For the longest time ever, iOS users have been criticizing the way Apple handles file storage on its iPhones and iPads. Unlike Android, accessing storage on the iPhone or iPad isn’t quite as simple as plugging it into a computer. There is also no way of adding extra storage in the form of a microSD card.

However, Apple has made some improvements to this over time, especially with the company’s iPad Pro which back in 2018, they swapped out the Lightning connector for USB-C. This is excellent news because now it means that users will be able to connect USB-C devices to it, such as external hard drives.

If you’re looking for how to use an external drive with your iPad, you’ve come to the right place so read on as we’ll guide you through the relatively easy process.


You will need an iPhone or iPad with iOS 13 or newer installed on it. This is because official support for external storage was only added in iOS and iPadOS 13.

Your external drive will also need to be formatted to ExFAT, FAT32, HSF+, or APFS.

iPad Pro With USB-C

If you have bought the 2018 iPad Pro that comes with a USB-C port, then the process is very straightforward. If you have an external drive or flash drive that uses USB-C, then it is as simple as plugging it into the iPad Pro’s USB-C port and you’re good to go.

However, if your external drive still relies on USB-A connectivity, then you will need to find a USB-A to USB-C adapter. Apple sells an official adapter on its website but it’s not exactly cheap, but a quick search on Amazon will show you several third-party alternatives that will work just as well.

iPad With Lightning Port

If you don’t have the newer iPad Pros with USB-C, it means that your iPad still relies on the Lightning port. This makes it slightly more complicated because Lightning to USB-A adapters aren’t quite as common compared to USB-A to USB-C adapters. You will need to purchase something like Apple’s Lightning to USB-3 Camera Adapter in order to get it to work.

The upside is that this adapter also comes with a USB-C port, meaning that technically you should be able to connect USB-C accessories through this adapter as well.

However, there is a catch and that is if you plug in external hard drives that are too big, you could run into power issues. There have been some user reports claiming that smaller flash drives have no issues, but plugging in an external hard drive could result in an error message saying that the adapter will require more power. This can be overcome by plugging in a USB hub to the adapter, but that essentially means you’d be adding a dongle to your dongle.

How To Move FIles From The External Drive To Your iPad

  1. Launch the Files app and select your external drive
  2. Tap Select
  3. Tap all the files that you want to move
  4. Tap Move and select On My iPhone/iPad (you can also opt to transfer it directly to another location like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive)
  5. Select the folder where you want to store the files
  6. Tap Copy and wait for the files to transfer and you’re done

How To Move Files From The iPad To An External Drive

  1. Launch the Files app and select the location of the files
  2. Tap Select and choose all the files you want to move
  3. Tap Move
  4. Select your external drive from the menu and the folder location
  5. Tap Copy and wait for the files to transfer

How To Move Photos From The iPad To An External Drive

In addition to copying and moving files from an external hard drive to the iPad and vice versa, you can also move photos directly within the Photos app to an external hard drive if you want to back it up quickly and easily. This is ideal if you prefer using your own storage instead of a cloud storage service like Apple’s iCloud.

  1. Open the Photos app and select the photo(s) you want to transfer to the external drive
  2. Tap the Share button
  3. Select “Save to Files”
  4. Choose your external drive and the folder and tap “Save”

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