Traditionally, iTunes was a recommended method of automatically backing up your iPhone and iPad to your Mac. But with the increase of phone usage, the backups via iTunes are never big enough to fit on your Mac’s internal hard drive. Even though the storage space available on the iPhone has been substantially growing like 256 GB and 512 GB, you always might feel the urge of moving the backups to an external hard drive.

You can choose an external hard drive of your choice like a portable hard drive, USB pen drive, or a NAS drive, to clear up storage space on your Mac’s internal drive.

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It is not as easy it sounds; the procedure is a little tricky because Apple doesn’t provide you with an easy option to do this. So here is a handy guide to help you move your iPhone or iPad backups to an external hard drive. But before that, you should first understand where are your iPhone backups stored on a Mac.

Find the location of iPhone Backups Stored on a Mac

To find iPhone or iPad backup store on a Mac, follow these steps.

  • Locate a list of backups
  • Go to the menu bar, click the magnifying glass.
  • Type the following ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ and then press Return.
  • Find a specific backup.
  • Open iTunes. Then Click the iTunes in the menu bar, and then choose Preferences.
  • Click Devices.
  • The backup that you want should be a control-click and then choose Show in Finder.
  • Now that we have located where iTunes stores the iOS device backups on a Mac, we can now move it to an external hard drive.

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Moving  iPhone or iPad Backups to an External Hard Drive

Now we have transferred the existing backups to the external drive. Take the following steps into action to transfer old iPhone or iPad backups from your Mac to an external hard drive,

  • First, you must connect your external hard drive to your Mac.
  • Create a folder iOS Backup on your external hard drive
  • Next, locate the iTunes backup of the iPhone or iPad using the steps given above.
  • Exit iTunes, and then open Finder. There you have to press Command + Shift + G to open the “Go to Folder” option. Type the following – ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/
  • Then Highlight the folder with a click and then press Command + C to copy it. Now, open the folder on the external drive you just created and press Command + V to paste it there.
  • Another option is also to drag and drop the backup folder onto your hard drive.
  • Wait for the copy to be over. Once your Mac has entirely copied the Backup folder, rename the original one (find it in /MobileSync/ folder) to a different name.

While we have taken the backup of existing iTunes backups to an external drive, we now have to ensure that the future backups are copied to your iPhone or iPad’s new location and not the old one that iTunes was using until now. For that, the following step is necessary.

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Symlink for iTunes Backups on the External Hard Drive a must

This is the more essential and difficult step in moving your iOS backups to an external hard drive. If you don’t execute this step, your computer won’t be able to back up your iPhone or iPad anymore. You’ll have to move the folders back to your Mac instead manually.

  • Confirm  that iTunes isn’t running
  • Connect in your External Hard Drive into your Mac
  • Next, Open the Terminal app on your Mac, finding the Utility folder under Applications.
  • Then Copy and Paste the following string of text (known as the Command) in the Terminal app and replace the string’ Name of ExternalDrive’ with your External Hard Drive name.
  • ln the -s /Volumes/NameofExternalDrive/iOSBackup/Backup/ ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync

And Once you replace the ‘Name of External Drive’ above with the hard drive name, and press the Return or the Enter key to run the Command.

So now your iTunes app is programmed to back up your iPhone to the external drive, without doing it manually every time.

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