How to Back Up Your iPhone or iPad to External Storage Plugged into a Mac

Apple • Ryder Cragie • 3rd April 2022Article Short Link:



If you'd like to back up your iPhone or iPad to an external storage device plugged into your Mac, unfortunately, there's no easy way to do it as Apple does not provide a native option for this. However, it is possible if you've got the patience.

Symbolic Links

To tell your Mac you want to back up to another location other than the Mac itself, you need to trick it into thinking that the external storage device is your Mac's built-in storage. To accomplish this, you can use something called a symbolic link.

What are Symbolic Links?

A symbolic link is essentially the same as a shortcut or alias, except macOS and any third-party apps still believe that it's in the location of the symbolic link itself, rather than the original location that the symbolic link leads to.

For example, if you create a symbolic link in "Folder 1" that links to "Folder 2", as far as your macOS or any third-party apps are concerned, the files are still in "Folder 1", even though they're technically in "Folder 2".

Creating a Symbolic Link

How This Particular Symbolic Link Works

The "MobileSync" folder is where iPhone and iPad backups are stored. A symbolic link has now been created in the "MobileSync" folder that links to your external storage. So your Mac will think it's backing up to "MobileSync", but in reality, it will be backing up to your external storage because that's where the symbolic link in the "MobileSync" folder points.

Move Previous Backups to Your External Storage Device (Optional)

You may be able to skip some of the steps in this section if you are continuing on from the previous section at the same time.

If this folder does not exist or there is nothing inside the folder, you do not have any previous backups. There is no need to move any files now and you can skip this section of this article.

Your previous backups have now been moved to your external storage device for consistency.

Initiating Your First Backup


Now when you back up your iPhone or iPad, it'll back up to your external storage device instead, but your Mac is none the wiser. Hope this helps!

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