iCloud Drive Mystery


Do you have a folder in your “Home folder” labeled “iCloud Drive (Archive)"? And inside it you find all the files and folders that you used to have on your Desktop and in your Documents folders? And you are wondering how it got there, why your Desktop is now empty and how this happened??
Read further to understand the mystery of this First World problem.

"iCloud" is Apple's suite of services that functions to synchronize data from Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, etc., between multiple Apple devices, whether Macs or iPhones or iPads.
If you set up an Apple ID and sign into iCloud on a device, you can choose to turn on the items that you can then sync to your other devices. This is Apple’s way to help you have the same calendar events, contacts, and emails across your devices—eliminating the headache of wondering which device has Aunt Mary’s email address.
As iCloud evolved, with the ever-changing macOS, its abilities increased. One of the biggest new things that it allows (for the purposes of this article) is the ability to sync all your
Desktop and Documents files across your Apple devices.
This has caused a lot of confusion for many. And, if the feature ever gets turned OFF, more confusion ensues.

Some folks claims they never agreed for this “sync Desktop and Documents" thing happen. However, it did have to be manually set up or agreed to at some point. The choice might have slipped by when setting up a new Mac. After the ability was “baked-in”, a screen comes up during the initial setup asking if you want to have “sync Desktop and Documents" turned ON. It is checked ON by default! So, if you did not UN-CHECK it (turn it OFF), then you "agreed" for it to be turned ON.

If it was the first Mac with that synchronization turned ON, all you would notice was that the normal Desktop and Documents folders were no longer inside your “Home” folder. Rather, you would see a folder for Desktop and one for Documents listed under “iCloud Drive” in a Finder side bar (left-most column in a Finder window, with "Show Side Bar" view selected). If this feature had already been activated on another Mac that was signed into the same iCloud account, then the new Mac’s Desktop and Documents folders would begin to populate with the synced files and folders from the already-setup-Mac.

This feature is Apple’s version of the popular file-syncing application called “DropBox”. It provides file syncing on multiple Apple devices for one user. It works just like DropBox, but is built into the macOS—you do not need a third-party app! The problem occurs when it was ON and then got turned OFF.
Many people with multiple devices like it, rely on it… and it works very nicely for them. But some folks don’t like it or need it, and they turn it OFF. Others, didn’t really understand and turned it OFF by accident after it had been ON. Another possibility is that someone had to sign-out of iCloud during a troubleshooting session.

Ok, so what happens when it was ON, but then it gets turned OFF?


Apple explains it like this: “If you turn OFF iCloud Drive or sign out of iCloud, you have the option to keep a local copy of your files that are in iCloud Drive [namely, your Desktop files and your Documents]. If you choose to keep a local copy, your files in iCloud Drive are copied to a folder called "iCloud Drive (Archive)" in your Home folder. Whether you decide to keep a local copy or not, a new Desktop and Documents folder is created in your home folder.”

However, if you
do want to keep a local copy, your many valuable files will not return to those new Desktop and Documents folders! Your files will be copied to a new "iCloud Drive (Archive)" folder! Confusing? Yes, it sure is. It is easy enough to move them back to their former—proper—places, but if you don’t understand what has happened, you will not know that your files are there.

Perhaps someone (maybe at Apple) knows exactly why your files don’t just return to their original locations—just as they were before you turned ON/OFF the iCloud option of sync-ing the Desktop and Documents folders, but I sure do not! It makes no sense to me why they “have” to go to the new, mysterious "iCloud Drive (Archive)" folder.
And, to make matters worse, if you perform the
ON/OFF sequence again—for whatever reason—you will end up with an “iCloud Drive (Archive)” and an “iCloud Drive (Archive)-1” folder. Repeat the ON/OFF process a third time, and you’ll add another “iCloud Drive (Archive)-2” folder, and so on and so on. As many times as the ON/OFF sequence occurs you will add an additional "iCloud Drive (Archive)-??" to your Home folder.

If you end up with one or more “iCloud Drive (Archive)” folders, you should proceed carefully to return to "normal". A proper sequence of tasks should be done to be sure you 1) have the settings with iCloud as you really prefer, and 2) have your files in the proper locations so it makes sense to you. Not understanding these details can cause much "wailing and gnashing of teeth" as your file locations and the sync services get more and more chaotic.

Seek the services of a professional—with Apple or an independent—if it seems insurmountable.