Where do I store my iPhone photos externally?

With the high-resolution cameras on iPhones these days, it’s easy to quickly fill up your storage with photos and videos. While you can upgrade to a model with more internal storage, one of the best solutions is to store your iPhone photos and videos externally. This frees up valuable storage space on your iPhone while providing a backup of your irreplaceable memories. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the best options for storing your iPhone media externally.

Using iCloud Photo Library

One of the simplest options for offloading your iPhone photos is using iCloud Photo Library. This service from Apple automatically syncs your photos and videos to iCloud servers, allowing you to access them from any device logged into your iCloud account. Here’s an overview of how iCloud Photo Library works:

  • Enable iCloud Photo Library in your iPhone’s Settings app under your Apple ID profile. This will begin uploading your existing photos and videos.
  • New photos and videos you take on your iPhone will automatically sync to iCloud.
  • You can access your entire iCloud Photo Library from a Mac or PC web browser at iCloud.com, or using the iCloud app on Windows.
  • Photos and videos will still take up storage space on your iPhone until you optimize your iPhone storage. This will keep lower resolution thumbnails on your iPhone while storing full resolution versions in iCloud.

The major benefits of using iCloud Photo Library include:

  • Seamless syncing across devices logged into your iCloud account.
  • The ability to access your entire photo library anywhere using a web browser.
  • Peace of mind from having backups of your photos and videos.

There are a few downsides to be aware of with iCloud Photo Library:

  • You’re limited to the free 5GB of iCloud storage space, or must pay for additional iCloud storage.
  • Uploading and syncing a large photo library can be time consuming and use a lot of bandwidth.
  • You must remain logged into your iCloud account to access the photos.

Using External Hard Drives

Another common option for increasing iPhone storage is to transfer photos and videos to an external hard drive. This provides easy offline access and essentially unlimited storage space. Here are some things to keep in mind when using external hard drives:

  • Use a hard drive with USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt for fast transfer speeds.
  • Drives should be powered externally for reliability.
  • iPhone media can be transferred via cable or Wi-Fi using the Files app.
  • Consider wireless/portable external SSD drives for convenience.
  • Always eject the drive properly before disconnecting.
  • Hard drives are susceptible to failure so you’ll want backups.

The advantages of using external hard drives include:

  • Fast transfer speeds with USB 3.0/Thunderbolt.
  • Essentially unlimited storage space.
  • Access your photos and videos even without internet.

Some drawbacks to consider:

  • Must connect drive to access photos.
  • Not as durable as more solid state storage options.
  • Requires manually transferring photos from iPhone.

Using External SSD Drives

External solid state drives (SSDs) are another excellent option for storing your iPhone photos. SSDs store data on flash memory chips rather than spinning hard drive disks. The advantages of external SSDs include:

  • Much faster read/write speeds than external hard drives.
  • More durable and resistant to damage from drops.
  • Smaller and more portable than most external hard drives.
  • Silent operation.

The downsides to consider with external SSDs are:

  • More expensive per gigabyte than hard drives.
  • Top out at around 2TB currently for external SSDs.
  • Must connect to iPhone or computer to access photos.

Overall external SSDs provide the best balance of storage capacity, speed, durability and portability if you want to offload your iPhone photos. Prices have been rapidly dropping, with 1TB portable SSDs available under $100.

Using Home Network Attached Storage

Network attached storage (NAS) devices are specialized hard drives or SSDs that connect directly to your home Wi-Fi network. This allows them to be accessed wirelessly from anywhere in your home. Here are some benefits of using a NAS for iPhone photos:

  • Access your stored photos from multiple devices on your home network.
  • RAID configurations provide redundancy to protect against drive failures.
  • Can be expanded with additional drives as storage needs grow.
  • No need to physically connect iPhone or computers to access photos.

Some downsides to consider with NAS devices:

  • More expensive than traditional external storage drives.
  • Access limited to home network unless you enable remote access.
  • Transfer speeds slower than directly attached SSDs or hard drives.

Overall NAS devices provide the most convenient method for wirelessly storing and accessing your iPhone photos within your home. Models from Synology and QNAP are popular choices.

Using SD Memory Cards with Lightning Readers

Another approach for adding external iPhone storage is to use SD memory cards and a compatible Lightning card reader. Here is an overview of how this storage method works:

  • Purchase a Lightning to SD card reader that plugs directly into your iPhone’s charging port.
  • Insert a compatible SD card into the reader.
  • Use Apple’s Files app to transfer photos and videos to the SD card.
  • Photos stored on the SD card are accessible via the Files app as long as the reader remains attached.

The benefits of using SD cards with a Lightning reader include:

  • SD cards are inexpensive, portable and come in a range of capacities.
  • Direct Lightning connection provides fast transfer speeds.
  • Gives you offline access to your photos without internet.

Some limitations to consider:

  • Need to have the reader and SD card attached to access photos.
  • SD cards are easy to misplace and damage.
  • Relies on Apple’s Files app.

SD cards with a Lightning reader provide a fast and direct storage solution. But make sure to have backups as SD cards are easy to damage or lose. Compatible SD card readers are available from companies like Anker and HyperDrive.

Choosing the Right External iPhone Photo Storage

When deciding where to store your iPhone photos externally, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  • Convenience: How easy is it to access, view and share your photos? Can you get to them from multiple devices?
  • Reliability: How confident are you that your photos are safely stored without risk of data loss?
  • Capacity: Does the storage solution offer ample room to grow as your photo library expands?
  • Portability: Will you want easy access to your photos when travelling or away from home?
  • Cost: What storage capacity can you get before the price becomes prohibitive?

Everyone’s needs and priorities will be a bit different when it comes to external iPhone photo storage. The right solution for you depends on your specific requirements. Here is a comparison of the options to help decide:

Storage Type Convenience Reliability Capacity Portability Cost
iCloud Photo Library High Good Limited High Low
External hard drive Medium Medium High Low Medium
External SSD drive Medium High Medium Medium Medium
Network attached storage High High High Low High
SD card with reader Medium Medium Medium High Low

As you can see, each storage option has its own strengths and weaknesses. Considering how you plan to access and use your photos will help determine the ideal solution for your needs.

Tips for Managing iPhone Photos Externally

Once you’ve chosen an external iPhone photo storage solution, here are some tips for effectively managing your photo library:

  • Organize photos into albums/folders – Group similar photos instead of having one giant camera roll.
  • Add metadata like dates, locations and descriptions – This helps with searching and organizing.
  • Delete low quality/duplicate shots – Only store your best photos to save space.
  • Keep storage reliable and maintained – Check periodically for errors, bad sectors, etc.
  • Have multiple backups – No single storage solution is completely fail-proof.
  • Enable facial recognition – Makes finding photos of specific people much easier.
  • Utilize auto-tagging – Tools like Photos for Mac can automatically tag photos with keywords.

The key is having a system for intelligently organizing your photos and maintaining redundancy across multiple storage devices. Putting in the effort up front will allow you to easily find, access and enjoy your photos for many years to come.


Photos and videos eat up a significant chunk of storage space on modern iPhones. Offloading your iPhone media to external storage provides a convenient way to free up local storage while keeping your irreplaceable memories safe and accessible. Solutions like iCloud Photo Library, external SSDs, NAS devices and SD cards each offer their own advantages and downsides.

Consider factors like reliability, capacity, accessibility and cost when deciding where to store your iPhone photos externally. And be sure to implement organizational and backup systems to ensure your photos remain available and protected wherever you choose to store them. With the right external storage solution implemented, you can snap and shoot to your heart’s content without worrying about filling up your iPhone.

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