Chances are that your iPhone or other iDevice is larger than the paltry 5GB iCloud account Apple offers for free. You could upgrade your iCloud account to the larger plans starting at USD .99/month (USD 11.88/year) for 50GB. But why not utilize all that free space you probably have on an external hard drive to backup your iPhone, iPad, or another iDevice instead? Or should I say, use an external drive in addition to that free or paid iCloud account.
At Apple ToolBox, we recommend always having multiple backups of your iDevices. Ideally, we all should have at least two backups minimum—1 on the cloud and one on an internal or external drive. Best of all is to have two local and two clouds. Why? Because you never know—like humans, things fall apart and fail, a crisis happens, disasters strike. So let’s be proactive and take an eyes-wide-open approach by backing up 2X2.
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Backing Up Your iPhone with iTunes
I always back up my iPhone and iPad locally via iTunes. But it drives me crazy that I don’t get to decide which folder to use for my backup. And since I don’t get to control that, I don’t have the option to save it to an external drive. And that just darn buggers me!
You can of course manually backup your iTunes backup by finding the backup folder and dragging it to your external HD each time you backup. But what a pain! If you find yourself annoyed enough, like I am, then Apple Terminal is here to the rescue.
So let’s get to it!
How to Set Your iPhone Backup to an External Drive
1. Open your external drive and create a new folder for the backup. Name it in a way you’ll remember, such as “MyiPhoneBackUp”
2. Open a new Finder window via File>New Finder Window or Command-N
3. Select Go to Folder via Go>Go to Folder or Command+Shift+G.
4. In the box that appears enter ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/ and select Go
5. Locate the folder named “Backup”
6. Drag the “Backup” folder to the folder on the external drive that you created in Step 1
7. Rename the original Backup folder (the one on your internal drive) to “BackupOld” (located here: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/)
8. Launch Terminal (Applications>Utilities)
9. Type in this command, replacing the “ExternalDriveName” with the exact name of your external drive and replacing “MyiPhoneBackUp” with the name of the folder from step 1: ln -s /Volumes/ExternalDriveName/ MyiPhoneBackUp /Backup/ ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync
10. Press Return and Quit Terminal
11. Verify that the link was established by
- Select Go to Folder via Go>Go to Folder or Command+Shift+G
- In the box that appears enter: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/
- You should see a shortcut (symbolic link) to the Backup folder in the Mobile Sync window letting you know that the link to the external drive’s Backup folder is established. You should also see the BackupOld folder you created in step 7
12. Open iTunes, connect your iOS device and back up normally selecting “This computer” as the backup location as you did previously
13. Select the Back Up Now button
If all goes well, the backup file should now be on your designated external drive. Verify it is indeed there. From now on, iTunes will back up your iDevice to the external drive so remember to connect it to your computer before you do a backup. If you do not have the external drive connected, the backup will fail. And if you need to restore your device from the backup, you’ll need to connect this external drive.
How to Return Backup to the Internal Drive
If for some reason you want to go back to backing up on your internal drive, it’s a pretty straightforward process
1. Delete the Backup Shortcut (symbolic link)
2. Copy the Backup folder from the external drive back to the user library location: ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/
As always, at Apple ToolBox we recommend you retain a backup to the iCloud in addition to your iTunes backup, just in case something goes wrong. And preferably, you follow the 2X2 rule with 2 cloud backups and 2 local backups. It feels like a lot of unnecessary storage I know, but should the day ever arrive when you need it, you’ll be thankful you have those backups at the ready. Remember, this is your insurance policy, and we want comprehensive coverage.