Can You AirDrop to External Hard Drive? Try the 3 Ways

For its larger capacity, you may want to airdrop to external hard drive from your iPhone, iPad or iPod. This guide will introduce you three ways to transfer files from iDevices to USB via a computer or directly.


By Demi / Updated on June 6, 2024

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Can You AirDrop to an External Hard Drive from iPhone/iPad?


AirDrop directly to external storage

I have an iPad Pro with a storage problem. Is it possible to send photos and videos straight to the files app into the external SSD over AirDrop? Or any other way to move/download them to the external SSD to skip the small internal storage?  

- Question from Reddit

It seems that the iPhone and iPad storage space is never enough even if it’s getting larger and larger. Therefore, you may choose to transfer files from iPhone/iPad to an external hard drive for its larger storage capacity, faster read and write speed, and longer life, so that you can free up storage space on your iPhone.

Airdrop, designed by Apple, can help you transfer files between Apple devices like iPhone, iPad, and Macbook wirelessly. While, if you wonder whether you can airdrop directly to external hard drive from iPhone/iPad, You'll be disappointed.

airdrop external hard drive

But don't worry, there actually are many ways to transfer iPhone files to an external disk easily.  In this guide, you will get three ways to transfer or airdrop to external hard drive from iPhone, iPad, or iPod either with a computer or directly.

Way 1. AirDrop to external hard drive from iPhone on Windows via FoneTool

Even if you can not transfer directly to external hard drive from iPhone, iPad using AirDrop, there are airdrop for Windows alternatives available so that you can transfer data from iPhone to an external disk on Windows. FoneTool is a powerful tool for you to directly transfer files between iOS devices, from iPhone to an external HDD, SSD, USB drive, etc. on a Windows PC, and vice versa.

The features and advantages of FoneTool
✓ Fast & Stable transfer. It just takes 2 seconds to transfer 100 photos from iPhone to computer. Different from AirDrop, USB connection between your iPhone and computer offers a more stable transfer process.
✓ Selective process. You can preview and select the files you want to transfer to a hard drive. You can also use the tool to save full iPhone backup to PC or external hard drive.
✓ No data loss. It won’t compress the size of the files during transfer. You won’t lose anything on your iPhone, either.
✓ Wide compatibility. FoneTool supports kinds of models of iPhone, iPad, and iPod. It’s also perfectly compatible with all HDD, SSD, and other external storage devices.

Detailed steps to transfer files to external hard drive via FoneTool
Just for an example, the following steps will show you how to airdrop photos to external hard drive from iPhone. You can also transfer other types of files at the same time with the same steps.

Step 1. Click the icon below to download and install FoneTool on your computer > Connect both iPhone and the external hard drive to computer with USB cables.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Step 2. Launch FoneTool > Click Phone Transfer > Locate iPhone to PC and click Start Transfer.

Transfer To Computer

Step 3. Click the “+” icon to preview and select the files you want to transfer.

Select Files

Step 4. Here you can choose photos, music, videos, and contacts to transfer, and select specific items. Then click "OK".

select files

Step 5. Make sure you select all wanted items> Choose the connected external disk as the storage destination from Transfer Settings and click Start Transfer.


In addition, FoneTool also provides comprehensive backup solutions. You can turn to the Selective Backup to backup messages, music, contacts, videos, etc to computer/external hard drive. And the Full Backup feature enables you to create a full iPhone backup.

Way 2. How to import files from iPhone to external hard drive on Mac

If you are using a Mac, you can airdrop your files to your Macbook. Then save the files to your external disk. Here are the steps how you can transfer 

Step 1. On your iPhone, tap and hold the file you need. Choose the Share icon. 

Step 2. Choose Airdrop. Then choose your Macbook to airdrop. 

Step 3. On your Macbook, tap Accept to receive the airdropped files.

receive airdrop file

After a while, the file will be transferred on your Mac. Save it on the connected external hard drive.

Additional content: Transfer iPhone to external hard drive
If you are sending photos to external hard drive, airdrop also works, but it probably is not the ideal choice. Because it takes a lot of to send a large number of pictures. So, if you are transferring photos from iPhone to Mac. The built-in Photos app can help you. Follow the steps to make it.

Step 1. Plugin your iPhone and external hard drive > Open Photos on your Mac.

Step 2. Click Import > From A USB device > Click Import Settings.

Step 3. Set your external hard drive as the destination to save these files, and you also need to check whether you need to delete the files after the process >Click Done to continue.

Step 4. Select the files you want to transfer > Click Import Selected to start the task.

Import Selected

Way 3. Transfer directly from iPhone to external hard drive

Don’t be frustrated if you don’t have a computer available. Chances are that you can transfer airdrop directly from iPhone to external hard drive. First of all, please check and make sure you have met the following requirements:

⚙️ Please make sure the iOS on your iPhone is 13 or later. If necessary, you can go to Settings > General > Software Update to update to the latest iOS.
🔌 You also need to prepare a lightning to USB 3 Camera Adaptor to connect your iPhone and the external hard drive. Now, follow the steps below to ‘airdrop’ iPhone photos directly to external hard drive.

Step 1. Connect your iPhone to the external hard drive. Go to File app on your iPhone and tap Browse to check if the external hard drive has been detected.

Step 2. Go to Photos app > Select the wanted photos > Tap Share button in the bottom left corner.

Step 3. Choose Save to Files > On My iPhone > Select the external hard drive as the destination > Tap Save.

save photos to external hard drive directly

Repeat the steps above, and you can save more types of files to the external hard drive.


Hopefully, no matter if you have a computer or not, you can transfer/airdrop to external hard drive with one of the three methods successfully. If this guide helps you out, share it with more people.

Demi · Editor
Demi is an editor of FoneTool group as well as a good advisor in the area of iOS-related issues. She does well in finding solutions to people's problems. She enjoys traveling, gardening, and watching movies. She spends most of her free time with her pet and family.