What is the iCloud Drive (Archive) folder and is it safe to delete it?

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You might have noticed an iCloud Drive (Archive) folder taking up a lot of storage on your Mac. This folder holds a local copy of all the data from your iCloud Drive account.

In this article, we’ve explained where the archive folder comes from, why you might want it, and when it’s safe to delete it.


Why is there an iCloud Drive (Archive) folder on my Mac?

iCloud Drive alert offering to keep a copy of documents
If you choose to keep a copy of documents they go to an iCloud Drive (Archive) folder.

Your Mac creates an iCloud Drive (Archive) folder every time you turn off iCloud Drive and choose to Keep a Copy of your documents on your Mac. It downloads a copy of all your iCloud Drive documents to this archive folder so you can still access them without using iCloud.

This also happens when you sign out of iCloud in the System Preferences.

Signing out of iCloud or disabling iCloud Drive doesn’t delete any of your documents from iCloud. The archive folder holds a copy of your iCloud documents. But the original documents still exist in iCloud as well.

To view your iCloud Drive (Archive) folder, open Finder and press Cmd + Shift +H to go to your Home folder.

Why are there duplicate archive folders?

Duplicate iCloud Drive (Archive) folders in Home folder
Your Mac creates duplicate folders each time you sign out of iCloud.

Your Mac creates a new iCloud Drive (Archive) folder every time you disable iCloud Drive or sign out of iCloud. If you do this multiple times—by repeatedly signing in and out—your Mac creates duplicate archive folders each time.

Whenever your Mac creates a duplicate archive folder it adds a number to the end, so you know which version it is. Each folder takes a snapshot of all your iCloud documents at the moment you signed out.

When trying to choose which archive folder to keep, think about the last changes you made to your iCloud documents. If you want to keep the latest changes, hold onto the newest archive folder. If you want to revert to older versions, you should keep an older archive folder.

Alternatively, merge the folders together with Kaleidoscope (explained below).

What happens when I start using iCloud Drive again?

Apple ID iCloud System Preferences
Enable iCloud Drive from the Apple ID System Preferences.

The next time you enable iCloud Drive on your Mac, you will regain access to all the original documents in your iCloud account. Unfortunately, your Mac doesn’t merge these documents with the archive folder.

This means you might have duplicate copies on your Mac: one in iCloud Drive and another in the archive folder.

When you make changes to any documents in the archive folder, your Mac doesn’t upload those changes to iCloud. That would mean the latest version of your document is only in the local archive folder and not on iCloud Drive.

On the other hand, if you make changes to your iCloud Drive documents using another device, you won’t see those changes in the local archive folder.

Is it safe to delete the iCloud Drive (Archive) folder?

iCloud Drive (Archive) folder going into Trash
Drag your iCloud Drive (Archive) folder to the Trash to delete it.

When you delete the iCloud Drive (Archive) folder, you aren’t deleting any content from iCloud Drive itself. Instead, you’re deleting the copies of those iCloud documents that your Mac created when you signed out.

Before you delete the archive folder, you need to make sure you still have a copy of those documents elsewhere. Generally speaking, everything should still be available on iCloud. You can check this by signing in to the iCloud website.

However, if you edit documents in your iCloud Drive (Archive) folder, those changes won’t appear in the same document on iCloud. If this is the case, you should upload your edited document to iCloud and replace the existing version.

All you need to do is copy that document into the iCloud Drive folder in Finder. If you can’t see it, go to System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud and turn on iCloud Drive.

Do I need to keep the contents of my iCloud Drive (Archive) folder?

There are no system files in the iCloud Drive (Archive) folder. So it’s safe to delete any documents from it that you don’t want to keep. Just make sure you’ve got a recent copy of any important documents before you delete them.

When you delete files from your archive folder it doesn’t delete them from iCloud Drive. So if you have a recent copy of your files in iCloud Drive it’s perfectly safe to delete the archive folder.

Use Kaleidoscope to merge your folders

Kaleidoscope banner from website
Kaleidoscope lets your merge folders on your Mac.

If you aren’t sure which documents from the archive folder are still in iCloud Drive, you can merge both folders together using Kaleidoscope.

This is a premium app, but it comes with a 14-day free trial you can use to merge your iCloud Drive folders. It highlights any differences between the folder contents and lets you choose which version of each file to keep.

Before you use Kaleidoscope, you should sign in to iCloud Drive again from the System Preferences. Then compare the iCloud Drive folder from the Finder sidebar with the iCloud Drive (Archive) folder.

Download: Kaleidoscope for macOS ($69.99 with a 14-day free trial)

What if I delete something important by mistake?

Searching for restorable files on iCloud website
iCloud lets you restore deleted files for 30 days.

Apple is pretty good at protecting your documents. If you accidentally delete an important document, there are usually a couple of ways to recover it.

If you deleted an important document from your archive folder, it should still be available for you to recover from the Trash. Documents remain in the Trash for 30 days before your Mac finally erases them.

Double-click the Trash icon in the Dock to search through it. If you find the document you need to recover, control-click on it and click Put Back.

If you deleted something from iCloud Drive and don’t have a copy of it in your archive folder, you may be able to recover documents from the iCloud website.

To do so, sign in to the iCloud website from your web browser and click on Account Settings. At the bottom of the page, click Restore Files beneath the Advanced heading.

The pop-up window shows every document you deleted from iCloud in the past 30 days. Select a file and click Restore to add it to your iCloud Drive again.

Find out which iCloud Drive documents are saved locally

The iCloud Drive (Archive) folder saves all of your iCloud Drive content locally. Typically, this content is stored on iCloud’s servers and downloads to your Mac when you want to use it.

But your Mac might choose to download a host of documents from iCloud Drive to keep them accessible to you all the time. You can find out which iCloud Drive documents are downloaded using Finder.

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