3 things you need to know about iCloud Photo syncing



Apple has updated their iPhoto app to ‘Photos’ and included some pretty cool iCloud syncing.  All your photos are available everywhere all the time.  It keeps smaller copies of the photos on your iOS device while allowing the larger original ones to stay in the Cloud and it can download the larger files to your computer if you want. It’s easy to email a photo to someone from iCloud, even big movies. All in all, it’s very nice.  There are some major drawbacks with this approach though, and you need to be aware of them.  All your photos are now going to the internet, not just to your computer, and this can use a lot of bandwidth.  So here are 3 reasons why iCloud syncing of your photos might be a bad idea, and how to disable it and go back to manual syncing if you’d like to.

3 reasons to turn off iCould syncing.

Reason #1: You may need to pay for more iCloud storage.

Unless you pay for iCloud storage, you probably won’t have enough space to enable iCloud Library because it uploads all of your photos, not just the ones it is copying from your phone.

Check out this screenshot from the Photos preferences:

photo stream

If you tick just ‘My Photo Stream’ as in the above photo, all your new photo’s are sent to the cloud.  I enabled  ‘iCloud Photo Library’. I got the following message:


Apple want me to pay $4.99 a month to do this, because it want’s to sync my entire library. For this reason you might like to revert back to manual syncing of your photos.

Reason #2: It will use up more of your internet data.

If you are on a very small internet plan iCloud Photo Library will chew up a lot of your data. Look at the screenshot above – I have 100.93 GB of photos on my mac. This means that if I enable iCloud photo Library it’s going to upload that entire 100GB library to the internet. I’m going to go way over my monthly quota of 60GB if I enable that.

Reason #3: It is much slower to sync videos via the cloud.

If you enable iCloud Photos, your videos are synced via the cloud as well. Videos can be hundreds of megabytes, so the sync process can be very slow.

Reason #4: Your videos may not be copied to your computer.

A problem: where are my videos?

If you did not enable iCloud on your mac because of the cost involved,  the videos from your iPhone are synced to the cloud, but they are not synced across to your Photos app. Worse still, if you now turn off iCloud syncing on your iPhone, all your videos and photos are deleted from your iPhone, there is no way to avoid this. This means your videos are gone from your phone and your computer.

Q: So where are they?

A: They are in the cloud.

To access them you will need to open a web browser, go to iCloud.com, sign in, and your video’s will be there. Then you can click on a video and click on the download button (the cloud with the down arrow) and they will download to your computer.

Click on the cloud to download your videos from iCloud.
Click on the cloud to download your videos from iCloud.

You can see how much data they are using and how long it will take for them to download…

Unfortunately on a slow internet connection this process takes quite a while.
Unfortunately on a slow internet connection this process takes quite a while.

I has to wait 10 minutes for just 2 short movies to download. Yet another reason to go back to manual syncing.

If you go back to manual syncing, all the photos and videos are copied across to your computer via the lightning cable, and it doesn’t use up any of your internet usage.

How to go back to manual syncing.

To go back to manual syncing of photos and videos you need to change a setting on your iPhone.

Go to my iPhone ‘Settings’, then ‘iCloud’, then ‘Photos’, then disable the ‘iCloud Photo Library’ button.

Now your photos will only be synced manually when you plug into your computer.

Turning off ‘iCloud Photo Library’ on your iPhone means that photos are synced manually when you plug in your iPhone.


You can find out more about iCloud Photo Library here.



One response to “3 things you need to know about iCloud Photo syncing”

  1. SKM

    Mac has gotten much more dumber, especially with iCloud. Mac and iCloud ruined the uploading of files from GoPro… So furious and annoyed right now. How did Mac dumb down????

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