How to back up your iPhone to an external hard drive

Think of all the things you use your iPhone to do. Maybe you take a ton of pictures with it or use it to stay in contact with your friends and family. Maybe you use it for work or school. What would you do if you lost all of the stuff saved on your iPhone? That’s exactly why backing up your iPhone is so important. And if you want to be extra cautious with your data, you could always save your backup on an external hard drive.

In this article, we’ll go over a couple of different ways you can back up your iPhone to an external hard drive. You’ll also read about some of the things to watch out for if you set up an external backup.


Before you back up your iPhone

While it’s tempting just to jump in and back up your iPhone, it’s best to do a little bit of cleaning up first. By organizing things like your photo library, you’re reducing the size of your backup, so not only will it take up less space, but the backup process will also go faster. 

To quickly clean up your photo library, you can download an app like Gemini Photos onto your iPhone. It will scan your library for clutter like old screenshots and duplicate photos you don’t want anymore. Here’s how to get your photo library cleaned up before the backup:

  1. Download Gemini Photos and open it to start scanning.
  2. Tap Similar.
  3. Tap on any of the groups of photos.
  4. Select the pictures in each group to delete.
  5. After you’ve gone through all the similar photos, tap to go back to Your Library.
  6. Then sift through categories like Duplicates, Videos, Screenshots, and Notes.
  7. When you’re finished, go to your Photos app on your iPhone. 
  8. Tap Recently Deleted > Select > Delete All to remove all the pictures from your iPhone.
Before you back up your iPhone photos to an external drive, clean them up with Gemini Photos

How to back up your iPhone to an external hard drive 

While backing up your iPhone to your computer is relatively intuitive, the initial steps may require a bit more effort. There are a couple of different methods you can use, including a third-party app, iTunes, or other macOS native apps. It all depends on the level of effort you want to put into it or if you don’t mind spending a little time on a more straightforward process.

How to back up an iPhone to a hard drive with AnyTrans

One way to quickly back up your iPhone to an external hard drive is to use the application AnyTrans. After you have it downloaded, you’ll be able to choose exactly where you want your iPhone backup to be, whether that’s on your computer or another hard drive.

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Connect the external drive to your computer.
  3. Open AnyTrans.
  4. Click Backup Manager.
  5. Next to Backup Path, click Change.
  6. Select the location on your external hard drive.
  7. Click Full Backup.
  8. You can choose to password-protect your backup if you want. Then click Next.
Screenshots of AnyTrans, a Mac app that lets you back up your iPhone to a hard drive

How to back up your iPhone to an external drive using iTunes

If you’re using a Mac, you can also backup your iPhone to your computer using iTunes, then move or copy it to an external hard drive for safekeeping. It is a bit more tedious than an app like AnyTrans, which moves everything automatically and certainly has its appeal.

  1. Connect an external drive to your Mac.
  2. After you’ve backed up your iPhone via iTunes, open the Finder on your Mac.
  3. Click Go at the top.
  4. Hold down the option key and then click on Library.
  5. Click Library > Application Support > MobileSync > Backup.
  6. Find the folder with today’s date and copy it to your external hard drive.

Now, you won’t be able to restore your iPhone from the backup that’s located on a hard drive, because iTunes only sees the backups stored in its own directory. But if something happens to your computer or your iTunes library, you’ll be able to drag-and-drop this extra backup to a new iTunes directory (Library > Application Support > MobileSync > Backup) and restore from there. 


How to back up your iPhone photos to a hard drive

Let’s say you only want to back up your pictures to an external hard drive. There’s an easy way to do just that.

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac.
  2. Plug in your iPhone to the same Mac.
  3. Open Image Capture.
  4. Click on your iPhone in the sidebar.
  5. When you see all the pictures on your iPhone, press Command-A on your keyboard to select them all.
  6. Drag and drop all of the pictures you want to copy/move to your external hard drive.

Backing up your iPhone is vital. You use your phone on a daily basis for so many things, and it would be unwise to have your data stored on your iPhone alone, without any backup. That’s why it’s critical to get into a routine of backing up your iPhone — even having a backup of your backup isn’t such a bad idea.

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