Out of Sync
July 18, 2022 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I live in an Apple Universe. Apple iPad, Apple iPhone, Apple MacBook Pro, Apple Mac mini (and many other Apple things, but those are the only ones relevant to this question). All are less than 3 years old. Nothing I've tried - and I've tried so, so many things! - syncs my Mac mini bookmarks/reading list with the ones on my other devices. They all stay in sync with each other; Mac mini refuses to pick them up. Help?

I've tried everything the internet tells me to try:

1) updated all my devices to the latest version of their system software
2) made sure date/time are correct and in sync on all my devices
3) checked and unchecked Safari in my iCloud preferences on all my devices
4) signed out and back in to my Apple ID for iCloud on all my devices (I only have one Apple ID)
5) signed into iCloud.com on the Mac mini (recommended by Macworld) to remind it iCloud exists
6) ensured all devices have access to both WiFi and Bluetooth
7) For kicks, I unplugged Mac mini's ethernet cable and forced it to use wifi, and also the reverse
8) restarted all devices, separately and together (so that all are "off" simultaneously before turning back on)

If it makes a difference, what I want is for the Safari bookmarks/reading list on my other devices, which I use more often, to appear on my Mac mini when I use it.

Nothing I've done gets the Mac mini to sync bookmarks and reading list with my other devices. Everything will sync EXCEPT the reading list and bookmarks. I can hand-off websites from iPad/iPhone/laptop to Mac mini, and vice versa; I can see my synced tabs on all my devices. So I know the Mac mini sees SOME iCloud things. Just, for some reason, it doesn't see my bookmarks or reading list.

My last resort, which I really don't want to resort to, is wiping the Mac mini and starting over from scratch. My whole life is in the cloud, so I wouldn't lose data - but I WOULD lose all my preferences and have to set everything up again from scratch, and I don't love that.

The only thing I'm absolutely not willing to try is setting up a new Apple ID. I use this one for everything, I've never had any other, and I don't want to change that now.

I'd prefer to stick with Safari, because with the exception of this Mac mini, the integration between devices is excellent and just what I need. I read extensively on the web, and I use the bookmark, reading list, tab list and handoff features extensively. If there are other browser options that will operate on all my devices and will do these things as well or better than Safari, I'm open to trying it. I'm also open to solutions that will force the sync in some other way than iCloud, if that's the only way to do it - but I don't want to have to open another app every time I want to get a bookmark, etc.

What else can I try that might work to get my Mac mini to sync these things?
posted by invincible summer to Technology (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I feel your pain with my MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad.

I've experienced similar issues with an iPad ignoring the iCloud bookmarks. I didn't research as extensively as you did. As a backup, I exported my Safari bookmarks (to root of iCloud Drive, to make it easy to find.) I left all devices in the "sync with iCloud" state. I opened the Safari bookmarks window in the iPad sidebar, and deleted everything (which takes a ridiculous amount of time). At least deleting bookmarks is faster on the Mac. I restarted my iPad and when I went back to Safari the bookmarks had finally updated.
posted by Jesse the K at 9:33 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]

I haven't dealt with this problem myself, but one of my friends had a computer that absolutely, positively would not sync iMessages with any of their other devices. It became their white whale for about a month. I believe eventually they tracked the problem down to a corrupt SQLite database file on the Mac in question. Apparently if you have a corrupt database, at least in some cases, the background sync process will just fail. IIRC there were some system log messages about it, but they were fairly obscure.

You might try keeping an eye on the Console (system log viewer) on the non-syncing computer while adding a bookmark on another device, just to see if it seems to attempt to sync and errors out. If you see anything, Googling the log message (or posting it here) might lead you to a clue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:53 AM on July 18 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Both great ideas, but I tried Jesse the K's first, and amazingly, weirdly, bizarrely, it worked!

Actually all I did was the second part - I deleted all my Safari bookmarks on the Mac mini. Nothing happened, so I closed Safari and reopened it.

A ton of "here are some bookmarks you might like" bookmarks appeared - Yahoo, Google, TripAdvisor, etc - but mixed in among them were my bookmarks folders from my iPad. I deleted all the weird newbie bookmarks, leaving my current iPad bookmarks there, and everything works now. The reading list is also magically updating now! I've tested adding new bookmarks from the Mac mini and from the iPad, and both update each other as they should.

(I had already deleted everything from the Mac mini reading list in a previous attempt, so it was empty too - which might or might not be a requirement for this fix to work, in case any future readers need to repeat the experiment.)

I am SO HAPPY this worked, thanks! I was JUST about to burn it all down, too. :D Thanks!
posted by invincible summer at 10:10 AM on July 18 [3 favorites]

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