a way to go back to the old version; which seems to work fine. I do not know how many users are effected. My iCloud backups have fewer services but never let me down. just saying…

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And where is this archive folder stored on the Mac?

Hi Dennis - The iCloud Drive (Archive) folder is created in the Home folder in Finder.

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