Deleting documents stored on iCloud

Kirk McElhearn talks through the process of deleting iCloud documents from iOS and the Mac.

On the iOS side, he’s right on the money. But on the Mac side, Kirk says:

It’s surprising that you can’t do this from a Mac. But there are ways to access, and delete, files from OS X, such as by navigating to ~/Library/Mobile Documents, where you can see all your documents in a Finder window. If you delete documents there, they get deleted from iCloud in the same way, but the interface isn’t designed for you to do this.

This option is a bit tucked away, but if you go to System Preferences… and select iCloud, you’ll see a Manage… button. It’s pretty much the same interface.

I do like the mention of ~/Library/Mobile Documents, though I’d strongly suggest using the interface. Using the Finder to delete files when there is an interface designed specifically to delete them is asking for trouble.

I would also recommend logging in to iCloud.com and clicking the circled ? in the upper right corner. That will bring up an excellent help window with coverage on storage management and a host of other useful topics.



  • Jeff

    Can’t you control-click (right mouse button click) while in the open dialog box in Pages or Numbers and delete the file? won’t this delete it from iCloud to? I do this all the time. I don’t go into the library folder.

  • Jeff

    Sorry. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to 3rd party apps not on your mac.

  • John

    I do a lot of writing in Markdown format. I like to use different tools. If you use Byword with iCloud (for example) then you are locked into as the editor unless you export it.

    Dropbox, Box, etc give you more application flexibility and is simpler for secondary backup with services like Crashplan.

  • khakionion

    I don’t understand how this is “tucked away.” It’s actually easier on the Mac.

    iPhone, 4 Taps: Settings, iCloud, Storage, Manage. Mac, 3 Clicks: Settings, iCloud, Manage.

  • Klaas

    You can also drag’n drop documents from the iCloud open dialog onto the trash

  • Stabilizer

    I just ended a week of struggling with this. I bought 200GB on iCloud and used 60GB for some files I rarely need, but REALLY NEED when I need them. My goal was protection of data if I was overseas and my laptop failed. Due to satellite bandwidth issues I had to delete these files. I could not do it. I’d delete them in “Finder+ICloud” and they just came back. I went to iCloud online, same problem I chatted and emailed and called Apple. They couldn’t help. I told them to please just delete every file on my ICloud account, I have backups, but they couldn’t do that. Finally, after multiple calls and HOURS on hold, the 3rd or 4th guy called, from a 512 area code Austin TX. He told me ICloud isn’t designed to hold backup data files. OK, I asked – then why does my IPad ask me if I want to back up to ICloud? He said it can be used for backups but only very small files. Great, all 60GB of my files were small. He then said ICloud can’t erase more than 30 files at a time. I immediately asked if this was true, why did Apple sell 200GB, 500GB, and 1TB accounts? Then he said it was for backups, but you couldn’t have lots of small files. OK, so does this mean I should make ZIP files 1GB, 10GB, 100GB, what??? No he said, it won’t work for very large files. OK, back to start, I have 60 GB of small files. iCloud, according to this Apple guy, could not handle large files, small files backup files, many files, or few files unless they were small. OK, I said, ICloud is only really useable in the free 5GB size, their file management software simply can’t handle large cloud based storage – that’s OK but quit marketing large accounts. Then he said it could handle large files and small files and lots of files but not if you wanted to work with large files or lots of files – at this point I realized I was talking to a nitwit and hung up.

    Today I drove to town where my iPhone works and lo and behold, in iCloud on the iPhone I could delete all data files WITH ONE COMMAND – AND IT NOT ONLY WORKED, IT TOOK ONLY 30 SECONDS TO DELETE EVERYTHING.

    So, the moral of the story is don’t use iCloud to store your computer files unless you have an IPhone, as only an IPhone can manage the computer files stored on your ICloud – got it? I’m switching to the free 5GB and will never use Apple cloud storage again. I also have Google Drive and Microsoft’s Skydive, and both of them manage files painlessly and while it might take a while to delete 60GB, you just hit Delete,then Yes, then you can go hiking, it just works