How to Backup an iPhone or iPad to an External Drive or Another Location

Tips • June 4, 2024


Using your smartphone without backups is risky, if not outrightly foolish.

We live in a world of malware attacks and zero-day vulnerabilities affecting everyday users. So, it is always better to be ready than to rely on less-probable data recovery options.

While your iPhone or iPad are more secure than their Android counterparts, they are not invincible.

It means you must back up your iPhone or iPad regularly.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could store these backups on an external storage drive?

By choosing an external drive, custom location, or network drive, you can ensure better security.

But, you need the right tools for this.

Your options to back up iPhone and iPad

Let’s talk about the official options first.

Apple gives you two options to back up your iPhone and iPad.

#1 iCloud Backup

The first option is to use the iCloud backup. This is convenient, but the free plan only gets 5GB of storage space. So, storing a larger backup means you need more cloud storage. You also need a fast Wi-Fi connection to keep everything up-to-date.

#2 iTunes Backup

The second option is an iTunes/Finder backup. This option is available on your Mac or PC. However, these backups are very restrictive and often come with issues.

So, it is very possible that these backups may not work when you need to restore them. On Macs, you also come across the issue of storage space.

But what if you can back up your iPhone or iPad to an external drive or a custom location? Won’t that be a great idea?

If only things were so easy.

Here’s the problem:

iTunes/Finder does not let you store iPhone or iPad backups on an external drive. More so, iTunes backups are not flexible.

But we’ve got your back.

How to back up an iPhone or iPad to an external drive or another location

We will share a viable option to keep regular backups of your iPhone or iPad on external drives or a custom location.

The best part?

This option does not require you to pay for that cloud storage

To make the deal even sweeter, the backups you take through this method are flexible, and you can explore these backups on your own.

Isn’t that awesome? We will get started.

But we need something more capable than iTunes: iMazing.

If you follow us, you have heard of iMazing. You can check out our complete review of iMazing, or how it is better than other iPhone management tools, iTunes included.

Today, we will show you how to take complete backups of your iPhone or iPad and store them on an external drive.

Part 1. Set up iMazing

If you have not already, you must download and install iMazing on your Mac or PC.

For this guide, I have tested everything on a MacBook Air powered by the Apple M2 chip.

The installation would be done in a minute or two.

Now, open iMazing and connect your iPhone or iPad to the computer.


I recommend using the official (or MFi-certified) USB-C or Lightning cable for the connection.

In a second or two, iMazing will detect your device.

You must enter the iPhone/iPad passcode and Trust the computer to continue with iTunes.


In a second, your iPhone will be paired with iMazing.

Soon, you can see a screen with all the connected devices.

First, you have to navigate to Backups from the sidebar menu.

Since there are no existing backups, you will see this screen.


Click Back Up Now to proceed.

Select the device to proceed further.

Part 2. Backup options

On this Backup Options page, you can customize the iPhone/iPad backup per your choice. It includes picking a custom storage option.

  • You can enable Backup Encryption for maximum security. You must enable encryption if you want to back up health data, passwords, Safari data, call history, and home data.
  • Backup Location: In this section, you can choose the desired location for the backup. iMazing will also alert you if the selected location does not have sufficient space.
  • You can also enable Backup Snapshots, which create a virtual copy of your iPhone during the backup. You’ll have the option to browse these versions.
  • Finally, you can enable Automatic Backups. It could be an excellent option for additional safety.

You can choose one or more of these options and configure the backup process.

One thing that I miss here is selective backup—the ability to choose what information is backed up. If you’re looking for something of this sort, you can check out AnyTrans or MobiMover. Both tools support selective backups you can customize further.

Now, press Back Up and let iMazing do what it does best.


Depending on the backup size, the process may take several minutes.

Once the backup is done, iMazing makes that obvious.

Part 3. Back up to different locations

Now, we will use the abovementioned options to store backups in different locations.

Method #1 Back Up to Another Location

To save the backup to a different location, choose Backup Location from the Options menu.

Click Backup Location Preferences


On the next page, click the + button to add another location.

Now, choose the folder/directory where you would like to save the backup files.

You have successfully added the location for saving backups.

The new directory will be available on the list of backup locations. You can select it and set it as default.

Method #2 Back Up to External Drives

If you want to save storage space on your Mac or PC, you may save the iPhone backups to an external drive.

You have three major options here:

  1. External Hard Drive (SSD/HDD)
  2. External Storage (USB/Flash drive)
  3. NAS Drive

With iMazing, you can add these locations incredibly easily.

To do it, go to Backup Location Preferences and click the + button.

Now, you can select an external hard drive, external storage drive, or a NAS drive as the desired location.


Once this location is set as default, iMazing will save all its backups to the selected location.

Note: We recommend formatting the external hard drive or storage drive in the exFAT, FAT32 or APFS file system for maximum speed and storage space optimization. Even though Macs can read drives with the NTFS file system, your device may not be able to write the backups to that particular drive.

Method #3 Back Up to Network Drives

If you want to save storage space and make these backups available across devices, you may want to consider backing up your iPhone or iPad to network drives.

Fortunately, you can do that easily with the help of iMazing.

Instead of choosing a storage drive, you can select a network drive.

In this case, I have selected my Google Drive folder.

In this context, my Mac will upload the backups to Google Drive once they are added.


Part 4. Access the backup

Now, you can go back to the Backups page, where you can see the recent backup with the timestamp.


Here’s the kicker.

You can explore this backup just like you have connected your iPhone. Also, changes you make to this backup file will not impact your device.


For instance, you can explore the Photos from a backup. Similarly, iMazing will extract information from the backup file whenever needed.

You also get a bunch of utilities, such as the option to export selected content and restore the backup to another device.


Voila! You have successfully backed up your iPhone/iPad to an external drive.

5 reasons you should ditch iTunes for iMazing for backup

Here are some solid reasons why iMazing is a better choice for your iPhone or iPad backups.

  • You do not have to pay for cloud storage space constantly. Instead, you can get iMazing through a one-time purchase.
  • Because you store the backups on an external drive, you do not have to spend much on Mac or PC built-in storage.
  • Backups made using iMazing are much more flexible and customizable.
  • You get many options to extract information from the backup.
  • Most importantly, iMazing offers a more intuitive interface to manage your devices and backups.

If these reasons do not make you ditch iTunes and iCloud Backup for iMazing, I don’t know what will.

The bottom line

I hope this guide helped you find a better way to back up your iPhone or iPad to an external drive.

But as you have seen, iMazing doesn’t just stop at letting you store the backup somewhere else. Instead, you can create backups and snapshots that are more flexible and customizable than ever before.

Make sure you check out our review of iMazing to see how helpful this tool can be for managing your iPhone or iPad.

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