Be careful what files you store in your Documents folder in macOS

Configure cloud storage in macOS on the Apple Mac

One of the many new features in macOS Sierra is Optimised Storage and the ability to access files from any computer, phone or tablet through iCloud. Here’s how to avoid a potential problem.

macOS Sierra copies the Desktop and Documents folder to iCloud - every single file that they contain. The problem is that some applications, and you yourself, could be storing some very big files in those folders.

This will mean a large amount of syncing - uploaded of files to iCloud. The files might use up all of your iCloud storage and you could easily run out of space. Your internet provider might not like you uploading hundreds of gigabytes of data and using huge amounts of bandwidth to sync big files.

Big files? What big files?

The problem I had is that I have Parallels Desktop and use it to run Windows and other operating systems in virtual machines. Some of the virtual machines are tens of gigabytes and Parallels was storing them in the Documents/Parallels folder. And macOS Sierra then wanted to upload them to iCloud, and sync them every time they changed, which was every time I used them.

This would have used up a huge amount of online storage and a lot of bandwidth.

Two things needed to be done:

  1. Configure Parallels Desktop to use a different folder.
  2. Move the virtual machines out of the Documents folder.

Run Parallels Desktop and select Parallels Desktop, Preferences.

On the General tab is Virtual Machines Folder. Click it and then select Other... in the menu.

Configure Parallels Desktop to store virtual machines in another folder on the Apple Mac

For some reason I already had another Parallels folder in /Users/Shared/Parallels but if you don’t have this, you can create it. This location is shared as the name suggests and if you need to keep virtual machines private you could create a Parallels folder in your home folder.

Any new virtual machines will now be stored in /Users/Shared/Parallels, but what about existing ones in Documents/Parallels?

Open the old folder in one Finder window and the new folder in another Finder window. Drag the virtual machine - it has a .pvm extension - from one Finder window to the other.

Move virtual machines from the Documents folder in macOS Sierra

macOS asks if you are sure you want to remove the file from iCloud - click Move.

When you try to start the virtual machine you moved, Parallels reports that it is not available. However, there is a Locate button and you can select the .pvm file you moved in its new location - /Users/Shared/Parallels.

Move virtual machines on the Mac and then select the new location in Parallels Desktop

This story clearly highlights the changes in the way that storage in macOS works and how you might have to rethink how and where your place big files.

The Documents folder is clearly a bad place to store virtual machines. It would be a bad place for video editing and other applications that create large files for similar reasons.

Now that I have moved my virtual machines out of Documents, my iCloud storage has dropped to 3 or 4 gigabytes.

See what would happen if you turn off iCloud Drive storage of your Desktop and Documents folder.



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