Fixing iCloud “Unknown error occurred” & “Mac can’t connect to iCloud because of a problem” Errors

Oct 23, 2016 - 11 Comments

iCloud unknown error on Mac

Some Mac users may encounter an error message stating “This Mac can’t connect to iCloud because of a problem with email@address.com”, which then directs the user to open the iCloud preferences. Once inside Mac iCloud preference panel, some users may be able to successfully login to iCloud, but often another error is encountered here which states “An unknown error occurred” when trying to login to iCloud on the Mac, or sometimes the iCloud preference panel freezes up and spins endlessly. Once these two error messages have been encountered, the Mac will typically be stuck in an infinite loop of iCloud login failures with an endless unknown error and the endless “problem” pop-up message, which prevents all iCloud functionality from working on the Mac including Messages, FaceTime, Notes, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and all other iCloud related abilities.


This set of iCloud unknown errors and problems is not exactly rare (see 1, 2, 3) and can be notoriously quirky to resolve, but the steps below should remedy these type of iCloud login issues on a Mac if they are seen.

How to Fix “This Mac can’t connect to iCloud” and Unknown Errors with iCloud on Mac

This is a multi-part series of troubleshooting steps that will resolve most iCloud connection issues on Mac.

Cant connect to iCloud because of a problem

Check if iCloud is Down or Not

The first thing you should do is check if iCloud is down or not by going to https://www.apple.com/support/systemstatus/ and confirming that all Apple online services are available.

If iCloud is down, you will need to wait until it is back up again before being able to resolve the issue.

Quick side note: if iCloud was down but is now back up, there may be a lingering connectivity issue due to caching or otherwise, in that case proceed with the steps below and you can likely resolve the connection difficulty.

Quit All iCloud Apps, Reboot the Mac

Next up is to quit out of every app that is using iCloud, this includes quitting Messages, quitting FaceTime, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, etc. Be sure to quit the System Preference app as well. If the apps are stuck or not responding, go ahead and use Force Quit on the apps to exit them.

Once all of those apps have been quit, go ahead and restart the Mac as usual by going to the Apple menu and choosing “Restart”. If the Mac is frozen or refusing to reboot, you can do a forced reboot as well.

When the Mac boots back up again as usual, don’t open any iCloud apps yet, instead first go to the iCloud Preference panel ( Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud) and attempt to login to the Apple ID / iCloud account again. At this point the iCloud login should proceed as usual, in which case using Messages and FaceTime should work without incident.

Removing iCloud Configuration Files

This is unverified but some users in our comments report it can work to resolve iCloud connection issues in Mac OS. Be sure you backup your Mac before attempting this procedure:

  1. From the Finder, choose the “Go” menu and select “Go To Folder” and then enter the following path:
  2. ~/Library/Application Support/iCloud/Accounts/

  3. Copy the files found in this location to the desktop or elsewhere that can be easily recovered if desired
  4. Remove the files from the ~/Library/Application Support/iCloud/Accounts/ folder so that it is empty
  5. Reboot the Mac

You will likely need to re-login to iCloud when the Mac reboots. You can also log out and back into iCloud if things are still not functioning correctly to regenerate new Account data files.

Log out and Back in to iCloud

If you know iCloud is online, you quit all iCloud apps and rebooted, and you are still having difficulties, you’ll want to log out of iCloud, reboot, and then log back in.

Go to the  Apple menu and open System Preferences, then choose iCloud. Select to “Sign Out”.

Reboot the Mac as usual.

Once the Mac has booted back up again, return to the iCloud preference panel, and login to the Apple ID as usual.

That should be enough to fix the iCloud “Unknown error occurred” problem and the pop-up message stating the Mac can’t connect to iCloud because of a problem with the Apple ID.

Did this work for you? Do you have another solution? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Troubleshooting

11 Comments

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  1. Bob Gerard says:

    I have been extremely reluctant to log out of iCloud as you say because when I try to do so I get the alert: If you sign out of iCloud, you will need to create a separate password for this Mac.

    What? Another password to remember and for no good reason whatsoever? Why will Apple not let you simply log out and log back in using your Apple ID.

    Totally ridiculous.

    • Bruce Kennett says:

      Totally agree Bob Gerard… in fact I’d rather not use iCloud at all for any of my computers or devices… how can I get rid of that?

      • noe says:

        The only way to get rid of iCloud is to never use iCloud, and then log out of iCloud. Your Mac will be missing many abilities by doing so. Or you can try to use Mac OS Snow Leopard which did not have iCloud. Sierra is full of iCloud so the new versions are reliant on it.

  2. Shawnie says:

    Thank you so much! It worked

  3. Piero says:

    In my experience was the “two factor authentication” for AppleID access to cause the problem.
    I turned off and everything is back to work perfectly!
    Now I log regularly in with user and password.

  4. Steven Hobbs says:

    This is exactly the difficulty I am experiencing. I have tried all the above several times without success. I believe the issue is related to our having to changed our primary e-mail address. The system constantly refers to an e-mail address that has not existed for a year or more. I have changed every reference to this “bad” address I can find. But, I am still on this endless loop of can’t connect pop-ups. Pretty much at the point of having to bring system down to Apple and pay for a fix.

  5. Tim Gorham says:

    Signed out and rebooted over 20 times, with no joy.
    Apple help chat was, as expected, ZERO help.
    I can access from iPads, phone, MacBook, but not the iMac.

  6. Alan Whitfield says:

    Mine does not let me log out

  7. deffjamz says:

    biggg problem with sierra and iCloud I’m frozen been rebooting and trying to delete iCloud all day on MacBook air 13′ with absolutely no luck on anything

  8. Bruce Weber says:

    None of this has worked for me. Running Sierra 10.12.2. Changed iCloud pw when I dropped 2 factor auth. Now on every boot, I get this “can’t connect” message. Signed out of iCloud then back in and it duplicated every calendar entry. It all seems like lousy QA of Sierra and Support has no clue.

  9. Alan Hank says:

    This post was a life saver.
    I came across this problem when I changed the password of my apple ID. I could no longer sign in to my icloud account through my computer nor with my iphone.
    In the end “Removing iCloud Configuration Files” worked perfectly for me.

    I still have no idea on why I wasnt able to sign in nor sign out from my icloud account. So weird…

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