Setting up Obsidian Sync with iCloud Drive

Tools for Creators

Today, I’d like to demystify the process of setting up Obsidian Sync via iCloud for the very first time.

This is a critical step if you wish to use Obsidian across all your Apple devices for note-taking. While it’s a pretty straightforward process, there are a few “gotchas” to watch out for along the way if you are new to using the tool.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have your iCloud Drive sync up and running, so that you can access you thinking from any device you use in your daily life.

Here’s what a simple workflow might look like:

  • Use Obsidian Mobile to take a note from your iPhone.
  • Write a rough draft of an essay from your iPad pro.
  • Edit and publish an article from your iMac on desktop.

Unfortunately, many people struggle with getting this working correctly  because they don’t think to set it up when they first start using Obsidian, or they get confused about which syncing method to use.

The Answer: iCloud is going to be the best sync option for 99% of people.

Here’s why:

  • It’s the cloud sync service you already have.
  • It’s free or low-cost if you choose to upgrade for more storage
  • It works across all Apple devices
  • If you ever choose to take your data elsewhere, it will be easier to migrate to a new service without losing any of your Obsidian notes.

Here’s how get sync working, step by step, if you are starting fresh:

Step 1: Start the iOS app and choose “Create a new vault”

I was confused about this the first time I set up Obsidian.

I felt like it would have been far more intuitive to set sync up from my desktop since I consider that my primary note-taking environment.

If you plan to use iCloud to sync Obsidian across your devices, you are going to want to set up a new vault from your iPhone or iPad prior to accessing it on your desktop.

Name your Obsidian vault something that will be meaningful to you, and make sure that the “Store in iCloud” toggle is set to the “ON” position.

Click “Create”.

This will ensure your vault, folders, and notes gets created appropriately in iCloud.

Step 2: On desktop, using the “Open Folder as Vault” option, point to the new vault location in iCloud.

Once you’ve created your vault, it’s time to point Obsidian to the right location on your desktop.

First, select, “Open another vault”, from the left sidebar, and then click “Open” next to “Open folder as vault”:

Select the name of your newly created vault from your iCloud folder as shown and click “open:

That’s it!

You are now syncing your Obsidian files across both devices.

Create an Obsidian file or note in one place, and give it a try. The sync should be almost instantaneous.

I’ve found the process to be quick and reliable after a few months of using this sync method.

A Few “Gotchas” or Things to Know:

Gotcha #1: But wait! I want to sync a second iOS device to Obsidian as well!

First, make sure you’ve completed the steps described above.

When you install and load Obsidian for the first time on an additional device, your iCloud vault will show up magically on the first screen as shown in the screenshot below.

Simply select the vault, tap “enter vault” and you’re all set!

(As a side-note, iCloud also allows you to sync multiple vaults, which is why you see several options in my screenshot below.)

Gotcha #2: I’ve already created a vault on the desktop app, but I’d like to move it to iCloud so I can sync my iOS mobile device.

Ideally, you’ll set your Obsidian Sync through iCloud up the right way from the start, but if for some reason you did things out of order it’s OK!

Here’s how you can get things working again.

1. Install and open Obsidian on your iOS device.

2. Tap “Create new vault” and name the vault the EXACT same name as the vault you already have on desktop that is not currently syncing. Toggle “Store in iCloud” on, and tap “Create”. Having the exact same name is VERY important. If you don’t get this step right, all of your linked files in Obsidian will no longer work after the migration.

3. Wait for iCloud to sync this empty vault folder to your iCloud folder on desktop.

4. Locate your existing vault folder location on desktop via File Explorer that contains the notes you wish to sync to your new iCloud Sync vault.

5. Copy and paste everything from this location into the empty folder you created in Step 3 (located in your iCloud folder).

6. Via desktop, open Obsidian, and select “Open another Vault” from the left sidebar.

7. Click “Open Folder as Vault, and select the new vault location that you created earlier in your iCloud folder (the same one your pasted all your existing notes into).

8. All done! Simply wait for iCloud to sync everything to your Obsidian mobile app. This may take a few seconds to a few minutes depending on how many notes you have.

In summary, if you follow this guide step by step, you’ll have no problem getting your Obsidian files syncing across all your devices using iCloud Drive.