Hands-On with iCloud for Windows 10

Posted on June 12, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Cloud, Windows 10 with 21 Comments

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release of iCloud for Windows 10 in the Microsoft Store. Big deal, right? Well, there is one surprise: This version of the app differs from the normal web-based download in that it supports the same underlying sync technology as OneDrive’s Files On-Demand.

This is, I believe, a first. And I’m curious now whether other cloud-based storage vendors—Dropbox, Box, and so on—will adopt this technology in Windows 10 as well. We’ll see what happens. But for now, both OneDrive and iCloud, as weird as that sounds, offer first-class, reliable cloud/desktop sync capabilities in Windows 10. And that is a big deal.

For those unfamiliar, iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage service. It’s not particularly affordable compared to other services—users get 5 GB of storage for free, but 50 GB is $1 per month, 200 GB is $3 per month, and 2 TB is $10 per month, and there are no annual plans—but it’s hard to argue with the scope and functionality it provides. iCloud is the go-to for hundreds of millions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, and it provides document and photo storage, deep Apple app integration, messages sync, backup and restore, and more.

This functionality is obviously built-in to Apple’s own platforms, but it provides a separate and less well understood iCloud client for Windows 7, 8.x, and 10. It works as you’d expect, though some Apple ecosystem-specific functionality, like text message sync and Apple app integration is notably but understandably absent.

What you do get is iCloud Drive (documents and other files); Photos; Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks (via Microsoft Outlook only); and browser bookmarks (from Safari to IE, Firefox, or Chrome) sync. You can choose which of these items to sync using the app, which is implemented as a control panel. Yep, it’s that old.

I don’t normally use iCloud, especially on Windows, but I did install the new Windows 10 iCloud app to see what document and file sync is like. It works as you’d expect: An iCloud Drive item appears in the File Explorer navigation pane, as one does for OneDrive, and you can browse through the folders and files it contains normally.

By default, these files and folders are “Available when online,” meaning that what you’re seeing are placeholders. If you open a document or other file, it downloads and becomes “Available on this device.”

But you can also mark a folder or file so that it is always available on the PC: Just right-click it and choose “Always keep on this device.”

So, yes, this works exactly as it does for OneDrive. This is a huge win for those who rely on iCloud for their iPhones and iPads but also use Windows 10. I have to think there are hundreds of millions of people like that.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Hands-On with iCloud for Windows 10”

  1. karlinhigh

    Glad to see this. Sometimes in tech support work, I'll have an iOS user bring a device with many thousands of photos, wanting to make a backup to flash or optical media. Turns out that only a few hundred are on the device, rest have been moved to cloud storage.

    iCloud for Windows is the only good way I've found to bring them back. On a Mac computer it is almost too integrated; it's just certain-sure that the computer and the iCloud account are the same person, and tries to merge everything it can find.

  2. dougkinzinger

    Definitely a win for Apple and MS. In my opinion, Apple needs MS as much as MS needs Apple in order to compete with the Android juggernaut. Strength in numbers.

  3. datameister

    "It’s not particularly affordable compared to other services"

    What other services are you comparing it to?

    Lowest Tier:

    iCloud = $12/yr for 50GB

    Google Drive = $20/yr for 100GB

    OneDrive = $24/yr for 50GB

    Dropbox = $120/yr for 2TB

    2nd Tier:

    iCloud = $36/yr for 200GB

    Google Drive = $30/yr for 200GB

    OneDrive = $70/yr for 1TB

    Dropbox = $200/yr for 3TB

    Seems pretty in line with the others and way more affordable than Dropbox.

  4. Atoqir

    The app is also DPI aware now and doesn’t do those explorer.exe hacks that madd iCloud Photos appeear

  5. bbold

    I embrace this completely since I know there are many PC users like myself who also use iCloud (and Apple Services in general, since there are many Windows users that have iPhones.) Kudos to Apple for pushing this out! Let's hope they keep it updated and keep adding features.

  6. dcdevito

    ”This is a huge win for those who rely on iCloud for their iPhones and iPads but also use Windows 10. I have to think there are hundreds of millions of people like that.”

    I’m one of them, and this is huge for me. Thanks for writing this, Paul. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed and probably would’ve never downloaded the store version.

  7. dontbe evil

    I'm so sorry that I cannot comment on the macbook air died PREMIUM article ... But but apple macbook quality is the best!!!

  8. woodward5418

    I use all of the storage “boxes” out there. OneDrive, DropBox, and iCloud. Through work we have the enterprise version of Box which is what the company uses to sandbox all files work related. My problem I have faced is that the company has locked out Dropbox and onedrive even though we are an enterprise MS customer. The one thing iCloud allows me to do is use it to be able to work on multiple devices no matter whether it is my personal machine or work machine. I am sure it will on,y last until my company catches up to it but for now any added functionality is helpful.

    • wright_is

      In reply to woodward5418:

      OneDrive != OneDrive for Business. They have a very different basis. It doesn't surprise me that OneDrive is blocked. We aren't allowed to use any private cloud services, only company approved services on company devices - and no company data is allowed on private devices or private cloud services.

  9. will

    I guess now it is Dropbox's turn...

  10. BigM72

    No one has explained if this new version is exclusive to the store version of iCloud for windows or if you have the normal "desktop" version, you also get those features.

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