I want to love iCloud Drive, I really love it. As I mentioned inCloud storage forecast unstable, with potential for storms(Feb 4, 2022), iCloud Drive is attractive to Apple users. It’s reasonably priced and built into macOS and iOS, and it’s unlikely to suffer from questionable privacy practices. On the downside, iCloud Drive has reliability issues that require it to be turned off and on periodically when it crashes — a Sync Now button and some decent recordings to reveal what’s going on would be welcome.
But this is rotten apple Bad Apple articles don’t complain about inadvertent errors, nor do they address design decisions where rational people might disagree about the “correct” way to do something. Bad Apple articles call out something that Apple did on purpose but totally went wrong.
Today’s goal is to discover that when collaborators in a shared folder on iCloud Drive delete files or folders, those items are instantly destroyed, not put in the trash or added to the Recently Deleted folder in iCloud Drive. They’re just gone, with no option to recover. If that wasn’t bad enough – and it is – Apple recently tweaked its already weak documentation in a way that disguised this dangerous implementation even more. Rotten apple!
Quiet warnings about data loss
Our story begins on March 21, 2022, when Several Apple services, including iCloud Drive, are becoming inaccessible for several hours. I was talking with Paul Kavasis of Rog amoeba about whether the problem was related to a Russian cyberattack or if it would make sense to summon Hanlon blade: “Never ascribe to hatred what stupidity adequately explains.” The conversation broke down into issues with iCloud Drive, including wanting a Sync Now button, before Paul shared something he discovered while researching a possible switch from Dropbox to iCloud Drive. at Main support article about iCloud Drive folder sharingApple made this statement:
If a participant in a shared folder deletes a subfolder or file within that shared folder, that subfolder or file will be deleted from all participants’ devices, and Recovery not available.
The focus is mine, but I added it because – Holy Mother of Baby Cows! – This is not good! Apple basically said that anyone you add to a shared folder on iCloud Drive can delete the entire contents of a shared folder and you can’t do anything about it. Rotten apple!
But wait, it gets worse. After discussing with Paul, I got busy and put off writing the issue. When I got back to our chat today and clicked on the link he sent me, I ended up on a different page that I focused on. Share iCloud Drive files and folders using iCloud.com. This page says nothing about what happens if a participant in a shared folder deletes a file or folder.
The new page got me into a loop, but as is often the case with web hoaxes, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine reveal what happened. Sometime between March 21 and April 1, Apple started redirecting the previous page to the new page. Some searches of Apple documents revealed that the company split the previous page, which covered iCloud Drive sharing in iOS, macOS, Windows, and iCloud.com, into separate pages in macOS User Guide And iCloud User Guide. another page Which I only found through a search – not linked to pages about iCloud Drive folder sharing – discussed deleting files and folders, but without the emphatic warning before:
If you’re a participant who can change shared files: Deleting a file from a shared folder deletes it from everyone’s devices.
With Hanlon Razor in mind, I think it’s unlikely that Apple intended to bury the fact that shared folders on iCloud Drive are vulnerable to data loss when participants delete files or folders from within a shared folder. Regardless of why this happened, the fact remains that Apple has gone from simply hiding this fact in a long but convenient document to putting it in Bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in an abandoned toilet with a sign on the door that says “Beware of the tiger.” Rotten apple!
But maybe that’s not the case anymore?
There is another possibility. Perhaps Apple has fixed the shared folders on iCloud Sharing so that files that have been deleted by the participants are not deleted without any chance of recovery? Wouldn’t that be cool? Don’t get your hopes up.
For testing, I put a test file in the iCloud Drive folder I share with Tonya, and watched the file appear on her MacBook Pro. Then I deleted the file which presented a warning dialog. At the very least, Apple warns Share users that deleting a file will remove it from others in the shared folder. What Apple doesn’t say is that deleting a file in a shared folder on iCloud Drive does that not This moves this file to the local Trash as you’d expect from decades of using the Finder. Instead, macOS deletes the file immediately, which is egregious behavior for a cloud sharing service, while preface with a warning. Rotten apple!
Why does Apple leave such a glaring hole in iCloud Drive folder sharing? After all, if the owner of the shared folder deletes a file in this folder, then macOS and iCloud Drive provide the expected chances of recovery. When I deleted another test file from my shared folder, I saw the same warning dialog as Tonya, but the file ended up in my local trash, from which I can easily recover. Additionally, when I signed in to iCloud.com and looked in iCloud Drive, a recently deleted link appeared in the lower right corner ➊. Clicking this link reveals the equivalent of the iCloud Drive trash. Select the file and click Recover ➋ Extract the file from your local trash and restore it to the subfolder you deleted it from. With owner-managed files, iCloud Drive does everything right.
You might expect that if Tonya, as the shareholder, adds a file to my shared iCloud Drive folder and then deletes it, it will be treated as a deleted file by the owner and end up in the local trash. You will be wrong. Files added to the shared folder by participants are equally at risk of immediate deletion as any other files. Rotten apple!
It’s worth noting that moving a file from a shared folder in iCloud Drive to another location on your Mac has the same effect as taking the file away from others who have access to the shared folder. Apple provides a similar warning dialog in this scenario, but the main difference is that the file remains available to those who moved it from iCloud Drive, so they can bring it back.
How much should we worry?
iCloud Drive folder sharing has been around since macOS 10.15 Catalina, so it’s not new anymore, and Apple had two major versions of macOS to address basic issues if they couldn’t be fully addressed by iCloud. It didn’t, which could indicate that Apple doesn’t see instant file deletion through participant sharing as a problem. Or maybe Apple engineers think the warning dialog is enough. I’d strongly advocate for it – a keyboard-focused and fast-moving user could delete a file with Command-Delete and hit Return to dismiss the dialog before reading it.
I haven’t used iCloud Drive folder sharing in a fast-paced collaborative work environment, so I can’t speak from first-hand experience, but in my 14 years of coordinating Take Control’s work in Dropbox, files have sometimes been lost and need to be restored from my Dropbox deleted file collection. In a workflow that requires regular trashing of temporary files, it’s easy to imagine the accidental deletion of the most important documents. In addition, you are at the mercy of whoever you have shared your iCloud Drive folder with. Are they all technical enough and vigilant that they never make a mistake? All other major cloud sharing services offer such a deleted file sanitizer along with version history capabilities to protect against accidental editing or corruption — iCloud Drive stands out here as a sore thumb.
Fortunately, there’s one bright spot in this bleak image of iCloud Drive folder sharing, not that Apple will tell you about: Time Machine. by default, Time Machine backs up local copies of iCloud Drive files, not only to the owner, but also to all participants. I confirmed that Tonya Mac has backups of all the files in our shared folder, and I can click on dates in Time Machine and see the contents of that folder change appropriately.
You’ll notice that I was careful to say that Time Machine supports File local copies From iCloud Drive files. If you select Optimize Mac Storage in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud, macOS may overwrite iCloud Drive files with local chords, and those parts, even if backed up, won’t contain the data you want. So, if you are using iCloud Drive folder sharing, make sure to deselect Optimize Mac Storage or, if you need to keep this storage due to insufficient local storage, get someone else in your sharing group to do so. This is the last backup if someone inadvertently deletes an important file.
Despite this hidden Time Machine solution, Apple has done a poor job here. In the modern world, there should not be an easy way to delete data, especially someone else’s data, without any recovery option. One warning dialog with default OK button which means “Nuke This File From Space” is not accepted. For goodness sake, Apple popularized the whole concept of multi-step file deletion! Move a file to the Trash, choose Finder > Empty Trash, and respond to the prompt—which has been a staple of Mac use since 1984. Preventing accidental data loss is the quotas of the table.
The solution to this particular problem is conceptually simple. Any file deleted or removed from a shared folder in iCloud Drive by a participant must be treated the same as a file deleted or moved by the owner. It might also be technically simple. If you open the iCloud Drive folder in Finder and press Command-. To reveal hidden files and folders, you will see the hidden Trash folder (press Command- again to hide it again). iCloud Drive files that you delete when the owner moves to that folder, causing them to appear in the local Trash and in the Recently Deleted iCloud Drive folder. Why are shared files deleted by a participant in the shared group not moved to a folder?
If you want to encourage Apple to step up and make iCloud Drive folder sharing work properly, join me Provide feedback to iCloud engineers.