While the Files app for iOS and iPadOS gives you access to browse iCloud Drive, some parts of local storage, and third-party cloud storage, it omits a critical piece of information that’s been a useful part of file navigation since the start of computing: the storage occupied by a folder (or directory) and everything contained nested within it. This makes it effectively impossible to figure out what’s occupying your iCloud storage if you need to remove it to make room for other files.
Launch the Files app and you can see for yourself. Tap iCloud Drive and any file at the top level is listed with a name, date, and size. Folders, however, just tell you how many items they contain—and that’s only at the top level, not including any nested items layers of folders deep. iCloud.com is even worse. You have to click an “i” info button on a file to see its size.
The way around this is to use macOS. iCloud Drive in macOS is subject to the same kind of Finder controls as other folders. While viewing the folder, choose Finder > Preferences and check the Calculate All Sizes box near the bottom. In the Size column next to folders the entire nested sum appears; if you have a large number of files in iCloud Drive (or in any folder), it may take a moment.
You can use these totals to help find and discard unwanted files. Apple could bring Files for iOS and iPadOS and iCloud Drive for iCloud.com into the mid-20th century by adding an easier way to see these totals.
If you don’t have a Mac linked to your iCloud Drive account, you could find someone who would let you borrow their machine to set up a macOS account. You can then log in to that account, link your iCloud account, and see totals and manage iCloud Drive storage directly.
By default, this temporary macOS account will try to download a lot of material connected to your iCloud account. Make sure in the iCloud preference pane (Mojave and earlier) or the iCloud section of the Apple ID preference pane (Catalina) that you uncheck everything but iCloud Drive in the list of services to sync. Then click Options and check the Optimize Mac Storage box. This will minimize any downloads, while still allowing you to calculate nested folder sizes and delete files and folders.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Jeremy.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to email@example.com including screen captures as appropriate, and whether you want your full name used. Not every question will be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.