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Note

GUIDE - Back Up iPhone (or iPad) to External Hard Drive (2021)

Alt Text!

While Apple doesn't offer an "out of the box" solution to this with iTunes, there's an easy trick which you can apply to backup your iPhone to external Hard Drive for FREE without 3rd party software.

We all know Apple is a bit restrictive when it comes to alternative options. They would prefer you to backup your iPhone using iCloud automatically to avoid much hassle.

But what if you don't want to purchase a larger plan for iCloud? What if you want to back up your iPhone on your computer and suddenly, iTunes throws an error of "no enough space"?

I was at the same place, and after looking for multiple alternative options to iTunes, I figured out a way which you could actually trick iTunes to store your backup on your External Hard Drive, while Apple doesn't give us this option out of the box.

What do you need?

  • An External Hard Drive with lots of available storage. Preferably I would go for 512GB and up (assuming you'll use it for other purposes too).
  • An iPhone Charger.
  • A USB-to-USB-C adaptor (if your Mac lacks a USB port).
  • iTunes installed.

Steps

  1. Click on your Desktop. Make sure it says Finder on the top right.

  2. Click on Go from the Main Menu and from the drop down menu, select Go to Folder....
  3. Type ~/Library in the input box and then press Go.

  4. Now you should be taken to the Library folder. The folder where your Mac stores all the important files, including privacy, keychains, settings etc. Please, be cautious how you use the folder in the future. From the folder, double click on Application Support and then on MobileSync. You may need to scroll down to find MobileSync within the Application Support folder.
  5. In the MobileSync folder, you should see two folders and an itunes.plist file. The two folders is where iTunes keeps your backups, where: iCloudBackup is your iCloud backups, while Backup is your backups stored in your computer (Computer Backups) We are only interested in the Backup folder.

  6. From here, Connect your Hard Drive to your computer and then double click on the Hard Drive name under the Locations Section on the left side of the (Finder) window or click on the (Yellow) Hard Drive appeared on your Desktop.
  7. In your Hard Drive, create a new folder and name it as Backup.

  8. From the Backup folder under MobileSync, drag and drop all backups in there (if you have any) to copy and paste them on the new Backup folder you have just created in your External Hard Drive. If there's not enough space available, then rename the Backup folder in MobileSync, to something like Backup1 or alternative.
  9. Now we are ready to link MobileSync with Backup in the External Hard Drive and trick iTunes. To do this, launch Terminal from Applications or from spotlights Search.
  10. From Terminal, type the following command: ln -s /Volumes/YourExternalHardDrive/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync. From this command, please replace YourExternalHardDirve with the name of your Hard Drive. In my case it will be Time\ Machine\ Backups. Please note that you need to add a backward slash "\" before each space. Once done typing the command, press on enter to move on.
  11. Success! Now you have successfully linked iTunes to store all of your future backups in your External Hard Drive! To ensure that it indeed works, head back to the MobileSync folder and check if there is a small black arrow on the bottom left corner of the folder icon.


    If yes, then everything worked perfectly and you're ready to go back to iTunes and backup your iPhone.

If things didn't go properly, then I have written a guide on how to troubleshoot some of the most common problems below.

Potential Troubleshooting

Here I have compiled a range of issues which you could encounter while going through the steps. Follow each potential fix in the order presented. If one fix doesn't work, move to the next one.

iTunes doesn't recognize my iPhone.

  • Make sure iPhone or iPad OS is unlocked.
  • If connecting for the first time, tap on Trust this Computer from your device.
  • Force Quit iTunes (alt+cmd+esc, choose iTunes and press, Force Quit).
  • Reboot your computer.
  • Update iTunes to the latest version.
  • Update iPhone iOS (or iPad OS) to their latest version.

Link won't be created between the two folders.

  • Did you type the command correctly ln -s /Volumes/Time\ Machine\ Backups/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync? Remember, it's case sensitive and everything needs to be typed precisely. Don't forget to change YourExternalHardDirve to your own External Hard Drive name.
  • If you have an error saying Permission Denied, then please make sure you have Integrity Options turned off. If you still end up with this issue, type sudo before the link command from (1).

I still get the error No Enough Space despite creating the link

  • Go back to the MobileSync folder. Do you see the small arrow on the bottom left of the folder icon? If not, then the link hasn't been created. Please refer to the above section (Link won't be created between the two folders).
  • If the error says File already Exists, then make sure to delete or rename the Backup folder in MobileSync to something else other than "Backup".
  • Begin to remove files from your Hard Drive. Try moving them to your computer and deleting them from your hard drive or move them to another hard drive or computer. Try freeing up space and periodically check with iTunes if the backup can be done.

Issue not listed?

  • Throw your question in the thread in our Forum I just created. You may post a photo of your problem. Once you do, myself or someone will reply to your question! 
  • Post a comment below, though I highly encourage you to use the Thread instead as the article comments don't allow you to post images.

Conclusion

Perfect! Now you have managed to backup (safely) your iPhone to yoru External Hard Drive without any problems. If you appreciated this article, then don't forget to let me know how I could further improve those articles and/or if you have any recommendations for future articles and videos. Feel free to drop your ideas down in the comment section, or drop your ideas in the Thread I just created in our Forum! I look forward seeing your ideas!

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George K.

Admin of TechLunar

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