How to set up Apple’s New Messages in iCloud Feature

When Apple first announced macOS 10.13 High Sierra and iOS 11, one of the promised features was Messages in iCloud, a way of syncing your conversations in Messages via your iCloud account. Despite the fact that Messages already tries to sync its conversations between your devices, this feature proved difficult for Apple to deliver, and it didn’t appear until the recently released macOS 10.3.5 and iOS 11.4.

The idea behind Messages in iCloud is that it, as the name suggests, stores your conversations and their attachments in your iCloud account, rather than on each device individually. That’s a win because it can offload non-trivial amounts of data to iCloud, freeing up more space on that 16 GB iPhone.

Because the primary source of Messages data is in iCloud, the conversations should also sync perfectly and more quickly than in the past, something that was often frustrating when conversations didn’t quite match up across device. (iOS 11.4 also fixes a bug that could cause some messages to appear out of order.) Even better, deleting a conversation or attachment on one of your devices deletes it from all of them.

The main thing to be aware of before enabling Messages in iCloud is that it does count against your iCloud storage space. That said, if you back up your iOS devices to iCloud, removing Messages data from each device—such as your iPad and iPhone—and storing a single copy in iCloud should result in less overall iCloud usage. (And, realistically, if Messages in iCloud would make you need a higher tier of iCloud storage, you were probably going to need to upgrade soon for other reasons anyway.)

Enabling Messages in iCloud is simple.

  • On the Mac, open Messages > Preferences > Accounts and select the Enable Messages in iCloud checkbox.
  • In iOS, go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud, and turn on Messages.

There are three quirks to be aware of:

  • You won’t be able to enable Messages in iCloud unless you’ve enabled two-factor authentication for the Apple ID associated with your iCloud account. It’s a good idea for security reasons anyway!
  • On the Mac, in the Messages account preferences, there’s a Sync Now button you can click if, for some reason, Messages hasn’t synced automatically. We don’t yet know if or when that will be necessary.
  • When you first enable Messages in iCloud in iOS, you may see a note at the bottom of the screen saying that uploading to iCloud requires the device to be plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi. That’s necessary only for the first big upload.

Should you wish to turn off Messages in iCloud, be aware that it may take some time for each device to download all the messages.

For most people, Messages in iCloud is a no-brainer. Its syncing works the way you’d expect, complete with quick updates and universal removal of deleted conversations. The main reason you might not want to enable the feature is if you have only the free 5 GB of iCloud storage and aren’t interested in paying for more space.

iCloud Photo Library Users: Do NOT Turn Off iCloud

File this warning under “unless it’s absolutely necessary.” If you use iCloud Photo Library on your Mac, don’t sign out from iCloud. Also, don’t deselect the iCloud Photo Library checkbox in either the Photos options of the iCloud pane of System Preferences or in the iCloud preferences in Photos itself. Why not? Because, when you re-enable iCloud or iCloud Photo Library, Photos will re-upload all your photos, which could take days. (It’s not really re-uploading all of them, but even just resyncing will take a long time.) Worse, if you don’t have enough space in iCloud for your entire Photos library again, you’ll have to upgrade to a larger plan temporarily, resync, and then downgrade to your previous plan. Apple will refund you the cost of the upgrade, but you’ll have to work with support to get reimbursed. Read more at TidBITS.

Family Sharing Simplifies Sharing Purchases & Managing Your Kids

Family life is all about togetherness, but keeping track of who’s doing what when can be tough. Apple’s Family Sharing service makes it easy to share apps, media, and more within a family of up to six members, and it provides a few helpful digital housekeeping capabilities, such as locating your kid’s misplaced iPad. Here’s an overview of how Family Sharing can enhance your family’s everyday life, both online and in the real world.

Manage Your Kids’ Purchases

Every Family Sharing group has an organizer. That person (probably you) sets up the family on a Mac in System Preferences > iCloud and connects a credit card to the account to pay for all App Store, iTunes Store, and iBooks Store purchases of apps, music, TV shows, videos, and ebooks.

For any child under the age of 18 in the group, you can turn on Ask to Buy. This feature lets your kid shop for apps or media, but complete a purchase only if you approve it. Ask to Buy also applies to free downloads so you can maintain control over free games. You can give other adults in your family the ability to approve Ask to Buy requests.

Share Apps, Media, and More

To help you keep costs down, once someone in the family has purchased an app or media file, anyone else in the family can download it. Keep in mind that some apps don’t allow such sharing and in-app purchases can’t be shared. Helpfully, you can hide some or all purchases from other family members.

You can also buy a family subscription to Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service. At $14.99 per month for a family instead of $9.99 per person, it’s a good deal.

Family Sharing creates a few items that all group members can access on their Apple devices:

  • A shared Family album appears in the Photos app, making it easy to build a common set of photos. You can designate the Family album as a screensaver on your Mac or Apple TV.
  • A shared Family calendar in the Calendar app helps track those basketball games and piano recitals that everyone needs to know about.
  • A shared Family list in the Reminders app has many possible uses, such as a grocery list with location-based alerts or a chore list with timed alerts.

Find Your Children (and Their Devices)

Family Sharing simplifies the setup and usage of two key Apple services related to finding things.

All family members automatically become “friends” in Apple’s Find My Friends app. This bundled app shows where everyone is on a map (more specifically, it shows where their primary device is). We find this feature helpful for determining when someone is likely to be home for dinner or for a teenager to see that a parent is en route to a pickup. If you need privacy briefly, you can temporarily stop sharing your location.

You won’t need the Find My iPhone app—which shows the location of all your family’s Apple devices, including the tiny AirPods—on a daily basis. But when your tween isn’t sure whether he dropped his iPhone on the bus or in the museum, it’s a godsend. You can also use Find My iPhone to play a sound on a missing device (in case it’s in the couch), put a message on it, or even erase the device entirely.

Family Sharing may not do everything you’d want, like share entire Photos libraries or contact lists, but it’s a boon for any household whose members use a variety of Apple devices.

Avoid Ransom Requests with a Unique iCloud Password

We’ve been hearing reports from people whose Macs have been locked remotely via Find My Mac, with the criminals responsible holding access to the Mac hostage until they receive a ransom in Bitcoin. First, if this happens to you, do not pay the ransom! iStore or any Apple Authorized Service Provider or Apple Store can unlock your Mac for you if you bring it in and provide proof of purchase. Second, if you ever used your iCloud password on another site, change it immediately, since if that site was hacked, your iCloud account is now vulnerable. Unfortunately, Apple’s two-factor authentication, which is otherwise great, does not currently protect against this problem! Learn more at TidBITS.

How to Stay on Top of Your To-Dos in Apple’s Reminders App

Apple designed the built-in Reminders app as a list-keeping assistant for both macOS and iOS. You can add reminders of any sort to the default Reminders list, or you can create custom lists, like Groceries or Movies to Watch. Plus, if you’ve set up Family Sharing, you also have a shared Family list that everyone in your family can access.

Making reminders is easy enough, but they can be easy to lose track of, and you may have to hunt through a number of lists to find any given one. How can you be certain that you won’t forget a particular to-do item? One technique that works well is to add a time trigger to the reminder. Time triggers cause your Apple devices to alert you to the reminder, and as an added benefit, they make it easier to find associated reminders.

Say you want to remind yourself to buy concert tickets. To include a trigger in your reminder, you can recruit Siri’s assistance by mentioning a time in your request: “Remind me to get tickets at 10 AM tomorrow.” Or, when you add the reminder manually, pick a day and time. After creating the reminder, hover over it or tap it, tap the i button that appears, and the option to be reminded on a day Then, on a Mac, click the preset day and time to adjust them. In iOS, tap Alarm and set a day and time. Unless the specific time matters, pick a general time that’s early in the day, like 10 AM.

Because your reminder includes a time, it appears not only in the list where you added it but also in the special Scheduled list. That’s key!

Now imagine that it’s first thing tomorrow morning and you’re trying to plan your day. You can either check the Scheduled list in Reminders or ask Siri: “Show me my reminders for today.” Once you see your day’s reminders, you can just do the easy ones, plan them into your day, or reschedule them for another day.

Of course, since you’ve assigned a time-based trigger to these reminders, Apple’s Notifications feature comes into play. At the appropriate time, your Apple devices can display an alert that you must dismiss, show a banner that disappears quickly, or play a sound.

Reminders can make it easy to remember important tasks, but try these tips if you need help:

  • For reminders created on one device to trigger notifications on another, set up your iCloud account on both devices must have Reminders on. Do this on the Mac in System Preferences > iCloud. In iOS, tap Settings > Your Apple ID Name > iCloud (if your copy of iOS isn’t up-to-date, tap Settings > iCloud). Plus, the reminders must be on a list that’s stored in iCloud.
  • If you use Siri to make reminders, specify the list where those reminders will be added if you don’t speak its name. On the Mac, choose Reminders > Default List. In iOS, go to Settings > Reminders > Default List.
  • Configure Mac notifications in System Preferences > Notifications. At the left, select Reminders and then make your choices at the right. The Alerts alert style is the easiest to notice. Set up iOS notifications in Settings > Notifications > Reminders. Turn on the Allow Notifications switch. For best results, turn on Show on Lock Screen and select Alerts under “Alert Style When Unlocked.”



  • On your iPhone, to see a different Reminders list, tap the “stack” of lists at the bottom of the screen.

So, go ahead and dive in. Set up a few tasks with time triggers, and enjoy letting your Apple devices keep track of it all.

iOS 10.3 Moves iCloud and iTunes in the Settings App

iOS 10.3, which Apple released in March 2017, had a number of notable changes, along with one minor tweak that could cause confusion. In iOS 10.2 and earlier, if you wanted to change your iCloud, iTunes, or App Store settings, you’d tap Settings > iCloud or Settings > iTunes & App Store. In iOS 10.3, however, Apple combined all these settings and more into a new Apple ID menu item that’s labeled with your name and prominently positioned at the top of the Settings app. In that Apple ID screen, you can control every aspect of your account, including personal information, passwords, security options, payment details, iCloud syncing, iTunes and App Store downloads, Family Sharing, and all your devices. Take a minute to scan through everything that’s possible so the next time you need to adjust one of these settings, you’ll remember where to go.