How To Use An iPhone & Other iDevices As An External Drive

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iphone as external driveThe future is in flash storage. At least that’s what I think Apple tried to say when it introduced the latest generation of MacBook Air in the morning of October 20th 2010.

Apple has very solid reasons to make the move, as flash storage is faster, more energy efficient, more shock-proof, and much smaller in size that its rival. While it’s still more expensive and limited in storage size, those disadvantages will move out of the way in no time along with the growth in demand.

But until that time comes, we will still have to live with all the flash limitations. One of those limits is the inability to use flash-based iPods as external storage.


If you own both an iPod Classic and either an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, you’ll quickly see that iTunes shows the “Enable Disk Mode” only for the classic lines. I think it’s because those touch based iDevices have only a fraction of the storage of the classic version so they wouldn’t make a significant difference as an external device.

iphone as external drive

But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to set up an iPod or iPhone as an external drive. There are several applications that will allow users to easily browse the contents of our finger friendly iGadgets from Finder/Explorer and use them as spare storage space. One of the free options is the combo of Phone Disk and iPhone Explorer from Macroplant.

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The Two Options

The two apps come in two flavors: Mac and PC. Both have similar functions – enable disk use for iDevices so users can browse their files and use standard file commands like copy, cut and paste. The following examples are done using the Mac version, but both versions should have more or less similar interfaces and options.

The first one is iPhone Explorer. This one is an explorer-like application built specifically to explore the content of iDevices. You just open the application and it’s ready to use.

iphone as external hard drive

The Preferences menu is also simple. You can set the app to open every time your computer starts, allow access to real root (for jailbroken iDevices) and determine the maximum preview size. You will want to keep the preview size small as, according to my experiment, the speed of the app slows down with the increase of the preview size.

iphone as external hard drive

The second application is a little bit more advanced as it’s not a standalone app like iPhone Explorer, but it will give Finder or Windows Explorer the ability to view and modify the contents of an iDevice’s flash storage. This is actually not a free application, but the developer has made it free until December 1st 2010. The unlock code is available on their website.

iphone as external hard drive

The app will reside in the menubar (Mac) or System Tray (Windows). You can enter the code from the start screen or from the pop up menu.

ipod as external drive

This menu is also the place to access Preferences, which contains more options than iPhone Explorer.

ipod as external drive

Using the app is very simple: open the app and connect your iDevices to your computer. Then the device(s) will show up as external disks on the Finder/Explorer and you just do what you would normally do with external storages.

ipod as external drive

Should you want to unmount the device(s), go to the menubar/systray icon, navigate to your device and choose “Unmount Device“. It’s advisable to always unmount any devices before you disconnect them.

iphone as external drive

Afterthoughts

After using both apps for a while, I can say that they work well but sometimes can be a little bit slow when you move a large amount of files. In general, I found out that Phone Disk worked better than its sibling (maybe because Phone Disk is supposed to be a paid app).

So I guess you should grab Phone Disk while you can, but if you happen to miss the opportunity, iPhone Explorer is also a capable alternative.

Have you tried the apps? What do you think of them? Do you know other alternatives? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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