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Quick Tip: Backup iCloud Documents With Hazel


When it comes to cloud services, Apple doesn't exactly have the best track record. Longtime users of .Mac, MobileMe, and iCloud can attest to this. That being said, the sheer convenience of such a well-integrated solution like iCloud is hard to beat. 

In this Quick Tip, I'll show you how to get the best of both worlds by backing up your iCloud documents to any folder on or connected to a Mac. This could be the Dropbox or Google Drive Folder, a folder on a nearby NAS or just a folder sitting on the desktop. 


Hazel 101

To automate the backup process, you'll need a handy little tool called Hazel which provides automated organization for the Mac. It's only $28 and it would really be a steal at twice the price. The application works as a System Preferences Pane, automatically filing, organizing and cleaning your files. 

Once you've purchased and installed Hazel, you can head over to System Preferences to get started. To launch Hazel, just click on it's preference pane icon. 

Selecting the Mobile Documents Folder

The backup you create will be of the Mobile Documents folder, which is where Apple keeps your iCloud documents. Apple does a pretty good job of keeping this out of view from the average user, but it's not at all difficult to find if you know where to look. 

First, open up Finder. Next, right click on any empty space and select Show View Options. Here, no surprise, you'll be given an overview of  some viewing options for the Home folder. 

Select Show Library Folder as that's where the Mobile Documents folder is hiding. Once selected, you'll see that the Library has appeared in the Home folder and you're ready to move forward. 

Creating the Perfect Rule

With the Library folder unhidden, you can head back to Hazel and add the Mobile Documents folder to your list of actionable folders. Now that you've selected a folder to run some rules on, it's time to craft your rule. 

A rule is composed of two parts, the If Statement and the Do Statement. In the following steps, I'll show you how to properly use both to create a rule that will backup the Mobile Documents folder.

First, give your rule a name. Choose something clear and understandable should you need to go back to it in order to change something. 

Now you can define your If Statement. The broadest possible If Statement is one that monitors all files. To create this, select Any File from Hazel's drop down menu. If you'd like to exclude certain files from your backup, change the If Statement to If None instead of If Any. This will instruct Hazel to look for files or folders with a specific name to exclude. Find the exact name of the folder you'd like to exclude and copy that into Hazel's text field.

Your If Statement should look something like this:

If None of the following conditions are met: Name is  folder name

The Do Statement is going to tell Hazel exactly what operations you'd like it to perform. You can use this to tell Hazel to duplicate the contents of the Mobile Documents folder. 

The Do Statement should look like this:

Do the following to the matched file or folder: Copy to the folder: folder name

Next, select Options and choose replace the existing file. Finally, select the checkbox labelled do not copy if a duplicate.

When you press OK, your rule that instructs Hazel to backup the iCloud files to a folder will have been created. 


It's important to remember that this solution only backs up the most recent version of any given iCloud file. Therefore, for maximum protection, use a tool like Time Machine which will handle multiple versions of your iCloud files. 

With that in mind and a Hazel backup of your iCloud files running at regular intervals, you can rest easy knowing that your important data is not being held solely by Apple.

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