I don't understand iCloud data storage, iCloud backup storage, and local app storage

I thought I understood iCloud data storage and backups, but now I’m not sure. My current understanding (this is specifically about my iPad, but I presume it applies to iPhones too):

  • Apps have code and data. The code is local, but the data associated with the app can be local or in iCloud
  • For each app, you can opt to always store its data in iCloud storage. In which case, the data is not part of any backups stored in iCloud.
  • For each app, if you opt to NOT always store its data in iCloud, then the data is only stored locally, unless you also opt to have its data backed up to iCloud.

So, where are these options controlled for each app?

If I check what’s in my current (“last”) iCloud backup in Settings / Apple ID / iCloud / Manage Storage, it shows that I am using 15.8 GB of 50 GB (I pay $0.99/mo for 50 GB).

From there, under Backups, it shows I have 1 backup of documents and data totaling 15.4 GB.

Expanding that backup, it shows this breakdown:

  • photo library: 9.65 GB
  • books: 5.61 GB
  • kindle: 127 MB
    making close to the total of 15.4

But my local Kindle storage is 2.3 GB (lots of books and pdfs), and my local Notes storage is 772 MB (7000+ notes). Why isn’t this data showing up as part of my iCloud backup?

My Settings / Apple ID / iCloud / iCloud Backup is turned on,
and Settings / Apple ID / iCloud / Notes is also turned on.
There is no option under Apple ID / iCloud for Kindle that I can find.

What the heck is going on?

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Don’t know a Windows setup, but on my 2012 Mac Pro, Mojave, the iTunes application controls whether data goes to the iCloud space or, as noted, a Complete backup is stored locally if that is checked. I occasionally do a complete backup, but the iCloud is a daily event… This is a screenshot of the current conditions… I did a backup to my Mac after updating to iOS 16.1 when i returned from Seattle on the 24th, but the iCloud just happens, over wifi over night… So Data to iCloud, Complete Backup is stored locally. I understand that there may be multiple local backups locally, maybe pointlessly wasting space, but that takes a little digging to find where those live.

I don’t know if every app has control over where it’s data is stored, I know my genealogy app, Reunion, uses my Dropbox for it’s cloud storage. I don’t use many other apps like books, music that may use cloud spaces… Pretty sure the Apple apps will use iCloud. I pay a bit to boost my iCloud because I have a Logitech doorbell camera, it uses the iCloud space, but doesn’t count against the useable space for the videos it keeps… I intend to add more cameras, so, I bumped it up a little…

Thanks. I’ve never used iTunes for anything anywhere and don’t intend to start down that path. It should all just “work” using only an iPad, and iCloud. When I did my last upgrade/data migration from the 2nd gen “retina iPad” to my current iPad Air 2 six or eight years ago I had no problem restoring the new iPad from an iCloud backup of the old one. But back then, I didn’t use iCloud for anything but an iCloud backup. With the iPad Air, iCloud seems to have become the default for a lot of routine (not backup) data storage, treating it like a network drive, and I can’t quite figure out what I have there versus what will only be available from an iCloud backup. Plus, I’m not even sure if I have data that is neither in routine iCloud storage nor in an iCloud backup. Any such data won’t get transferred to the new iPad which is why I have to figure it all out before I start. I was on the phone with Apple support for two hours today, but they weren’t much of a help. I knew more than the first person I talked to, who also had me retry the “quick start” iPad-to-iPad data transfer method - which failed again for the fourth time. She eventually connected me to someone who supposedly knew more, but she also wasn’t much help.

True, it should, but I’ve never been in that situation, so l not much help, then. I’m from way back when iTunes was the main app to sort out, rearrange iPhone apps, then they took that away, centered now on music/podcasts with the backup bits just as a fringe benefit. They really need a separate app, focussing more on our apps, backups, but evidently whoever had iTunes development has left the building…

We used to have a local User Group and a couple of the fellows, way back had connections at Apple to where we could get good explanations on how some things worked, but that has all faded away, here at least…

Being old school, I still like to peek under the hood, but the messages I see in Console are pretty cryptic if one doesn’t dive deep in that world, the complexities of each OS, iOS is magical when it’s working, but even then has errors, maybe an old usb device noising up the bus, maybe other outside influences… All magic!


Sadly, magic is usually just as unexplainable when it fails to work as when it does!

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As far as I know there are only two ways to backup an iPad. One is via iCloud and the other is iTunes. Perhaps you have used iTunes to make a backup on your PC and did not realize that.

I was reading on this topic and apparently you don’t need a backup for your Kindle books. Once you reinstall the app, the app restores your books to your list from what I am reading…doc

are my kindle books backed up in icloud? - Apple Community

Thanks, and I believe that’s true. All Kindle books are also in your Kindle library which is “cloud” storage under Amazon’s control. So, they don’t - and won’t - take up iCloud storage space as part of a backup. One subtlety I’m not entirely clear on is what happens to so called “side loaded” Kindle books that I think never get synced to your Kindle library. These would be books that you manually copy to a Kindle device over a cable connection to a PC or Mac. However, I think that is only possible with actual Kindle hardware (Paperwhite, Fire, etc.) and not the Kindle app on the iPad.

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I have a LOT of Kindle books. Not long ago I went through them all on the Amazon web site to organize them a bit. At least one was marked as not available for download. I think it was something obscure. So I would say that 99.9% or better you can download your books again as needed.

I think I’ve had a Kindle book or two that was no longer available from Amazon, and so wasn’t available for download even to someone who bought it (perhaps for free) in the past.