eXtensions - Monday 23 October 2017


System Preferences in macOS, High Sierra: iCloud

By Graham K. Rogers


In macOS, High Sierra System Preferences, there are minor changes to some panels. iCloud arrived in an update to OS X 10.7 at the same time iOS 5 was released. We are now using iOS 11. More features have been added to iCloud, so the panel has evolved. It retains the same basic design despite the change on iOS to the Files app.

As part of the setup process for a new Mac includes registration for (or logging in to) an iCloud account, most users will see the normal preferences panel which helps with the services to be used. For a new account (or a computer which skipped the iCloud setup) there is a sign up when the iCloud preferences panel is accessed for the first time.


When the user has already signed in - and remains signed in (see below) - the normal panel is in two parts: account information to the left with services in a larger window to the right. The left part is now dominated by the user's icon. This is independent of the user account image and may be edited from within this panel. Passing the cursor over the icon reveals the word, "edit". Pressing this opens a panel that allows access to several sources for icons or images.


Beneath the icon is the user name, and below that the account name (email) in grey. Two buttons are available underneath the name: Account Details; and Set Up Family.

Pressing the Account Details button brings up a small panel that allows access to information once the password is entered. Five tabs revealed are for General, Contact (emails and phone), Security (password and authorisation), Devices and Payment (e.g. credit card information). Each has information specific to the user account and none of this should be shared with others.

If not already done, it is now necessary to set up two-factor verification. This will mean turning off two-step verification, signing out of the account, then signing back in. There are warnings about deletion (documents, photos), but these are either kept in the cloud or in a Saved Documents folder on the Mac.

If a number of devices are authorised, make sure that the correct one for the current situation is selected in the panel that opens. Note also the the Recovery Key, generated when the verification is set up. This is an identifying code that cannot be recreated or recovered if lost. I wrote this on paper and have locked it away in a secure place.


Two useful articles are shown here that will outline the steps involved. Much patience is needed.

  • How to protect your Apple ID with Two-Factor Authentication (Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog)

  • Unlocking a Mac with an Apple Watch requires two-factor, not two-step, iCloud protection - what? (Glenn Fleishman, MacWorld)

Set Up Family allows the use of the new feature of Family Sharing: purchases of movies, apps, music and books; photos and videos in a family photo stream; events via a family calendar; location sharing; finding family devices. An Apple Music account can also be shared. A button marked, Learn More, opens a web page with more information. Similar information is available in a support document.

A Continue button allows the head of family to start setting up this service.


The main panel (image above) displays the services that are currently available for users. These are shown as a list of icons and names. The order is not alphabetical on my computer and starts with iCloud Drive (now Files on iOS). Other services available are: Photos, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari, Notes, Siri, Keychain, Back to My Mac, and Find My Mac. To the left of each is a checkbox indicating whether it is currently active or not.

In my installation, iCloud Drive, and Photos also have Options buttons alongside. The Photos options button opens a panel that turns On (or Off) iCloud Photos options, which may also be seen in the Preferences panel of Photos.

iCloud Drive allows a number of applications services to be activated using an Options button that reveals a two-part panel:

  • Documents, which shows applications that are also able to use iCloud Drive. This has changed from Sierra. My installation now shows Desktop & Documents Folders, Automator, Grab, Preview, QuickTime Player, Script Editor, TextEdit,GarageBand, iBooks, iMovie, Keynote, Numbers, Pages, Mail, and System Preferences. Several third party applications that can use iCloud Drive are shown here as well.

    The Desktop and Documents folders can be set up when a Mac is first set up (or later in iCloud). This allows synchronisation of these folders across all devices. Users with more than one Mac may want to exercise some caution. Early comments from Adam C. Engst (TidBits) and Jason Snell (6 Colors) are worth considering, along with the problems found by Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo).

    In my case, this is working really well with my MacBook Pro, but I have not turned this function on for other Macs and rely on the single computer. However, I am able to access the synchronised files on all of the other Macs and on iOS devices by accessing the iCloud Drive folder on a Mac or the Files app on an ioS device.

  • Look Me Up By Email - a panel that shows apps that allow others to look up the user's Apple ID - first and last names will be seen. At the time of writing, no apps were listed.

  • At the bottom of the panel is a checkbox marked, Optimize Mac Storage. If there is enough space, the full contents of iCloud Dive are stored on the computer, otherwise less-used documents are stored in iCloud.

  • Back to My Mac has been a feature available on Macs for several years. It allows a user to control a Mac remotely. I wrote about this in 2008 in an item on Screen Sharing in the Sharing Preferences.

    An updated Apple Knowledge Base Document, HT204618 has more details about the service in iCloud, but there are two main parts: Browse your remote Mac computer's hard drive, and drag files and folders to your local Mac; and Control your remote Mac just as if you were sitting in front of it.

  • Find my Mac has been available for a number of years. Earlier, this had to be turned on from within the Admin account. Since 10.8, I have been able to activate this from within the user account.

Below the main panel is a bar that shows the amount of iCloud storage currently in use. In the Finder sidebar there is now an iCloud item that opens a window with a number of folders, each related to those apps that use the feature.

A button to the side of the capacity display is marked, Manage. This loads a two-part panel with apps to the left (both Apple and 3rd party) and basic details to the right when an app is highlighted. There is also an icon for Backups which shows the amount of data used by iOS devices. As well as Apple software like Keynote and Numbers, several iOS apps may be shown.


Information for the apps outlines the amount of storage being used, with an explanation of how to free up more data. Not all the applications listed have folders in iCloud Drive.

Each of the highlighted applications in the "Manage Storage" panel has a button to allow deletion of data or other data management.

To the right of the panel is a button marked Change Storage Plan. Apple provides 5 GB of storage for users, no matter how many devices are used. Additional storage is available and the price of this has now been reduced. Storage tiers have also been revised. Details are available in an Apple support document -

  • 5 GB - free
  • 50 GB 35 baht (US - $1.29) per month
  • 200 GB 99 baht (US - $3.99) per month
  • 2 TB 349 baht (US - $12.99) per month


See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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