Windows & Other OS

ICloud Not Enough: Why Mac Users Should Use Time Machine Too

iCloud lets you store all your important documents, desktops, photos, and more in the cloud for convenient access from any modern Apple device. In light of this, you might think that Time Machine backs up and is now redundant. But you would be wrong.

iCloud Drive is a convenience

iCloud Drive is not a backup tool, it is a cloud storage service that syncs data between locations. Apple doesn’t advertise it as a backup tool, and you shouldn’t use it as such, though copy much of your data to a remote location .

You can enable iCloud Drive for your important Mac folders and other data in System Preferences> Apple ID. Click “Options” next to iCloud Drive and check the folders and applications you would like to use with the service. Remember that items stored on the iCloud drive count towards your total storage total, of which you only get 5GB for free.

ICloud Drive apps and folders

Even if you pay for a large chunk of iCloud Drive space, you can’t use the service as a backup location using Apple’s Time Machine service. macOS just won’t let you do that when you first set up the backup solution in System Preferences> Time Machine. If you want to back up your Mac to the web, you will need to use a service like Backblaze .

What iCloud Drive on Mac is especially good at is making your files available on all your devices, and even on the web. The Files app on iPhone and iPad means you can access your Documents folder or screenshots that reside on your desktop, wherever you are.

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You can even use iCloud Drive to access files on your Mac from a Windows or Android device. Just go to and sign in, then click iCloud Drive. You can use this web interface to upload files that then appear on your Mac.

Folders on an iCloud Drive

iCloud has some limitations that Time Machine does not have. For starters, only the most recent version of the files stored there is kept. This means that you can’t roll back a project or document to a previous version if something unfortunate happens.

Apple’s cloud storage service also requires a monthly fee to be useful. 50GB start at $ 0.99 / month, with 200GB and 2TB options available for $ 2.99 and $ 9.99 respectively. Not everyone sees the value of such a service, and it would be nice to have a cheaper 1TB tier of storage for about $ 4.99 / mo.

The time machine is a safeguard

Time Machine does one thing and it does it well. By archiving everything on your Mac to a removable drive ( or a network drive if interested ), you can rest assured knowing that if something happens to your Mac or the solid state drive inside, you have a local backup ready to go. .

You can restore your entire Mac drive from Time Machine in a fraction of the time it would take to download the same amount of data from Apple’s servers. In addition to this, Time Machine is a tool of archive . Stores multiple versions of files in incremental backups, allowing you to roll back to previous iterations of your projects and documents in case you need to.

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iCloud Drive is a data synchronization service, Time Machine covers absolutely everything. This includes applications installed on your machine, local device backups for your iPhone or iPad, music files that you have copied yourself, and everything in between.

You can take your backup drive Time machine and store it off-site if you want, protecting you against data loss in the event of a fire or natural disaster taking your Mac out of commission.

And while Time Machine requires some initial setup and the occasional securely plugging and ejecting a drive, it’s a set-and-forget solution. Remember to plug in the unit every now and then and you’re covered. macOS will even bark at you when you haven’t backed up for a few weeks.

If connecting a drive seems like a lot of work, you can even use another Mac on the same network as a Time Machine destination .

Don’t just save your photos to iCloud

ICloud Photos allows you to store all your photos in the cloud, which is very convenient for accessing media on all devices. By default, the macOS Photos app uses the “Optimize Mac storage” setting to keep full-size photos in the cloud. This lightens the load on your local storage, but it also requires you to rely on iCloud not to eat up your photo library.

Storing all your photos on your Mac can also seem impractical if you have an especially small solid state drive ( you can always update it ), but if you have a larger unit then it may be worth it for added peace of mind. If you have 1TB of storage on your Mac and 100GB of photos, using a tenth of your total storage to protect your memories seems like a no-brainer.

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ICloud storage usage

This is where Time Machine comes in. When all your photos and videos are stored locally on your Mac, Time Machine will do double duty and back them up too. Your “Photos Library.photoslibrary” file is stored in the “Photos” folder in your user folder and will be included with each pass that Time Machine makes.

At this stage, you will have everything in iCloud, everything on your Mac, and everything on a separate removable drive.

To do this, open Photos and click Photos> Preferences in the upper right corner of the screen. In the “iCloud” tab, select “Download originals on this Mac” and wait for the download to complete (it may take a while).

Store original photos on Mac

It’s important to note that iCloud is unlikely to swallow your photo library, but it’s not impossible. My iCloud Music Library was emptied shortly after the service was introduced, which meant painstakingly adding albums and recreating playlists from scratch. Apple couldn’t get the music back, so who knows if the company can get its media back if something goes wrong?

Time Machine and iCloud complement each other

The point is not to cast shadow on iCloud. The service is fast and very convenient, especially on the latest versions of iOS and macOS. But don’t leave the tried and tested time machine just yet, as it could save you in the event of a cloud catastrophe.

Your data is likely important to you, so be sure to take the necessary steps to protect it. Want to do a local backup but hate Time Machine? Consider a Time Machine alternative instead .

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