[Easy way] How to Backup iCloud Photos to External Hard Drive

How can you backup iCloud photos to external hard drive for freeing up more storage in iCloud? This is a common topic for iCloud users. From this article, you can get several methods to send iCloud photos to external hard drive easily.


By Dylan / Updated on June 9, 2023

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How do I save my iCloud photos to external HDD?

 I have a large iCloud photo library of about 30,000 irreplaceable images and videos, It is entirely hosted on icloud - I am using the 'optimise iphone storage' setting. And my iCloud is getting ful, so I want to save these photos to an external HDD. How can I backup iCloud photos to external hard drive? Thanks.

- Question from apple.stackexchange.com

What is iCloud Photos Library?

For many Apple iOS users, iCloud is a good service that supports managing and backup iPhone data, especially photos. iCloud Photo Library store everything photos and videos you take in iCloud. And changes also will be synced to everything versions on your devices. It is good way to share your photos between your iDevices and protect your photos and videos from loss.

Besides, iCloud provides Optimize features that store the originals of your photos in iCloud, and have a compressed version on your iPhone to save storage space. You can go to "Settings" app > scroll down and tap "Photos" to turn on and off the "iCloud Photos Library" and "Optimize iPhone Storage".

Turn On iCloud Photos

Why Backup iCloud Photos to External Hard Drive?

However, as we all know, there is only 5GB of free space for iCloud provided by Apple company at the very beginning. And you will receive the "iCloud storage full" prompt once the storage runs out. In addition, for photos that really matter, you may want a second copy in case something went wrong.

Then, you can choose to transfer iCloud photos to external hard drive. Then how can you do that? In this article, we will introduce how to backup iCloud photos and videos to external hard drive on Windows PC and Mac easily. Meanwhile, we also recommend professional backup software to help you backup photos from iPhone to external hard drive to avoid the iCloud storage issue.

How to Backup iCloud Photos to External Hard Drive

Before transferring iCloud photos to external hard drive, we need to download iCloud photos to PC or Mac firstly. The process is easy by following steps below.

Note: Make sure that you set up iCloud on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch or Mac, that you turned on iCloud Photos. Go to Settings on iPhone > tap profile > tap iCloud > Photos > enable iCloud Photos.

turn on icloud photos

Part 1. Download iCloud Photos to Computer

You can choose different methods to download iCloud photos based on the situation and computer you have owned. Here we have offered 3 methods for you in detail.

Way 1. Download from iCloud Website (for PC and Mac)

1. Open a browser on your PC or Safari on Mac, and go to iCloud.com.

2. Sign in to your Apple ID (account username & password) and access the main interface like below.

icloud site

3. Click on Photos in the main interface. Then, choose All Photos album.

4. Press Ctrl on your PC or Command on Mac and choose multiple or total photos in iCloud.

5. Go to the right upper corner and click the download button in cloud shape and click Download to save the photos on your Windows PC or Mac. Here you can choose only download original photos or edited photos included.


download from icloud windows

Tips: If you enabled Two-factor authentication on your iPhone which signed in Apple ID, you will be asked to enter the verification code to verify your identity when logging in.

Way 2. Download from Photos App (for MacBook)

1. Go to Finder and open the Photos app.

2. Choose Photos, then click Preferences.

3. Select iCloud, then click Download Originals to this Mac.

Download Originals To Mac

4. Click General and Show in Finder, to locate the Photo Library on Mac. The default path: Users>your name>Pictures>Photos Library.

Find Library Location Mac

Note: You can check the option Copy items to the Photos library, which can help you make all the imported photos into the Photos Library folder.

Way 3. Download Using iCloud App (for Windows)

1. Download iCloud for Windows, then sign in your Apple ID.

2. Click Photos and Options. Then switch on iCloud Photo Library and Download New Photos And Videos To My PC.

icloud photos

3. Click Done, then Apply.

Part 2. Backup iCloud Photos to External Hard Drive (PC and Mac)

When you have downloaded iCloud photos to your PC or Mac through the three methods above, you can transfer iCloud photos to external hard drive now. Here are the instructions for you:

Preparation: Connect your external hard drive to PC or Mac with a stable USB cable.

For Windows PC:

1. Locate the downloaded iCloud photos from the path: This PC>Local Disk(C:)>Users>your name>Pictures>iCloud Photos>Downloads.

2. Then move the Downloads folder to your external hard drive.


For Mac:

1. Click Finder and scroll down to Pictures, locate Photos Library.

Find Photos Library Finder Mac

2. Copy the photos library and paste it to external hard drive.

The above is about how to download iCloud photos to external hard drive. For sending iCloud photos to external hard drive can free up the computer space and iCloud, and makes a perfect copy of your wonderful pictures for better management.

Easier way to Backup Photos from iPhone to External Hard Drive

Although iCloud provides many fabulous functions with people, it has itself limitations, such as slow backup/restore speed, activating the synchronization function without knowing and small storage space, etc. Hence we prefer to recommend you powerful backup and transfer iOS data software-FoneTool, which can help you manage and backup iPhone photos to external hard drive, backup iPhone to Windows PC without effort.

Advantages of backing up iPhone via FoneTool
◆ Preview and selectively. It allows you preview the items before backup and choose certain data to backup.
◆ No data loss. You don’t have to worry data loss when backup iPhone, even though you modify or delete the original data in your iPhone.
Fast speed. The speed of backup iPhone is very fast. No countless waiting time.
Wide Compatibility. It supports most iPhone models from iPhone 4 to iPhone 14 and would be perfectly compatible with the latest iOS 16/15.

Now you can free download FoneTool on your Windows PC and enjoy backing up your iPhone process.

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

1. Launch FoneTool. Connect your iPhone to Windows computer with a stable USB cable.

2. Choose Phone Backup on the main interface > Click Selective Backup.

only photos or all

3. You can choose an icon to decide what photo you want to backup to external hard drive. Then click OK.

select pictures

4. In the bottom left corner of the interface, change the Storage Path to the external hard drive. Then click Start Backup to continue. Waiting for the process to get finished.

click on backup

5. On the Backup History page, you can locate and Browse, Delete, Restore backup files to iPhone anytime.

restore to device

Tip: If you want to backup new data on your iOS device next time, you can directly click the triangle icon to run an incremental backup without backing up whole iPhone again.


That’s all about how to backup iCloud photos to external hard drive. Hope the detailed steps can really help you. What’s more, you can also take FoneTool to back up photos from iPhone to external hard drive with only a few clicks.

Additionally, FoneTool also comes with other features. For example, the HEIC Converter could help you to convert HEIC photo into JPG, JPEG, or PNG images if you want. You can better store and enjoy beautiful and meaningful photos via it.

Dylan · Editor
Dylan is an editor of mobile backup software. He likes to share the latest news about iPhone and iOS, write useful tips, and give solutions to help people solve all kinds of issues.