Backing up your iPhone is a smart move because it can protect you if you lose your iPhone or if it becomes damaged at some point. Although Apples own iCloud backup service is great, it means putting all of your data under the control of Apple (see our iCloud review).
If that doesnt sound appealing to you, or youre running out of iCloud storage space, then youll want to learn how to backup an iPhone to an external hard drive. This involves moving your previously hidden iPhone backup files from your Windows PC or Mac to an external hard drive.
Youll need an external hard drive with enough storage to be able to do the job, so look at investing in one of the best external hard drive options before you consider backing up your iPhone files.
Its been a while since it was necessary to backup your iPhone using your PC or Mac. Thanks to the magic of iCloud, youre able to make backups of your iPhone data without needing any other equipment.
This has its advantages, not the least of which is being able to make regular backups without plugging in your iPhone. The biggest problem with this approach, however, is storage. Backing up to iCloud uses your limited iCloud storage. The larger the backup files, the less space you have for essentials, including your camera photos, although you may wish to move your photo collection to the best online storage for photos instead.
Thats why backing up to an external hard drive can be a better method. Its more involved and does require you to revert to old-school iPhone backups using iTunes or, if youre using macOS Catalina, you can use Finder instead.
If you have made a backup of your iPhone using your PC or Mac, you can then move the files to an external drive.
To begin backing up an iPhone to an external hard drive on Windows, youll need to have iTunes installed. Connect your iPhone to your PC and open iTunes once its installed.
Once your iPhone is connected to your PC, unlock your iPhone and pressed trust on it to allow your PC to connect. Then your iPhone should appear under the devices tab in the left-hand menu of iTunes.
Click the iPhone icon in the top left of the iTunes screen. This is located next to the media dropdown menu (i.e. music). This brings up the device information menu for your iPhone.
To perform a manual backup of your iPhone to your PC, click back up now under the manually back up and restore section.
Your iPhone will take some time to finish backing up to your PC. Once its completed, youll have to manually copy the backup files to your external drive.
The location of iPhone backup files is C:UsersusernameAppDataRoamingApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup, replacing username with your own Windows username. You can also type %appdata%Apple ComputerMobileSyncBackup in Windows File Explorer to take you directly to the folder.
Using the date modified column, locate the newest backup for your device. Right-click on the folder and press copy. You can then attach your external hard drive, open it in File Explorer, right-click and paste the backup folder to an appropriate location. Youll need to do this every time you perform a manual backup of your iPhone to your PC.
The process for backing up an iPhone to an external hard drive on Mac is pretty similar for users with macOS Mojave or older operating systems that, like Windows, use iTunes for iPhone backups. If you use a Mac with macOS Catalina, the process differs, using Finder instead.
If you have macOS Mojave or older, connect your iPhone and open iTunes. Click the iPhone device icon in the top left. If your Mac device is running macOS Catalina, open Finder from the app dock at the bottom of your screen instead.
Click back up now in the manually back up and restore section of your device information menu. For Catalina users, the back up now button is listed under the backups section.
This process will take some time to complete, especially if it is the first time your device has been backed up. Once it has, you can begin copying your files to an external drive.
Whether youre using iTunes or Finder, the typical location for your iPhone backup files is ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync which wont appear in Finder. Click the search icon in the top right of your Mac screen and type in your backup folder location. Locate the most recent backup folder, right-click and then click copy.
Head to your external drive listed under locations in your Finder left-hand menu and paste your backup folder there.
As with Windows, youll need to do this whenever you perform a manual backup of your iPhone to Mac.
Although it isnt a straightforward process, backing up an iPhone to an external hard drive can give you control over your iPhone backups. It can also help you reclaim iCloud storage or move your iPhone backups to a cloud backup service like Carbonite in the long run (see our Carbonite review).
Depending on the size of your iPhone storage, making regular backups will require a large enough external hard drive. A 1TB storage device is the minimum size wed recommend, so be sure to take a look at our best 1TB external hard drive shortlist for options. If youre worried about Mac support, take a look at our review of the best external hard drive for Mac.
Do you prefer to manually backup your iPhone? Share your iPhone backup tips and tricks in the comments below. Thanks for reading.
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