What happens to my files if I turn off iCloud?

iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage service that keeps your photos, documents, and other files backed up and available across your Apple devices. When you turn off iCloud, you stop syncing your files and data to the cloud. This means any files you had stored in iCloud will no longer be accessible from other devices once you turn off the service.

So what exactly happens to all your files and data when you disable iCloud? Here’s a breakdown of how turning off iCloud affects your files on different Apple devices:

Files on iPhone/iPad

When you turn off iCloud on your iPhone or iPad, any files that were previously stored in iCloud will remain on your device’s local storage. This includes:

  • Photos and videos in your Camera Roll
  • Contacts stored in your Contacts app
  • Calendars and events saved in your Calendar app
  • Notes in the Notes app
  • Voice memos
  • App data
  • Text messages

So you won’t lose access to any of these files on your iPhone or iPad once iCloud is disabled. They’ll simply remain stored locally on your device.

However, keep in mind that once iCloud is off, any changes you make to these files will no longer sync across your other devices. For example, if you add a new calendar event on your iPhone, it won’t show up on your Mac’s Calendar app anymore with iCloud disabled.

Files on Mac

When you turn off iCloud Drive on your Mac, any files that were stored in iCloud Drive will remain available in the local iCloud Drive folder on your Mac. So Word documents, PDFs, images, videos, and any other files you had in iCloud Drive will still be accessible in the iCloud Drive folder even after disabling the service.

If you had Desktop and Documents folders being synced from iCloud Drive, then disabling it will revert those folders to being stored locally on your Mac only. Any files that were in them when iCloud Drive was enabled will remain available on your Mac.

However, similarly to iOS devices, any changes made to these files will no longer sync across devices once iCloud is turned off. So your Mac and iPhone will no longer remain in sync in terms of files and documents.

Accessing iCloud files after turning off service

While files stored locally on your devices will remain available after turning off iCloud, you’ll lose access to any files that were stored exclusively in iCloud and nowhere else. This includes:

  • Notes only stored in iCloud and not on any device
  • Photos/videos stored in iCloud Photos, but not saved locally on a device
  • Files saved directly to iCloud Drive online, but not on any device
  • iCloud email, contacts, calendars not saved on any device

So if you had any files saved exclusively to the cloud and not locally downloaded to a device, these will no longer be accessible once you turn off iCloud.

You can access and export these types of iCloud-only files before disabling the service:

  • Download photos/videos from iCloud.com
  • Export Notes from iCloud.com
  • Download documents from iCloud Drive
  • Export Contacts, Calendars, Reminders data

This will let you save copies of those iCloud-only files to your local device storage or computer before turning off the service and losing access.

Other consequences of turning off iCloud

Beyond your files and data, turning off iCloud can have other impacts:

  • No more automatic wireless device backups
  • Loss of synced data like bookmarks, messages, app data
  • Can’t remotely locate or wipe lost iOS devices
  • Loss of shared albums, calendars, reminders etc
  • No more private relay protection in Safari

So while your files will remain available locally, you lose many of the synchronization, sharing, security, and recovery benefits by disabling iCloud.

Should you re-enable iCloud later?

If you end up turning iCloud off temporarily, you can always re-enable it later to restore syncing across devices. When you turn iCloud back on, your devices will start syncing again and any new changes will be updated across your account.

However, any changes made to files while iCloud was disabled will not retroactively sync. So you’ll need to manually update any important new files/data that was changed while iCloud was off.

The benefit of re-enabling iCloud is regaining all its services like backups, sharing, syncing capabilities. Just be aware that any file changes made without iCloud will not magically re-sync after. Maintaining your own local backups is ideal.


Here are some key points to summarize what happens when you disable iCloud:

  • Files stored locally on your devices will remain available
  • You’ll lose access to files saved only in iCloud storage
  • Make sure to download or export iCloud-only files before disabling
  • Changes made while iCloud is off will not sync if you re-enable service
  • You lose syncing, sharing, security benefits without iCloud
  • Re-enabling iCloud later will restore its capabilities

So in summary, any files not saved locally will be inaccessible after disabling iCloud. But you can download copies of iCloud-only files before turning the service off. Just be aware you lose many of the benefits of keeping iCloud enabled for seamless syncing across Apple devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about what happens when turning off iCloud:

Will I lose all my photos if I turn off iCloud Photos?

No, photos stored locally in your device Camera Roll will remain available. Only photos saved exclusively in iCloud storage and not on any device will become inaccessible after disabling iCloud Photos.

Can I re-download photos from iCloud after disabling it?

No, you will no longer be able to access or recover photos stored only in your iCloud Photos library after turning the service off. Make sure to download any photos you want to keep before disabling iCloud Photos.

What happens to my iCloud email account when I turn off iCloud?

Your @icloud.com email address will eventually be deactivated after disabling iCloud services. Make sure to transition your iCloud email if you plan to keep that address active.

Will I stop receiving iMessages if I turn off iCloud?

No, disabling iCloud will not affect receiving iMessages. These will continue to be delivered to your iPhone, iPad and Mac devices as long as you have WiFi or cellular data connectivity.

Can I still share albums after disabling iCloud Photo Sharing?

No, turning off iCloud Photo Sharing will remove any shared album access that was enabled through that service. Everyone you were sharing albums with would lose access.

What if I only temporarily disable iCloud – will my files sync again if I re-enable it?

Yes, turning iCloud syncing back on will resume updating files across devices. However, any file changes made while iCloud was disabled will not retroactively sync.

Instructions if Disabling iCloud

If you do plan to turn off iCloud, here are some step-by-step instructions to ensure you retain access to all your files:

On iPhone/iPad:

  1. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud
  2. Under Apps Using iCloud, turn off any app syncing you wish to disable
  3. Tap Turn Off & Delete under iCloud Backup
  4. Go to Photos and disable iCloud Photos
  5. Disable any other iCloud services like iCloud Drive or Contacts syncing

On Mac:

  1. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Apple ID
  2. Click Manage to disable iCloud Drive and other iCloud features
  3. Click Options to disable Desktop & Documents Folders syncing
  4. Go to Photos and turn off iCloud Photos
  5. Exit any open apps like Photos, Mail, Contacts to fully disable iCloud

In iCloud.com

  1. Go to privacy.apple.com to access your iCloud data
  2. Download any photos or files only stored in iCloud online storage
  3. Export Contacts and Calendars data you wish to retain
  4. Save any Notes only stored in iCloud Notes

Following these steps will ensure you have local copies of any important files before deactivating your iCloud account. Just remember you’ll be losing significant capabilities by turning off Apple’s cloud services.


Disabling iCloud can have big impacts on accessing files across your Apple devices. While locally stored files remain available, you lose any files saved only to iCloud storage. Make sure to download copies of any iCloud-exclusive data before turning off the service.

And be aware that turning off iCloud means losing syncing, shared files, backups, and other key features. In most cases, it’s recommended to keep iCloud enabled for the seamless experience it provides across the Apple ecosystem. But if you do need to disable it, take steps to preserve your important data first.

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