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How to Backup an iPhone to an External Hard Drive?

how to backup iphone to external hard drive

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Why cram up the internal storage of your Mac, when you can save items on an external hard drive? Well, how to backup an iPhone to an external hard drive? Let’s find out.

You can run out of space if you try to back up your iPhone data to a Mac computer. Unlimited photos, messages, and files can suffocate your Mac’s internal storage.  Moving your iPhone backup to an external hard drive can help you free up space on your Mac, especially if you’ve backed up many devices on the same computer. 

Although Apple does not make backing up an iPhone to an external hard drive simple, it is possible! 

Here’s how to backup an iPhone to an external hard drive.

How to Connect Your iPhone to Mac?

Find Your Current Backup on MacOS

You’ll need to know where your iPhone backup is stored on your Mac before you can move it to an external hard drive. It’s not difficult to locate. But if you don’t transfer your files on Mac from iPhone before saving them on an external drive and you don’t know how to connect iPhone to Mac, here are detailed instructions on how you can do it.

Step 1 

On the Mac’s Dock, select Finder.

Open the Finder window

Step 2 

From the menu at the left, select your iPhone under Locations. If you’re using an older version of macOS than macOS Catalina, you’ll have to use iTunes to locate your iPhone.

From locations, open your iPhone

Step 3:

Now, click on “Manage Backups.”

Click on ‘Manage Backups’ listed under Backups

Step 4:

While holding down the Control key, select the desired backup name.

Choose your desired backup

Step 5:

Select “Show in Finder” to see where the iPhone backup is located on your Mac.

By pressing ‘Show in Finder’ you’ll locate where your backup is

Once you have located your backup, it’s time to move it to an external hard drive

Move Your iPhone Backup to an External Hard Drive

Moving your iPhone to an external hard drive is quite a straightforward process. Start by plugging in your external hard drive to your computer.

Step 1

Go to the “Finder” window where your iOS backup is displayed.

Step 2 

Select the Backup folder whose name will be a series of numbers or simply Backup.

Step 3 

Drag it to the external hard drive that appears in the Locations section in the menu on the left.

Drag the backup folder to the external hard drive listed under Locations

Step 4:

On your external hard drive, rename the iOS backup folder to ios_backup.

Rename the backup folder to ios_backup on your external hard drive

Step 5:

Rename the old backup to old_backup and return to the original Finder window.

Therefore, in 5 easy steps, you have successfully learned how to backup an iPhone to an external hard drive.

Now let’s see how to change the location of your iPhone backups on Mac.

How to Change the Location of Your iPhone Backups on Your Mac Permanently

The most difficult element of this process is changing Mac’s backup destination for iPhone backups. To ensure that your iPhone is always backed up to an external hard drive, build a symlink so that your Mac knows where to search for future backups.

You can manually move your backups across if you don’t want to do this, but it’s a lot easier if you set up your Mac to do it for you. To get to the end, you must first adjust several permissions on your Mac. This is how you do it:

Step 1 

On the upper left of your screen, click the Apple Icon and go to “System Preferences.”

Open System Preferences on your Mac

Step 2 

Now click on “Security & Privacy > Privacy.”

Go to Security & Privacy
From Security & Privacy, click on ‘Privacy’

Step 3 

From here, click on the lock icon to make changes.

Press the Lock to make changes icon

Step 4 

Put your admin password in here and select “Full Disk Access.”

Step 5

Now, click the plus symbol and select “Terminal” from the Applications list.

Click on Full Disk Access and then the + symbol
Scroll through Applications and select Terminal

Now that you’ve done that step, here’s how to modify the location of your iPhone backup on your Mac.

Change the Location of Your iPhone Backups on Mac

Step 1

Launch the Terminal.

Step 2

Paste the code below. Make sure to replace the relevant parts with the name of your external hard drive.

ln -s /Volumes/**yourexternalharddrivename**/ios_backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup/

Paste the code and change the relevant parts accordingly

Step 3

Tap Return and close the terminal.

You’ve successfully created a symlink between the new folder and the old backup folder.

But in case you’re doubtful if the process has been successful or not, you can double-check from the steps given below.

How to Know if the new iPhone Backup has been successful?

Step 1

Click “Back Up Now” from the iPhone Location menu in Finder.

Click Back up Now from the iPhone location

Step 2

Check that the Date Modified next to the new ios_backup folder on your external hard drive has updated to the current time after the backup has been completed.

If it’s updated it means you did everything right. If not, then go through the steps again.

How to Turn Off Automatic Backups

The disadvantage of keeping a backup on an external hard drive is that if you don’t have it plugged in all of the time, you may experience problems. Here’s how to turn off automatic backups so you can back up your iPhone only when you’re ready.

Step 1 

Select Finder from the menu bar.

Step 2

Select your iPhone under Locations.

Step 3

Remove the checkmark from the box that says “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected.”

Uncheck the ‘Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected’ box

The automatic backup is turned off; however, don’t forget to back up your data manually regularly!

Summing Up

It’s not easy to move your iPhone backup to an external hard drive. It requires familiarity with the Terminal command and the ability to change a few background settings on your Mac. It can be intimidating if you’ve never worked with Terminal before. Regardless of how tough it is, backing up your iPhone to an external hard drive is useful. 

We hope you found this guide beneficial for your iPhone’s backup.

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