Solving problems with iCloud Drive

Yesterday I was a bit scathing over published solutions for problems with iCloud, specifically the common problem of protracted or failed synchronisation of iCloud Drive. You dragged some files to iCloud Drive five or more minutes ago, and they still haven’t been synced to it.

So what are Mac users recommended to do when this happens?

Apple has several articles which touch on this issue, but most of them duck syncing problems. For example, Apple’s list of suggestions for problems using iCloud offers the following steps:

  • make sure your Mac has a “strong Internet connection”;
  • check Apple’s status page;
  • update to the latest release of macOS;
  • ensure you’re signed in using the correct Apple ID.

Apple does provide a more specific set of suggestions in another article, headed What if my files don’t update to iCloud. These include:

  • ensure that you have enough storage;
  • sign into iCloud on all your devices and enable iCloud Drive;
  • ensure you have an active Internet connection;
  • install latest versions of Pages, Numbers, Keynote;
  • create a new document and save it [to iCloud] to see if it uploads to iCloud. If it does, see if other documents start uploading;
  • if those fail, contact Apple Support.

There is a lot of third-party advice, from vendors of products which rely on iCloud Drive, and from ‘independent’ support sites including the press. A collation of suggestions drawn from these includes:

  • turn iCloud Drive off, then back on again;
  • restart your Mac;
  • verify that the correct time and date are set;
  • check that iCloud is not being blocked by a firewall;
  • sign out from iCloud and back in on all devices, although this may disrupt services such as Apple Pay;
  • in spite of trying these, sometimes it takes up to 72 hours for iCloud to propagate new files/folders.

Pooling all this advice, a wise sequence to try in the event of problems getting files to upload to iCloud Drive, or to appear on iCloud Drive, might be:

  1. check Apple’s status page, as you won’t get anywhere if there are service problems;
  2. run generic checks on your internet connection, etc., to ensure there is no connection problem, and ensure that you have sufficient free space on your iCloud Drive;
  3. check your Mac’s date and time are correct, as significant discrepancies will cause problems;
  4. try uploading a small file (particularly if you are waiting for large files to be uploaded);
  5. consider contacting Apple support.

I have been unable to discover any suggestions based on insights into how iCloud works, methods for establishing where the failure is or its cause (even a cryptic error number), nor more specific remedies which can be attempted. All recommendations treat iCloud and iCloud Drive as an impenetrable Black Box. EtreCheck and other diagnostic utilities do not attempt to examine iCloud Drive in any detail, nor to establish the health of its service.

If you have more knowledge or better experience, please let me know, preferably in a comment here.