Destroy Zombie iCloud Bookmarks for Good

I have a bunch of Apple products so I was really excited when Apple introduced iCloud with Safari bookmarking. It allows me to sync my bookmarks between my two Macs (running a total of three installations of Mac OS X), iPhone, and iPad. Each time I make changes to my bookmarks on one device it automatically syncs to my other devices and everybody lives happily ever after. EXCEPT when you first sync your devices. Instead of intelligently merging your bookmarks from each device into one cohesive bookmark library, iCloud creates duplicate after duplicate turning hundreds of bookmarks into thousands. My once organized bookmarks became a huge cluster.

At first I ignored it and just used the bookmarks on my bookmarks bar, the ones to the left. I ignored the chevron that indicated that there were thousands more waiting for me. I was a hoarder in denial living in a sea of digital trash. That worked for a while until I started to wonder why it took my iPhone just about forever to allow me to type a URL into Safari. I’d type the first letter and it would literally take 30 seconds before the second would appear. Originally I thought it was iOS 5 running slowly on my 3GS, but the same thing happens on my shiny new 4s so that wasn’t it. I did a search a couple of days ago and found out the culprit – my mega huge bookmark library. It was time to prune.

So what’s the big issue then? Just delete some bookmarks and life goes on. Except that it doesn’t work. iCloud offers no way to directly manage the bookmarks that are in the cloud. There is no web interface that you can go into, delete a bookmark, and have it reflected on all of your devices. No big deal then, just delete them on a device, right? WRONG. They come back. Like zombies. The damn things just won’t go away.  But tonight, I figured it out. This assumes that you have a Mac involved in your setup somewhere. Here’s what to do:

  1. Choose a Mac as your master device. This is the one where you will edit your bookmarks. Ignore steps 2 and 3 for this one.
  2. Turn of iCloud syncing on ALL of your devices except your master. That means your Macs, iPods, iPads, and iPhones. If it prompts you to either delete or keep your bookmarks on your device, choose to delete them.
  3. On all of your Macs (except for the master) go into Safari and delete all of your bookmarks. Every. Single. One.
  4. Now edit your bookmarks on your master Mac. Bookmark sync should still be on for this Mac. It is important to delete all of the bookmarks in the “Bookmarks” section of the left hand column of the bookmark view. Most of the duplicates end up here.
  5. Do your pruning and wait a few minutes. Close Safari and open it again. Don’t be horrified if all of your undead bookmarks reappear. You may have to prune them a few times before they actually go away.
  6. Repeat step 5 until the dead bookmarks stop coming back.
  7. Once your bookmarks are stable, turn on iCloud syncing one device at a time. Good luck.

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