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How Do I Back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) to External Hard Drive on Mac & PC - 2 Ways

Rob Parsons Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:15 PM

The limited 128GB internal storage in my MacBook gets eaten up rapidly with the backups of my iPhone 11 Pro Max and my iPad Air. I'm trying to move iPhone 11 Pro Max backups to an external hard drive through iTunes, as well as the iPad backups, to preserve enough space on the machine. What should I do? Btw, there're plenty of space on the external HD, around 2T I guess.

You've been putting it off, but now you might have to start backing up iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro (Max) to an external hard drive to save space in Mac or Windows computer for some reasons.

Probably you've stored the device content in iCloud to fix up a machine - especially a Mac - running tight on the disk space, but left exhausted by deleting unneeded archives back and forth or upgrading to a paid plan for more iCloud storage. Or you're just hurting for spending long hours on clutters clearance and old backups removal. For whatever's sake, copying iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups to an external hard drive is a truly efficient trick to both keep a physical local archive of your phone and narrow down the SDD storage space that's consumed on a Mac or PC.

How Can I Back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) to External Hard Drive

There're mainly two walkthroughs to get the jobs done:

It's worth pointing out that this tutorial is only designed for using external storage to store iPhone (or iPad) backups that saved locally in a computer. You can get detailed information here if you need to manage backups in iCloud.

1. Copy iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) Backups to an External Hard Drive

We'll start with moving iOS backups that take up a lot of space in Mac to external hard drive, followed by doing that in Windows computer. As there're a few tech terms in this part, you're required to read all instructions thoroughly before implementing. If you prefer a jargon-free process of saving iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups to external hard drive, jump straight to the method 2.

Back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) to External Hard Drive on Mac

Make sure that you've backed up your phone on the Mac and have both your device and the external hard drive attached to the USB port from the machine.

1 - Create a folder on external hard drive

To start with, create a new folder on your external hard drive and name it iPhoneBackup.

Note: If you get an alert "The backup disk is not in Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format, which is required.", format the external hard drive first. Go to Disk Utility and click your external storage device. Under the Erase tab, choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format and hit Erase.

2 - Locate the iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups

  • In a Mac with macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, run iTunes. Then, open the Spotlight Search in the upper-right menu line, enter this command: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/, and click on Return.
  • In a Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15 or newer, launch Finder. Then, tap Command+Shift+G. In the pop-up box, type in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/ and choose Go.

Now, you should see a folder called Backup, which covers a list of iPhone backup files you've set up. NOTED: You'll risk destroying the backup archives if you intend to extract them from the folder.

3 - Move iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups to External Hard Drive on Mac

Next up, copy the entire Backup folder and paste it on the iPhoneBackup folder that you've created in the first step on the external hard drive. When completed, rename the original Backup folder in Finder OldBackup.

4 - Instruct iTunes (or Finder) to back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) to external drive in future

For this, you'll need to create a symlink (a.k.a., symbolic link) to enable iTunes or Finder to reach the required folder on the external hard drive and put the completed backup(s) on it automatically. Keep the external drive connected and do the following:

1. Grant Terminal Full Disk Access

  • Run System Preference, choose Security & Privacy and click on the Privacy tab
  • If the screen is locked, hit the Click the lock to make changes at the bottom, type in the system password and choose Unlock.

  • To the left, select Full Disk Access and hit the "+" icon.
  • In the pop-up screen, enter Terminal in the search box and highlight Terminal and press Open.

2. Tell iTunes or Finder to set iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups to an external drive using Terminal

  • Fire up Terminal
  • Input the command: ln -s /Volumes/External/iPhoneBackup/ ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup
  • NOTICE: The "External" should be the name of your external hard drive and the "iPhoneBackup" should be the name of the folder made in the first step.

  • Click on Return on your keyboard and quit Terminal.

Once done changing the storage location for iPhone backups, you should see a newly provided symlink file named iPhoneBackup in the MobileSync folder. An arrow should locate in the bottom left corner of the file icon.

5 - Trigger a backup to confirm if iTunes or Finder start backing up to external drive

  • Plug your iPhone to the Mac and run iTunes or Finder.
  • Locate your device and click on it.
  • Choose Back Up Now button.
  • When it finishes, open the iPhoneBackup folder on your external drive.
  • Verify if the date and time of the backup is identical with the last time it was created.

If everything goes well, you can delete the old backups for sparing internal storage in Mac. In case that you want to go back to perform the internal backups, you can type in ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup in Spotlight Search and delete the symlink folder easily.

Back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) to External Hard Drive on Windows

iTunes iOS backups are filling up the C drive in your Windows laptop or desktop? No fear, as you can also move iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups from iTunes over to an external drive by building a symlink to change the location where iTunes stores them by default and delete them to preserve more free space in the disk. First, create a folder named iPhoneBackup in the external HD, then:

  • Go to the original iTunes backup folder location: C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync
  • If you see a Backup folder, rename it Old_Backup.
  • Press Shift + Right-click the folder to open a Command window.
  • In command prompt, type in: mklink /J "C:\Users\Appge\Appdata\Roaming\Apple Computer\Mobilesync\Backup" External:\iPhoneBackup
  • Essential: "Appge" is your Windows username and "External" is the name of the external HD.

  • Close the Command prompt. Then, perform a backup using iTunes.

If the process is over, navigate to the iPhoneBackup folder in the external hard drive and see if the backup is properly originated with the latest date and time. From now on, the backup(s) you make in iTunes will automatically go to the iPhoneBackup folder on the attached external hard drive.

2. Back up iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) Directly into External Hard Drive

If you're not computer literate or not familiar with either Macs or PCs, it might cost you more than an hour to master the complicated command within the methods above. Or even worse, you just can't figure it out at all, ending up with the knotty issues like:

  • Make a mistake and the simblink doesn't work
  • Keep receiving a message saying that error has occurred but without error code
  • Terminal or Windows Command prompt can't find the file or the directory

If you're in urgent need of an efficient and secure way to save iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) backups into an external hard drive, iOS Data Backup & Restore is right at your disposal.

Without relying on iTunes (or Finder) or iCloud, it lets you make direct backups of iDevice onto the external storage accessories within only four steps. Simply keep both the phone and external device plugged in, set the target external drive as the output path, preview the types of data and choose specific one(s) or all of them to archive, then make a copy of iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) on an external HD on a Mac or a PC by hitting one single button. No intimidating command is included.

Download Now!

for Windows | for MacOS

This lightweight software also delivers an intuitive platform, where you can have an immediate access to view the details of all backed-up photos, documents and other files without consuming any internal space on your machine.

Here's a quick guide on backing up iPhone with an external hard drive. All the steps are the same irrespective of the machine you're using, be it iMacs, MacBooks, or a Windows laptop or desktop.

  • Run the tool and attach the external drive to your Mac or PC.
  • Designate the external drive to be the new output route for the iOS Backups.
  • On a Mac, choose Mac FoneLab in the top left corner and hit Preferences. If you're using a PC, click on the menu button (an icon with three horizontal line) and choose Preferences.

    From the popping up screen, hit the icon represented with three dots under the "Backup" section. Then, browse to your external hard drive and press OK to confirm.

    Back up iPhone 11 to External Drive Natively without Computer

  • Hook up your device to the machine.
  • Choose More tools on the bottom-left corner of the homepage.
  • Select iOS Data Backup & Restore tab, followed by clicking on the iOS Data Backup button.
  • Enable either Standard backup or Encrypted backup, and click Start button to continue.
  • Highlight the type(s) of the data that you need to copy to the external HDD.
  • Mark Select All option if you need to get a full backup of iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) on an external drive.

  • Once you're all set, click on Next button. Wait till the program is done taking backup of iPhone 11 (Pro, Mac) into the external hard drive in a Mac or PC.

One More Thing...

Now, you've got data off iPhone 11 (Pro, Max) and save the copies onto the external hard drive. Should you need to download previous iTunes purchases to the external hard disk drive for backups - music, movies, TV shows, etc., this article could shed some lights on your demands.

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