How to set up iCloud services in Snow Leopard

While Apple's iCloud services are officially supported only in OS X 10.7 Lion or later, you can get some working in Snow Leopard.

iCloud is the latest iteration of Apple's cloud-based services, and while it can be accessed from any Web browser, it requires at least OS X 10.7 to integrate into the Mac OS. Unfortunately this means that if you are on an older Mac system running Snow Leopard that you either don't want to or can't upgrade, then Apple no longer supports accessing its iCloud services.

Recently MacFixIt reader Brandon wrote in wondering about the options for people with these setups:

I just purchased an iPhone and am trying to sync my Mac devices, but have run into a problem. I currently have an iMac 4,1 version 10.6.8 with a 2 GHz Intel Core Duo processor. In order to sync my devices with iCloud, I was told (by Apple) that I need to upgrade to Lion, at least.

[How can I get iCloud on my computer?] My ultimate goal is to have my work computer synced with my iPhone synced with my MacBook at home. Can I purchase and install the Intel Core 2 Duo processor I apparently need [to run Lion]? Are there any ways around this issue? Perhaps there is a cheaper component I could buy?

Upgrading the iMac's hardware would theoretically be possible, except that Apple's iMac systems are soldered together, making it impossible to perform tasks like upgrading the CPU. They also do not have any standardized expansion slots, so upgrading components like video cards is also impossible. Even if you were able to upgrade the hardware and get Lion or Mountain Lion running, the system would not have been tested and could have stability problems.

The only components that can be upgraded on systems like the iMac are the removable RAM modules, the hard drive, and the optical drive. As a result, in most cases a Mac system that does not meet the minimum CPU and graphics requirements will not be able to run Lion or Mountain Lion, regardless of what you do.

Therefore, the only supported method for accessing iCloud services on older systems that can only run Snow Leopard is to use Apple's iCloud Web interface; however, there are ways you can set up programs like Safari, Address Book, and iCal in unsupported ways to access iCloud services and make use of them.

Do keep in mind that these setups may not be the most reliable, but you can use the following steps to get the services to work in Snow Leopard and test them out with your phone.

Bookmarks:
Syncing your bookmarks between Snow Leopard and iCloud requires using the iOS device as an intermediary, instead of using the Mac. Therefore the Mac will get updates to and from your phone only.

  1. Turn off iCloud syncing for bookmarks on your iOS device
  2. Attach it to your Mac and select it in iTunes
  3. Under the Info tab, check the option to Sync Safari Bookmarks
  4. Perform a sync, and then turn on iCloud syncing for bookmarks

Calendars:
iCloud calendars are served using the CalDav protocol, so they can be accessed by any program that supports this protocol, including older versions of iCal.

  1. Log in to iCloud.com and click the Share symbol next to one of your calendars
  2. Click Public and then click Share.
  3. Make note of the number after the first "p" character in the shared calendar's URL (i.e., p02, p03, p04, etc.). You can unshare the calendar once you have this number.
  4. Go to iCal and create a new CalDav account using your iCloud username (the full e-mail address) and password.
  5. Use "pXX-caldav.icloud.com" as the CalDav server URL, replacing "pXX" with the number found previously.
  6. Enter port 443 and check the option to Use SSL.

Contacts:
The Contacts feature in iCal uses a service-specific standard called CardDav, which means it can be accessed by other programs that use this protocol. Do keep in mind that for this procedure you will be storing your iCloud password in plain text, which for the most part should not be an issue but might be an undesired setup for some people.

  1. First open iCal, go to its Accounts preferences, and select your iCloud CalDav account that you made there (create it using the above instructions if you have not already done so). Then copy the contents of the Server Path field, which should look like the following:

    /18347668/principal/

  2. In Address Book, create a new CardDav account in the Accounts section of Address Book's preferences, and use the following for the username (replace username with your username, and password with your password, and replace "mac.com" with the corresponding component for your iCloud account, which might be mac.com, me.com, or icloud.com):

    username%40mac.com:password

  3. Enter a single space in the password field, which will appear hidden as a single bullet (other password entries may work as well, but you need at least something in this field for it to work).
  4. Now enter the following for the server URL, changing "pXX" to the number of the CalDav server you used in iCal. For the "/18347668/principal/" component of the address, ensure it matches that which you copied from the Server Path settings in iCal in step one:

    https://pXX-contacts.icloud.com:443/18347668/principal/

  5. Click Create account. You will get a 404 error, but ignore this and click the Create button again to make the account.
  6. In the account preferences, set a description for the new account (i.e., iCloud Contacts).
  7. Quit and relaunch Address Book, and your iCloud contacts should now be displayed.

E-mail:
iCloud's e-mail services use the standard IMAP e-mail protocol, and can therefore be accessed from most e-mail clients.

  1. In Mail's preferences, select the Accounts tab and create a new account.
  2. Supply your standard iCloud username and password, and click Continue.
  3. Change the account type to IMAP.
  4. Use "imap.mail.me.com" as your e-mail server, and "smtp.mail.me.com" as your outgoing server.


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