This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2017-02-23 at 2:19 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/17065
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How to Restore Data from iCloud

by Michael E. Cohen

“What is truth?” This question has bedeviled philosophers and theologians for centuries, but in an age of distributed digital data storage you also need to know the answer to the question, “Where is truth?” This is not a philosophical question but a practical one: if you have a bunch of devices, all with copies of your personal information — your contacts, calendars, and so forth — where do you find the one true copy of your data, the one on which all of your devices can rely?

In the context of data shared among multiple devices, “the truth [1]” is a technical term that refers to where devices with conflicting data go to get their conflicts resolved. If you’ve always wondered what Steve Jobs meant by “The truth is on the cloud [2],” now you know. And if, like me, you store your contacts, calendars, reminders, and other stuff in iCloud, iCloud is where you go to resolve data discrepancies. That’s where the truth lies. What you have on your devices is not the truth, but merely a reflection of it, copied from iCloud. Even if you could find the files on your devices that contain your information, you couldn’t fix any problems there by whipping out some sophisticated file fiddling tool and twiddling bits, because that is not where the truth lies.

iCloud, however, much like real clouds, is notoriously opaque. It’s hard to see just what you have stored in it. Nonetheless, Apple has made it easy to fix some truth-related issues in iCloud, and you can do it with a readily accessible tool: a Web browser on any Mac or PC. With it, you can revert to backups of your contacts, calendars, reminders, and shared bookmarks, and even restore files deleted from your iCloud Drive.

The first step is to go to icloud.com [3] in your browser and log in with your Apple ID and password.

Once you sign in, click the Settings icon on the launchpad page.

[image link] [4]

That brings you to the iCloud Settings page, which contains information about your iCloud account, a list of the devices that are signed into your iCloud account, and, way down at the bottom of the page, an Advanced section that provides some data restoration capabilities.

[image link] [5]

Here’s what you can fix, along with some caveats where appropriate:

[image link] [10]

For old-time Mac users who like to see, touch, and manipulate the data on their computers, Apple’s move to managed data and cloud storage can be frustrating. However, Apple has at least provided some easy-to-use tools that give users back a little control over their stuff. The level of control may not be complete, but it’s far better than nothing.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_source_of_truth
[2]: http://www.theverge.com/2011/06/13/icloud-apple-strategy-flaw
[3]: https://www.icloud.com/
[4]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/icloud-settings-thumbnail.png
[5]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/iCloud-Advanced-settings.png
[6]: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH21313
[7]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/icloud-restore-files.png
[8]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/icloud-restore-contacts.png
[9]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/icloud-restore-calendars.png
[10]: http://tidbits.com/resources/2017-02/icloud-restore-bookmarks.png