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3 Free Ways to Backup iPhone to External Drive (iOS 17 Supported)

The most straightforward approach to protecting data security is to back up our iPhones regularly. But you may have a large amount of data that your computer or iCloud doesn’t have sufficient storage space to save. Or do you want a separate storage location for iPhone photos and videos?

For these reasons, you may consider backing up your iPhone to an external drive to have a separate copy of the data on your device. In this article, let’s check three different ways to back up your iPhone to external hard drive.

Backup iPhone to External Hard Drive Using iTunes

If you have ever backed up your iPhone or iPad to iTunes, the backup folder will be stored on the computer's internal drive. Luckily, you are able to get these iOS backups off your computer and onto an external hard drive. You can simply do that by copying and pasting the existing iTunes backup to an external drive, and then free up space on your PC or Mac.

However, before backing up our iPhone manually, here are some things to consider:

  • Copying the entire backup file is recommended since the backup process or files may be corrupted if you copy specific files.
  • If you want to restore your iPhone with the iTunes backup, you need to move the backup file to the default folder.
  • This method only works if you have already made an iTunes backup of your iPhone/iPad on your computer.

Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Connect the external drive to the computer and then locate your iTunes backup location following the procedures below:

  • On Windows 7 and Vista: C: /Users/AppData/Roaming/Apple Computer/MobileSync/Backup/
  • On Windows 8/10: C:/Users/YOURUSERNAME/AppData/Roaming/Apple Computer/MobileSync/Backup/
  • On Mac: Hit “Command + Shift + G” on the keyboard, open the "Go to Folder" and then paste in "~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/"

itunes backup location

Step 2: Locate the backup folder, copy and then paste it somewhere on your external hard drive.

Flexibly Backup iPhone to External Drive without iTunes

One of the best and easiest ways to back up your iPhone to an external drive is to use a third-party tool like FoneGeek iOS Data Backup & Restore. This program makes it very easy for you to backup iPhone/iPad to your computer or an external hard drive without using iTunes. Also, you're allowed to preview the contents in the backup file and selectively restore any data from the backup to your iPhone/iPad.

Main Features of FoneGeek iOS Data Backup & Restore

  • You can back up contacts, messages, call history, notes, photos ,videos, WhatsApp, and more data on your iPhone or iPad to your computer in one click.
  • You are able to create new iPhone backup without overwriting the old one and view the data in the backup file with all details.
  • You can preview and selectively restore any data on your backup to an iOS device according to your needs.
  • You won't lose any data on your device. The program guarantees the protection of data on iPhone/iPad during the backup and restore process.
  • You can use this tool on all iOS devices and iOS versions, including the newest iPhone 15/14/13 and iOS 17/16.


Here's how to backup your iPhone to an external drive without iTunes:

Step 1: Download and install this iPhone Data Backup & Restore tool on to your PC or Mac. Launch it after successful installation and then select "Backup & Restore" from the top menu.

backup restore

Step 2: Plug your iPhone or iPad to the computer with USB cable and wait for the iPhone data backup tool to recognize the device. Once the program has detected your device, you should see a list of all the data on the device. Here, select the specific types of file that you wish to back up to the external drive.


Step 3: Click on "Backup" and choose the external drive as the backup file path and then the program will begin the backup process.

backup completed

Step 4: Keep your iPhone/iPad connected to the computer until the backup is complete. You can click "View Backup Data" to see the backup file when the process is complete.

preview backup


Backup iPhone to External Drive with Terminal Command

You can also use command line to create a symbolic link (symlink) in iTunes that will automatically save all backups to an external drive rather than the internal drive. This method requires knowledge of the command line and directory structures. Here's how to do it on Windows and Mac:

On MacOS:

  • Begin by locating the iPhone backup created with iTunes. You can do that by typing "~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync" and then locating the file named "Backup".
  • Connect the external drive to the computer and then create a folder on the drive. You can name the folder something like "iPhone backup" or "Backup" for easy reference.
  • Copy the "Backup" folder in iTunes to the new folder on the external folder. Change the name of the "Backup" folder on the Mac to "Old-Backup".
  • Now go to Applications > Utilities to open the Terminal application. Type the following symlink in "ln -s /Volumes/ [External Drive]/MobileSync/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup", replacing "external drive" with the name of the drive. Hit Return and then close Terminal.

This will redirect the iPhone backup to the external drive instead of the local drive. You can then delete the "Old-Backup" folder on your Mac to create more space.

On Windows:

  • Connect the external drive to the Windows PC computer and then create a new folder on the drive. You can name it "iOS Backup" or something similar.
  • Now go to C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup (Username refers to the username on this computer) to locate the iPhone backup folder. Copy it to the new folder on the external drive and then rename it "Old-Backup".
  • Now hit Windows + R to open the run box on your computer. Type in "cmd" and hit enter.
  • In the command prompt window that appears, enter the following code "mklink /J "C:\Users\ [Username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "f:\iOSBackup" and then hit enter to run the command. (Remember to change (Username) with your actual username on the computer.

From now on, every time you create a backup of your iPhone on iTunes, the backup file will be redirected to the external drive.


You may need to back up your iPhone to an external drive to save space on your Mac or PC. Whatever the reason is, having the option to back up your iPhone to an external drive is a choice each one of us should have.

Choose one of the three methods above and follow the simple steps outlined to implement it correctly. Share your thoughts, comments and questions below and we'll do our best to find solutions.

FAQs about Backing Up iPhone to External Drive

Should you have any further questions, check the section below to understand how to back up iPhone to external hard drive better.

Can we back up iPhone to external hard drive without computer?

Now one more question here: can we backup our iPhone to en external hard drive if we don’t ave a computer?

Yes. What you need is a Apple’s Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter or USB-C port.

  • Connect the adapter to the iPhone's lightning port, and then connect the external drive to the adapter.
  • Then open the iPhone and select the data you need to transfer to the external hard drive.
  • Then click the Share button and select the external hard drive to save the files.

How long will it take to back up your iPhone to external hard drive?

It depends on the data you need to transfer. For example, it may take hours if you need to transfer all the iPhone data saved to the external hard drive.  

Fay J. Melton

Fay J. Melton has explored the area of technology and software for more than 5 years and he is enthusiastic about helping users solve various technology issues.

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