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

Backing up your iPhone to an external hard drive may sound daunting, but it’s not rocket science. It’s a straightforward process that involves using your computer, iTunes, and a bit of your time. Once you’re done, all your precious data will be safe and sound on your external hard drive.

After you complete the backup, you’ll have a secure copy of your iPhone data that you can use to restore your device if needed. This is especially useful if you’re planning to upgrade to a new iPhone or if you need to reset your current one.


In the digital age, our smartphones have become an extension of ourselves, holding precious memories, important contacts, and valuable information. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that all this data is backed up, so it’s not lost in case of device malfunctions, theft, or accidental damage. For iPhone users, backing up their device to an external hard drive is a smart move.

This task is not just for tech-savvy individuals; anyone can do it with a bit of guidance. It’s relevant for every iPhone user because, let’s be real, no one wants to lose their photos, messages, or apps. The backup process is like creating a digital safety net for your phone. It provides peace of mind knowing that if anything happens to your iPhone, your data won’t be gone for good. Plus, with an external hard drive, you’re not limited by the storage constraints of your iCloud account. So, if you’re someone who values their digital content, read on to ensure it’s protected.

Step by Step Tutorial: How to Backup an iPhone to an External Hard Drive

Before beginning, ensure your computer has iTunes installed and that you have an external hard drive with enough space to store your iPhone’s data.

Step 1: Connect your iPhone to your computer using a USB cable.

By connecting your iPhone to the computer, you allow it to communicate with iTunes, which is necessary for the backup process.

Step 2: Open iTunes and select your device.

Once iTunes is open, click on the small iPhone icon that appears to select your device. This will take you to the summary page where you can manage your iPhone’s settings.

Step 3: Click on ‘Back Up Now’ while holding down the Option key (Mac) or Shift key (Windows).

Holding down the Option or Shift key will prompt a dialogue box that allows you to choose where to save the backup.

Step 4: Select your external hard drive as the backup location.

Navigate through your computer’s folders until you find your external hard drive. Select it, and then choose a folder or create a new one where you want your backup to be stored.

Step 5: Wait for the backup to complete.

This step may take some time depending on the amount of data on your iPhone. Don’t disconnect your iPhone or hard drive until iTunes indicates that the backup is finished.


Safe and secure dataBy backing up your iPhone to an external hard drive, your data is stored securely and is less susceptible to loss due to online threats.
Larger storage capacityExternal hard drives often have a larger storage capacity compared to iCloud’s free tier, allowing for fuller backups without additional costs.
One-time setupOnce you have set up the backup process, it’s easy to repeat in the future, ensuring your data is consistently protected.


Time-consumingThe initial backup process can be time-consuming, especially if there’s a lot of data to transfer.
Physical damage riskExternal hard drives can be susceptible to physical damage, which could potentially lead to data loss if not stored properly.
Less convenient than cloudUnlike cloud storage, you’ll need to physically connect your iPhone and hard drive to a computer to perform backups, which may not be as convenient for some users.

Additional Information

When backing up your iPhone to an external hard drive, there are a few extra tips you should keep in mind. First, make sure that both your iPhone and iTunes are updated to the latest version. This will help avoid any compatibility issues during the backup process. Also, consider encrypting your backup by checking the “Encrypt iPhone backup” box in iTunes. This will protect your data with a password, adding an extra layer of security.

It’s also wise to regularly back up your iPhone, especially before any major updates or if you’re planning to switch devices. Remember to label your backups with dates to keep track of them easily. And finally, while an external hard drive is a great backup option, it’s also smart to have a cloud backup as a second safety net.


  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer.
  2. Open iTunes and select your device.
  3. Click ‘Back Up Now’ with the Option/Shift key held down.
  4. Choose your external hard drive as the backup location.
  5. Wait for the backup to complete.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I backup my iPhone to an external hard drive without a computer?

No, you need a computer to facilitate the transfer of data from your iPhone to an external hard drive using iTunes.

How often should I backup my iPhone?

It’s best to backup your iPhone regularly, at least once a month or before any significant updates or changes to your device.

Is it possible to view the files on the external hard drive after the backup?

The backup file is not meant to be browsed like normal files. It’s a specific format that only iTunes can read for restoring purposes.

Can I backup multiple iPhones to the same external hard drive?

Yes, you can. Just make sure to organize and label the backup files clearly to avoid confusion.

Will backing up my iPhone to an external hard drive use up a lot of its storage space?

It depends on the amount of data you have on your iPhone. However, external hard drives typically have ample space to accommodate several backups.


Backing up your iPhone to an external hard drive is a smart way to ensure that your data is secure. It’s a simple process that, once set up, offers a reliable method of protecting your digital life from unforeseen events. While it might seem like a chore, the peace of mind it provides is invaluable.

Remember to keep your software updated, consider encryption, and make regular backups part of your routine. With these steps, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding your iPhone’s data for years to come.