How to Back Up Photos From iPhone 12 to External Hard Drive

backup iPhone 12 photos to external hard drive

Even though the Android competition is moving forward with 128GB of built-in storage, the base iPhone 12 is still stuck at the miserable 64GB space. In 2021, it’s not sufficient, especially when we have support for HDR video recording, Live Photos, and an App Store packed with high-quality games. It’s easier than ever to fill up the default storage with apps, games, photos, and videos. If you always on the low storage on iPhone 12, then I would advise you to backup photos from the device to the external hard drive.

Apple’s pitch is to use iCloud storage to keep the media in sync across all the platforms. However, not everyone is a fan of paying for a subscription price every month. Another free option used to be Google Photos. But the search giant is pulling the plug on the unlimited free storage option starting June 1, 2021. You can also transfer photos from your iPhone 12 to your MacBook. But hey, those machines too come with a mere 256GB base storage, to begin with.

Your best bet is to move photos from the iPhone 12 to an external hard drive, which is cheap and effective at the same time. Here are other reasons to back up your iPhone 12 photos to an external hard drive.

  • Your device is running low on storage, and you are getting errors throughout the OS.
  • You don’t want to pay for an iCloud subscription.
  • You want to stream photos from your iPhone to a non-AirPlay supported TV screen using a USB slot.
  • You desire to share photos and media files from iPhone 12 with others who don’t use an Apple device.
  • The media files on the iPhone 12 are important to you, and you want to have a separate backup in case something goes south on your iPhone 12 or Apple account.
  • Backing up your iPhone 12 photos and videos with an external drive gives you control over what’s backed up.

Back Up Photos From iPhone 12 To External Hard Drive on Mac

Follow the step-by-step guide below to transfer photos and videos from iPhone 12 to an external hard drive on Mac.

Step 1: Connect Your External Hard Drive To Your Mac

First, you need to connect the external hard drive to your Mac. Those using the latest MacBook will require to use a Type-C dongle. Make sure that it shows up in the Finder’s sidebar. Try to copy something to the hard drive from the Mac to make sure that it works as expected. If it doesn’t then it might be in a format that’s not compatible with a Mac (most external hard drives aren’t). In that case, you will need to reformat the hard drive to FAT format.

connect hard drive to Mac

Step 2: Connect iPhone 12 to Mac

Apple’s current cable situation is getting out of hand, right? Those with the latest MacBook will need to use a dongle or Type-C to Lightning Cable for a successful connection.

Step 3: Launch Image Capture

Image capture is a handy tool for Mac. Use the Command + Space keys, search for Image Capture and open the app. After you launch it, find your iPhone 12 in the left sidebar and click on it.

Step 4: Unlock Your iPhone

If your phone is locked, you won’t be able to view the photos stored on it. You will notice a little lock icon beside the device name. Unlock the iPhone 12 with a Face ID or passcode and keep it unlocked during the transfer process.

unlock iPhone

Step 5: Select Your Device

Now select your device, and you will notice Image Capture showcasing all the media files on your iPhone 12 on the Mac. Use the Command + A keys to select all the images or selectively click on images that you want to transfer.

Step 6: Select Destination

Once you have selected the photos, click on Import to option at the bottom. By default, it will take you to system folders on your Mac. Select Other at the bottom and choose the connected external hard drive from the following menu.

Step 7: Click Download

Click the Download button and wait until the transfer is done. If the external hard drive is USB 2.0 spec, and you have a lot of photos, this could take more than just a couple of minutes.

download photos to external drive

That’s it. You have successfully backed up iPhone 12 photos to an external drive using your Mac. Now go ahead, and delete those photos from the device to free up some space. What about Windows 10 users? Let’s talk about them.

Back Up Photos From iPhone 12 To External Hard Drive on Windows

Unlike Mac, Windows 10 users need to rely on iTunes to sync iPhone data between devices. Go through the steps below.

Step 1: Install iTunes on Windows 10 Machine

Thankfully, iTunes is available from the official Microsoft Store. Open the Microsoft Store, search for iTunes using the search bar and install iTunes. It’s usually around 200MB in size.

➤ Download: iTunes

Step 2: Connect iPhone to Windows Device

Use the included data cable and connect your iPhone to the Windows laptop or PC.

Step 3: Open iTunes

Open iTunes, and you will see your iPhone 12 ready-to-use with all the system information.

Step 4: Enable Sync Photos

Enable the Sync Photos option under the Photos menu.

enable sync photos

Step 5: Open File Manager

Use the Windows search and search for File Manager or use the Ctrl + E keys to open the File Manager. You can view and access your iPhone 12 storage using the File Manager app on Windows 10.

Step 6: Select Media Files

Select the media files that you want to transfer and copy them.

select photos

Step 7: Connect External Hard Drive

Connect the external hard drive to Windows 10, open the File manager, and paste the selected photos from iPhone 12 to the external drive.


I would advise you to periodically backup photos from iPhone 12 to an external drive to make sure your device has plenty of free storage space. Go ahead, follow our step-by-step instructions, and transfer photos from iPhone 12 to an external hard drive on Mac and Windows.