7 Common Ways to Backup iPhone Photos to External Drive

Too many high-quality photos on iPhone would take most of the space on the device. To release the storage, you could get them off your iPhone. Read this passage to know how to backup iPhone photos to external hard drive.


By Dylan / Updated on May 31, 2024

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How to backup iPhone photos to external hard drive.

I have about 4K photos and videos stored on my iPhone 15 and they have consumed iPhone storage. I'm using a PC with Windows 11, and I would like to save them to my external hard drive using this PC. How do I transfer photos from my iPhone to external hard drive on Windows 11?

- Question from Apple Community

Can you backup iPhone photos directly to external hard drive?

You might have taken or collected many interesting pictures on your iPhone. They are so precious that you should take good care of them. However, when the device is stolen or broken, the data may be lost. If you don’t back up iPhone photos, it will be a disaster.

In addition, iOS system always encounters issues. Users reported that they have updated iOS but photos are missing. In these situations, moving your iPhone photos and videos to another storage device might be a good choice. Can you copy iPhone photo library to an external hard drive? The answer is Yes!

backup iphone to external hard drive

Now just keep on reading, we will walk you through all the ways to achieve the goal, whether you want to finish the process without a computer or via a Win/Mac.

⚠️Note: Methods in this post can be applied to backup photos to all brands of external hard drives (like Seagate, Samsung, WD, etc.), memory cards or other storage devices.

Method 1. How to move photos from iPhone to portable hard drive without computer

For people who don't want to use a computer to accomplish the action, this way might be very much convenient. You can use an adapter to connect your iPhone and external hard drive. Then you easily make it without a computer. 


Step 1. Use an adapter to connect your iPhone and external drive. Or you can use an external hard drive that has a lightning port. 

Step 2. Go to the Photos app on your iPhone. Then choose the pictures you need. 

Step 3. Tap the Share button > choose Save to Files > Choose the external hard drive and choose a location on it > Tap Save to make it.

save files to external hard drive

Method 2. The best free way to backup photos from iPhone to external drive

To back up iPhone photos quickly and easily, you can turn to the free professional iPhone data management app - FoneTool. It can help you easily transfer/backup photos from iPhone to external hard drive, like HDD/SSD/SD card using a USB cable on your Windows PC. 

Fast iPhone Backup Software
  • Preview and choose specific photos to back up.
  • Transferring 100 photos to an external drive only takes 2 seconds.
  • Various iPhone models and external drives are supported.
  • All data can be kept in original quality.
  • The USB connection avoids data leakage risks.

Now you can click the download button to install FoneTool and follow the guide below to see how it works. Then your photos can be stored in a non-iCloud fashion.

Step 1. Connect your iPhone and your external hard drive to your computer.

Step 2. Choose Photos Backup > Selective Backup > Click Get Started.

backup photos


enlightened You can also click Phone Transfer > Choose iPhone to PC to transfer full-resolution photos to Windows PC or send other data to computer.
enlightened If you want to backup all local data to PC/external hard drive, you can choose Full Backup.

Step 3. You can check the Photos option to back up all pictures on your iPhone. Or select specific photos you need to transfer. Then click the OK button to continue.

Select Pictures

Step 4. Click the Backup Storage Path to choose the external hard drive as the backup location. Then click Start Backup to begin the task.

Click On Start Backup

Then wait for the process to be completed. When you need the photos, you can go to My Backups to restore them to your iPhone/iPad.

my backup

Method 3. Backup iPhone photos to external hard drive with the Windows Photos app

For Windows users, using the built-in application - Photos is also an easy way to export iPhone photos to computer and then move every photo you want to the external hard drive.

Step 1. Connect iPhone and external hard drive to Windows computer with USB cable and tap “Trust” on iPhone.

Step 2. Go to the search bar on the desktop and search Photos > Open the app and click the Import option > Select From a USB Device to let the app find images on your iPhone.

Step 3. Once all photos and videos are detected, you can choose the pictures you need within the pop-up window.

Step 4. Click the Import Settings > Choose Change the import destination > Select a location on your external hard drive > Click Done and choose Import Selected to start the process.

photos app in windows

⚠️Note: If you can't import photos from iPhone to PC, find solutions in this article: Fix iPhone Not Importing Photos to Windows 11/10/8/7, or choose other ways to make it.

Method 4. Export iPhone photos to external hard drive with the File Explorer

If you don't need a third-party app to finish the process, you can also use File Explorer in Windows 10/11 or Windows Explorer in Windows 8/7 to accomplish the task.

However, this way only allows you to move photos/videos within the DCIM folder on iPhone by date. If you have to transfer lots of photos, this method isn't convenient.

Step 1. Connect your iPhone and external hard drive to the PC with USB cables >  Click Trust on iPhone to continue.

Step 2. Go to This PC on your computer > Find and click your iPhone > Tap on Internal Storage > Select DCIM > Go to the folder you need to view and select the targeted photos > Drag them to your external hard drive.

file explorer

Method 5. Move iPhone photos to external hard drive from iCloud Photos

Every iPhone user has at least 5GB iCloud storage space to back up and sync photos, videos, music, and other data. You can enable iCloud Photos to upload your Photos to iCloud. Then download your photos to your external hard drive. Here are the detailed steps of how to store iPhone photos on hard drive with iCloud.

Step 1. On the iPhone, go to the Settings app. Tap your name banner.

Step 2. Choose iCloud > Enable iCloud Photos or iCloud Photos Library.

turn on iCloud photos

Then your photos will be uploaded to your iCloud. When it finishes, connect your external hard drive to computer with a USB cable to import the photos. Here are 3 ways to make it. And FoneTool may be the fastest way.

enlightened Move photos from iCloud to external hard drive with FoneTool: Click the button to download this iCloud manager- FoneTool on your PC > Launch the app > Go to My iCloud > Log in with your Apple ID > Choose Manage iCloud > Select the photos or videos you need > Click the Download button > Change the Download Location within the pop-up window to save them to your external hard drive > Tap on Download to confirm the choice.

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download
⚠️Note: FoneTool uses two-factor authentication which is same as the encryption used by Apple to protect your iCloud data. So you don't need to worry about the data security.

enlightened Transfer photos to external hard drive on iCloud page: Go to the site of iCloud > Sign in with your Apple ID > Click the icon of photos > Select photos you want > Click Download selected items > Connect external hard drive to the computer and move them into it. Using this method, you could also move files from iCloud drive to external hard drive.

enlightened Get iCloud photos via iCloud client: Download iCloud for Windows > Sign in with your Apple ID > Check Photos > Check Download photos, Upload photos, or Create new folders in Options > Enter Windows Explorer > Click iCloud Photos > Click Download photos and videos > Connect external hard drive to computer and move iCloud photos from the Downloads folder into it.

iCloud Photos

If you still have photos in the iCloud backup, you can download iCloud backup to PC.

Method 6. Store iPhone photos to external hard drive using Mac Photos 

If you have a MacBook using MacOS X 10.10.3 or later, you can use the Mac Photos app to transfer iPhone photos to external hard drive.

Step 1. Connect your iPhone with your MacBook. Then open Photos on your MacBook. 

Step 2. Click your iPhone device on the left pane. 

Step 3. Click the Import To button and save the photos to your external hard drive.

Method 7. Transfer photos from iPhone to external hard drive using Mac Image Capture

Image Capture is a Mac app enabling users to import photos from iPhone and other devices to Mac. Then you can move the imported photos to your external hard drive. It's important to note that if you need to transfer hundreds of photos, the app may crash.

Here is how to transfer photos from iPhone to external hard drive via Mac Image Capture. 

Step 1. Attach your iPhone and the external hard drive with your Mac > Confirm the choice on your iPhone to connect them > Run Image Capture on the MacBook.

Step 2. Select your iPhone from the Devices section > Click Import To and choose the photos you want to backup.

Step 3. Click Import All to move all images or choose the pictures you need and click Import to achieve the goal.

import all image capture

What to do if you cannot back up iPhone photos to external drive?

Sometimes you might meet problems when backing up iPhone photos on computer, this is often caused by iPhone disconnecting from computer or lacking for necessary driver. You could restart computer and iPhone, and troubleshoot the problem using the 3 methods:

enlightened Solution 1. Change the USB cable or try another USB port on computer.

enlightened Solution 2. Disable antivirus software and firewall during connection.

enlightened Solution 3. Update Apple device driver.

Steps to update Apple device driver: Right-click the Start Button on the desktop > Select Device Manager > Expand the Portable Devices Section > Right-click on the device name > Click Update driver > Select Search automatically for updated driver software.

Update Apple Driver


This is all about how to backup iPhone photos to external hard drive. You can finish the process on a PC, Mac, or without a computer. Because of the much faster transfer speed, FoneTool might be the most convenient way.

In addition, during the transfer process, if you find there are too many similar photos, you can also use the powerful FoneTool to delete duplicate photos on iPhone and computer.

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.