6 Ways to Use iPhone as an External Hard Drive
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It’s quite straightforward to use an iPod as an external hard drive, but what about an iPhone?

iPods are becoming less common; iPhones now fulfill almost all the functions that the once-ubiquitous MP3 players used to. Wouldn’t it be great if you could consign your USB flash drive The Best, Fastest, Most Rugged USB Flash Drives You Can Buy Right Now The Best, Fastest, Most Rugged USB Flash Drives You Can Buy Right Now USB flash drives are some of of the coolest inventions for geeks. We've rounded up five of the fastest, most rugged, and overall best drives on the market. Here's what we've found. Read More to the annals of history and use your phone for the data you need to carry around with you instead?

Luckily, you can. Here are six ways to use your iPhone as an external hard drive.

1. File Manager (free)

File Manager is arguably the best phone-based app on the list. Not only does it let you manage your files, but it also acts as a virtual USB drive for both the iPhone and iPad.

Once you’ve installed the app on your device, you have two ways of getting data onto in:

  • Use iTunes: Connect your iPhone to a computer (Mac or Windows) with a copy of iTunes. Navigate to Apps and find File Manager on the list. Click on it, and you can drag-and-drop files into the documents section in the right-hand panel.
  • Use Wi-Fi: In the app, go to Settings > Upload Via Wi-Fi Sync, and it will give you an IP address. Enter the address into a browser that’s on the same network as your phone, and you’ll be able to transfer files back and forth.

file-manager

The app can read certain files (such as Microsoft Office, PDFs, and Apple iWork), but it will gladly accept any file you throw at it.

2. Files: Document & PDF Reader (free)

Files: Document & PDF Reader is in a similar mold to File Manager. However, it offers a couple of additional ways to transfer your files; you can use iTunes and a Wi-Fi network, but it’ll also work with Windows Explorer and Finder.

files-document-pdf-reader

There is one drawback – the app has a 200 MB data limit. You’ll need to purchase the pro version if you want unlimited storage. The premium version also adds support for Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive.

3. iMazing (from $34.99)

Unlike the two apps I’ve looked at so far, iMazing (formerly DiskAid) doesn’t require you to install anything on your actual iPhone. Instead, it’s a desktop app that acts as a replacement for iTunes Alternatives to iTunes: 5 Best Free Music Players for Mac OS X Alternatives to iTunes: 5 Best Free Music Players for Mac OS X Unless you're chained to the iTunes ecosystem and have no choice but to use it, you may want to consider switching to one of these alternatives. Read More (available on Mac and Windows).

imazing

The app has got lots of great features, including photo organization, backup creation, and advanced iOS management options – but you’ll be most interested in the file transfer service. It has a simple drag-and-drop interface and will let you choose which app on your phone you want to save the content to.

4. SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive (around $40)

Of course, you don’t need to use an app at all. These days, you’re probably already carrying around lots of dongles Apple Ditches the Headphone Jack, Mark Zuckerberg Tapes Over Webcam... [Tech News Digest] Apple Ditches the Headphone Jack, Mark Zuckerberg Tapes Over Webcam... [Tech News Digest] Apple plans to kill the headphone jack, Mark Zuckerberg covers his webcam with tape, Twitter lets verified users Engage, Apple will fund your next eBook spending spree, and Jerry Seinfeld's apartment is Doomed. Read More to connect your iPhone to various other devices, so one more can’t hurt.

There’s an entire sector devoted to iPhone-specific USB drives. They all come with a Lightning connector and plug directly into your iDevice. Currently, the best-in-class is the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive 32GB for iPhone and iPad, Black/Silver, (SDIX30C-032G-GN6NN) SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive 32GB for iPhone and iPad, Black/Silver, (SDIX30C-032G-GN6NN) Designed with a flexible connector to fit through most iPhone cases Buy Now At Amazon $35.99

It’ll automatically backup your photos, lets you transfer any file on/off your phone, and is USB 3.0 enabled. Best of all, it also has a USB port; if you have a USB cable, you’ll be able to transfer data from the flash drive directly onto any device – even if there’s no Lightning port How To Add Missing Ports To Your New MacBook How To Add Missing Ports To Your New MacBook Sometimes you just need more ports, particularly if your laptop only has one connector. Here's how to add them to your new MacBook. Read More .

It comes in three sizes: 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB.

5. eMart USB Flash Drive (around $20)

If the SanDisk offering is out of your price range, check out this eMart product.

Sure, it doesn’t look as sleek as the SanDisk, but it’s only half the price. It comes in one size (32 GB) and will cost you $22 on Amazon.

eMart Apple Cell Phone 32GB USB Flash Drive i-Flash U-Disk Memory Stick Pen Drive for Computer, iPhone & iPad Series and Android Cell Phone Series - Gold eMart Apple Cell Phone 32GB USB Flash Drive i-Flash U-Disk Memory Stick Pen Drive for Computer, iPhone & iPad Series and Android Cell Phone Series - Gold Compatible with All USB Based Computers, iPhone & iPad Series and Android Series Buy Now At Amazon $24.90

Interestingly, it has three connectors – Lightning, USB 2.0, and micro USB. As such, it will also work with most Android phones, making it perfect if other members of your household use Google’s rival mobile operating system.

6. iTunes

Finally, it’s worth noting iTunes itself will let you transfer most files How to Transfer Music, PDFs, and Other Files From Mac to iPhone How to Transfer Music, PDFs, and Other Files From Mac to iPhone Apple doesn't always make it easy to get things like PDFs, videos, or iWork files from your Mac to your iPhone. Here's what you need to know. Read More to and from your device. It’s not as elegant or straightforward as the other methods I’ve discussed, but if you don’t want to rely on third-party products – and you don’t deal with any unusual file types – it will do the job.

To transfer files, plug your phone into your computer and launch the app. Select your device and click Apps. Underneath File Sharing, choose the app you want to transfer a file to. You now have two options:

  • To transfer a file from your phone: Right-click the file, choose Save To, and select your destination.
  • To transfer a file onto your phone: Select Add, choose the file you want to move and click Open.

You don’t need to be able to open the file using the app you specified, just remember where you’ve put the file and download it elsewhere.

Do You Need to Use Your iPhone?

So, we ‘ve learned you can use your iPhone as an external hard drive, but do you need to? There’s no denying that moving files around on a portable device is pretty old school in the age of plentiful cloud storage.

With the proliferation of services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive, it’s questionable whether using your phone is necessary. It’s less secure and less user-friendly than using cloud-based alternatives. Buying more iCloud storage Is It Finally Time to Buy More iCloud Storage? Is It Finally Time to Buy More iCloud Storage? Now that iCloud storage costs considerably less than it used to, it might be time to upgrade beyond 5GB. Read More is even starting to look like a good option.

Nevertheless, no two people have the same computing needs. If you need to keep files on your person, you won’t go far wrong with these six apps and gadgets.

Which apps do you use when you need to use your iPhone as an external hard drive? As always, you can leave your tips and recommendations in the comments below.

Image credit: Apple Lightning to USB Cable (Richard Unten)

Original article by Damien Oh.

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  1. trykz
    November 6, 2009 at 1:30 am

    iphonebrowser didnt work on my pc, but diskaid did.
    its not free tho, requiring a key after 14 days? w.e, i found a site that had a key and name so now ive got mines fully registered and it works great without paying a cent :D

  2. iphone app reviews
    October 7, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I also am a huge fan of airsharing. for $4.99 it is still one of the best apps out there.

  3. therem
    September 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for your information! Discover is grate!
    It's a real shame that expensive apps are very easy to find.

  4. rock
    September 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Wheres a good place to store files once you are able to access the hard drive?

  5. pauline
    August 19, 2009 at 1:10 am

    I have a iphone 3g, version 3.0. How come i can use mine as a hard drive when it is connected to my friends vista laptop but when i connect to my own laptop i cant use it as a hard drive. could someone please explain why?

  6. Robert Kosednar
    May 25, 2009 at 2:11 am

    I would say Air Sharing has been a fan favorite at our iPhone 3G Exchange Activesync setup site (http://www.computerrepairservice.net/blog)

  7. aheryan
    December 31, 2008 at 1:27 am

    I absolutely conscent with Chris saying. An external HDD should be something that a user just plugs in and it can be used directly. Most methods mentioned above will need network connection, except iPhoneBrowser. However, one must need to install iTunes before iPhoneBrowser can be use.

    The other day I wanted to transfer some files from my laptop over to a server, and sadly I'm not allowed to join the network at all. Needless to say the server wouldn't have iTunes installed, so what I did was zip my files, rename them to .jpg and put into /private/var/mobile/Media/DCIM/100APPLE folder, then when I plugged in my iPhone to the server, it's able to detect my image and thus my "image" was successfully being transferred =)

    • Sal
      October 23, 2009 at 5:45 am

      Nice way. I like the idea. I'll try it soon.

  8. Petrus
    December 26, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Air Sharing FTW! Definitely worth the $4.99.

    When was this published? Man you need to come to the party...

  9. Sergey
    December 23, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I will rather stick to netatalk as i have jailbroken my iPhone and it is easy to use and navigation is easy in it.
    never heard of briefcase probably i missed it, Will love to give it a try.
    Thanks for nice list..

  10. Serena
    December 23, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I use Air Sharing too. I’ve bought and tried all of the alternatives—there are about a dozen now—but Air Sharing’s developer, Avatron Software, seems to be the only one that takes quality seriously. This app is really good.

  11. aheryan
    December 23, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I've been using AirSharing (since 1.0.3, now 1.1) and I think it rocks. I use the default folder as "My Documents" so I can access my files directly upon launching the app; whilst I put in a symlink (using ln -s command) to root (/), so that i can really access all the files within my device whenever I needed to =)

  12. smoker
    December 22, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I’ve also been using Air Sharing. No client software needed, connects with Mac/PC/Linux via Wi-Fi. Great app!!

  13. Steaven
    December 22, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Yeah…

    I’m using air sharing too and it’s fantastic!

  14. Chris
    December 21, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Sadly, none of these apps, Air Sharing included (which Ialos use and give my vote to) actually provide "Ways To Use iPhone As An External Hard Drive" as the headline promises.

    I have three external hard drives plus an old iPod. Every single one of them lets me directly access, open, edit, save files through any relevant application.

    That's what a hard disk does.

    These applications just turn your iPhone into a briefcase to move your files from one location to another, and/or view those files on your iPhone.

    I want my iPhone to function FULLY as an external hdd, that's why i bought a 16GB (not knowing before hand it wouldn't do that) but until Apple enables that full functionality, we're all going to be disappointed.

    • Alex_115s
      December 31, 2008 at 4:06 am

      I'm fully in line with Chris' comment.

      An external HDD should always work with every PC/Mac just plugging it into them.

      Air-sharing can be a nice application, but needs a wi-fi connection which is not always available.
      The other way round (zip files, change names, use itunes, copy in iphone, renames, unzip, etc) is, in 2009, to be in the paleozolic hera!

      I'm really disappointed

  15. Dave
    December 20, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I use Air Sharing too. I've bought and tried all of the alternatives—there are about a dozen now—but Air Sharing's developer, Avatron Software, seems to be the only one that takes quality seriously. This app is really good.

    Briefcase and Discover are extremely sloppy. Files is Air Sharing's best competitor, and it's a distant second. DiskAid, recommended in this blog for some reason, even comes with a warning about how its developer doesn't support it and if you try it, you're on your own. Buyer beware.

  16. Thomas
    December 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Yea, chalk up another vote for the one app that didn't make the list, and the best one

    Air Sharing is fantastic and will work with any computer with a network card basically.

  17. Matthew
    December 20, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Yeah...

    I'm using air sharing too and it's fantastic!

    matt

  18. Walter
    December 20, 2008 at 5:24 am

    I've also been using Air Sharing. No client software needed, connects with Mac/PC/Linux via Wi-Fi. Great app!

  19. P@r@noid
    December 20, 2008 at 3:43 am

    I will rather stick to netatalk as i have jailbroken my iPhone and it is easy to use and navigation is easy in it.
    never heard of briefcase probably i missed it, Will love to give it a try.
    Thanks for nice list.

  20. Gerard Godin
    December 20, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Air Sharing from the Application store has been working wonderfully for me. It was free when I got it, but seems to cost money now.

    • Damien Oh
      December 20, 2008 at 9:41 pm

      I got Air Sharing when it was free too. Now it cost $4.99. :(

      • Kenny
        January 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm

        i had a question about Openssh. i have never used it before and i was wondering how to. I have this jar file that is also an executable file that i've been trying to execute on the iphone. please help.

  21. Doug
    December 20, 2008 at 12:51 am

    I've been using the DataCase application since it's launch. It might cost a couple bucks, but I've been using my iPhone as an external drive for a long time.