How to Backup an iPhone to an External Drive: A Step-by-Step Guide

Backing up your iPhone to an external drive is a savvy move to ensure your precious photos, contacts, and files are safe and sound. It’s not as complicated as you might think – in a nutshell, you need to connect your iPhone to your computer, use iTunes to create a backup, and then move that backup to your external drive. You’ll feel a weight lift off your shoulders knowing your data is doubly secure!

After completing the backup, your data will reside in two locations: on your iPhone and on your external drive. This redundancy provides peace of mind, knowing that if anything happens to your phone, your data is still easily accessible and restorable.


In the age where our smartphones are extensions of our memories and identities, backing up our devices is not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity. Think about it: we capture life’s precious moments, communicate with loved ones, and store personal information on these pocket-sized gadgets. And let’s face it, accidents happen – phones get lost, stolen, or damaged. That’s where backing up your iPhone to an external drive comes in handy. It’s a foolproof way to safeguard your digital life against the unexpected.

This guide is essential for anyone who values their data. Whether you’re a student with irreplaceable notes, a professional with crucial contacts, or just someone who cherishes their photo library – backing up your iPhone to an external drive ensures your information remains intact, no matter what life throws at your phone.

Step by Step Tutorial

Before diving into the steps, it’s important to understand what we’re aiming for here. By the end of this tutorial, you will have a complete backup of your iPhone saved securely on an external drive. This means that all your data, from your latest selfies to your essential documents, will be duplicated and stored outside of your phone for safekeeping.

Step 1: Gather Your Tools

First, ensure you have a Lightning cable, a computer with iTunes installed, and an external drive.
The Lightning cable is what you typically use to charge your iPhone. Make sure your computer has the latest version of iTunes installed, as this is the software we’ll be using to create the backup. The external drive is where we’ll be storing the backup – any drive with sufficient space will do the trick.

Step 2: Connect and Trust

Connect your iPhone to your computer using the Lightning cable and trust the computer if prompted.
When you connect your iPhone to your computer, you might see a message asking if you trust the computer. This is a security feature to prevent unauthorized access to your device. Go ahead and tap “Trust” to proceed.

Step 3: Launch iTunes and Select Device

Open iTunes and select your iPhone from the list of devices.
You’ll find the device icon near the top left corner of the iTunes window. Clicking on it will take you to the summary page for your iPhone.

Step 4: Create Backup

In iTunes, choose “Back Up Now” to start backing up your iPhone to your computer.
This process might take a few minutes to an hour, depending on how much data you have on your iPhone. Make sure not to disconnect your phone while the backup is in progress.

Step 5: Locate Backup Folder

After the backup finishes, locate the backup folder on your computer.
On a Mac, you’ll find it in Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup. On Windows, it’s in Users[Your Username]AppDataRoamingApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup.

Step 6: Transfer to External Drive

Copy the backup folder to your external drive.
Simply drag and drop the folder onto your external drive’s icon on your desktop or use the copy and paste function. Wait for the transfer to complete, and voilà – your backup is now on your external drive!


Data SecurityStoring your iPhone’s backup on an external drive adds an extra layer of security. It protects your data from being lost if your computer crashes or is compromised.
Data PortabilityAn external drive can be easily transported and connected to other computers, making your backup highly portable and accessible.
Space SavingKeeping a backup off your computer’s internal storage saves you precious space, especially if you have a lot of data on your iPhone.


Extra Equipment NeededYou’ll need to have an external drive, which may be an additional expense if you don’t already own one.
Manual ProcessThe process isn’t automated, so you’ll need to remember to periodically back up your iPhone manually.
Potential for Data LossIf the external drive is damaged or lost, your backup could be irretrievable, so it’s wise to have backups in multiple locations.

Additional Information

Backing up your iPhone to an external drive might seem like a bit of a chore, but it’s an invaluable habit to get into. It’s worth noting that while Apple offers iCloud for backups, having a local backup gives you more control over your data. Plus, you won’t have to pay for extra iCloud storage if your data exceeds the free 5GB limit.

When you’re transferring the backup to the external drive, make sure the drive has enough free space. Also, consider encrypting your backup in iTunes for additional security – this way, even if someone gets their hands on your external drive, they won’t be able to access your data without the password.

Remember to disconnect your external drive safely after the transfer to avoid corrupting the data. And like any good tech habit, make sure to back up your iPhone regularly – because when it comes to data, it’s better to be safe than sorry!


  1. Confirm you have a Lightning cable, a computer with iTunes, and an external drive.
  2. Connect your iPhone to your computer and trust it.
  3. Open iTunes and select your iPhone.
  4. Choose “Back Up Now” in iTunes.
  5. Locate the backup folder on your computer post-backup.
  6. Transfer the backup folder to your external drive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I back up my iPhone without iTunes?

Yes, you can use Finder on macOS Catalina or later to back up your iPhone without iTunes. For Windows users, iTunes is still the go-to option.

Do I need to back up my entire iPhone?

It’s recommended to back up your entire iPhone to ensure all data is protected, but you can choose to back up only essential data if space is an issue.

How often should I back up my iPhone?

Ideally, you should back up your iPhone every time you add significant new data or at least once a week.

Can I access data from the backup on the external drive?

The backup is meant for restoration purposes, so you won’t be able to access individual items like photos or messages directly from the backup.

How long will the backup take?

The duration of the backup process depends on the amount of data on your iPhone. It could range from a few minutes to an hour or more.


In conclusion, backing up your iPhone to an external drive is a smart move that shouldn’t be overlooked. It might seem like a bit of an effort at first, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it’ll be second nature. Plus, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your data is safe is priceless. Remember, in the digital age, your data is as precious as any physical possession, so take care of it. Keep this guide handy, and you’ll be a pro at backing up your iPhone in no time!

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