How to transfer photos, videos from your external hard drive, Apple devices


We recently received a great question from “Frank” of Fresh Meadows, New York, about transferring photos and videos.

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“First, I must tell you I love your newsletter. Need some help, I am trying to transfer photos and videos from my external hard drive to my iPad or my cloud. Is this possible?
Thank You – Frank”

The short answer is yes, it is possible to transfer photos and videos from your external hard drive to your iPad or your iCloud, but the methods may vary depending on the type and format of your external hard drive and the size and number of your files. Let’s summarize some of the options and then get into how to use them.

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Transferring files between Apple devices using Airdrop, iCloud or external hard drive

Using an external hard drive: You can transfer photos and videos from an external hard drive to an iPhone, iPad or iCloud by using a camera adapter.

Using Airdrop: If you want to transfer files quickly between Apple devices, you can use Airdrop.

Using iCloud: If you want to share files between devices, the most efficient way is to turn on your iCloud and sync your album.

Syncing Photo Album: Once the photo album is synced with your iCloud, your phone and iPad should also display those photos if you are syncing all your devices with the iCloud and have opted to share those photos between devices.

Storage Considerations: Not all people want to share photos via iCloud between devices because it can occupy more space on their devices, but it is a good option to keep everything accessible. You may want to make sure you have the option for storing files on your devices at a lower size and keep the original-sized images in the cloud: Settings > select your name in the first row > iCloudPhotosOptimize iPhone Storage.

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How to transfer photos and videos from external hard drive to iPad or cloud

If your external hard drive has a Lightning or USB-C connector

  • Connect your external drive (see below for recommendation) to your iPhone, iPad or iPod Note: You need an external power source for your drive
  • Open the Files app
  • Tap the Browse button
  • Tap open your external drive under the list of Locations
  • For photos and videos in folders, tap open the folder
  • Select the photo(s) you want to move to your iDevice
  • Tap the Share Button
  • Select Save Image from the share sheet

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Photo of a USB-C Plug next to an Apple laptop.

You can share the content on your external hard drive with a Lightning or USB-Connector. ( )

If your external hard drive is wireless or has a WiFi feature

  • If your external hard drive is wireless or has a WiFi feature, you can connect it to your iPad via WiFi and use its companion app or a web browser to access and download the files you want. You may need to check the manual of your external hard drive for specific instructions on how to do this.

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Transferring photos and videos from an external hard drive to your iCloud

  • If you want to transfer photos and videos from your external hard drive to your iCloud, you can use a Windows PC or Mac to upload them.
  • You need to have iCloud for Windows or iCloud for Mac installed on your computer and sign in with the same Apple ID as your iPad.
  • You can then open the iCloud Photos folder on your computer and drag and drop the files from your external hard drive into the Uploads folder.
  • The files will then be uploaded to iCloud and synced with your iPad.

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Transferring files between Apple devices by using AirDrop

The above is not the only way for you to transfer files between Apple devices. There are multiple other ways that you can move your photos and videos around. The quickest way to transfer files between Apple devices is by using AirDrop.

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Photo of a woman on her Apple laptop.

Another way to share files from your external hard drive is to use Airdrop. ( )

Moving photos and videos from a Mac to an iPhone or iPad

First, make sure AirDrop is turned on for your Mac and iPhone/iPad.

Second, make sure that both your Mac and your iPhone support AirDrop and have WiFi and Bluetooth turned on.

Make sure that your Mac and your iPhone are within 30 feet of each other and that there are no physical obstructions or interferences between them.

How to move photos and videos from a Mac to an iPhone or iPad:

  • Open the Finder app on your Mac
  • Click AirDrop on the left-hand side
  • Where it says Allow me to be discovered by, click Everyone

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Screenshot of the Airdrop option.

You can select Airdrop on your Apple device from the Finder app. ( )

  • Now, open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad
  • Scroll down and select General
  • Then tap AirDrop
  • Check off Everyone for 10 Minutes

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Screenshots from the Settings app.

Screenshot instructions on how to select Airdrop from the Settings app. ( )

Then, you can follow these steps to start transferring:

How to transfer photos and videos from Mac to iPhone or iPad using AirDrop

  • In your Finder app on your Mac, go to where you have the pictures and videos you wish to transfer saved (Desktop, Downloads, iCloud Drive, etc.)
  • Select the photos or videos you want to transfer; once selected, right-click, and in the menu that opens up, select Share
  • Click Airdrop
  • The name of your iPhone or iPad should appear, and you can click the image next to your name
  • Wait a few seconds and your photos/videos should appear in your device’s photo library

Note that the process above may vary slightly depending on the version of macOS or iOS being used.

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Photo of a woman holding her iPad.

You can Airdrop your files between devices like iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. ( )

Transferring photos, videos from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using AirDrop

Look at the steps above to make sure that AirDrop is turned on for your iPhone/iPad and your Mac. Then follow these steps:

  • Open your Photos app on your iPhone or iPad
  • Select the photos/videos you wish to transfer to your Mac by clicking Select at the top and checking off each one (it will turn blue with a white check mark)
  • Once you have everything selected, click the upward arrow in the bottom left-hand corner

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Screenshots of the Apple Photos app.

You can transfer photos and video from you iPhone and iPad to your Mac computer. ( )

  • Click AirDrop
  • Tap the name of your Mac
  • The photos/videos should automatically appear in your Downloads folder on your Mac

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Screenshot of the Photos app.

Screenshot instructions on how to select the devices to which you would like to share your photos and video. ( )

Pro Tip: Always double-check device settings and AirDrop preferences to ensure a smooth transfer.

How to sync your photo album with iCloud on a Mac

  • Click Photos in the menu bar and select Settings
  • Click the iCloud tab and check iCloud Photos
  • Be sure to click Optimize Mac Storage to save space on your device. If your Mac is low on space, full-resolution photos and videos are automatically replaced with smaller, device-sized versions. Full-resolution versions can be downloaded from iCloud anytime.
  • Enter your Apple ID password if prompted
  • Wait for your photos to upload to iCloud

Once the photo album is synced with your iCloud, your phone and iPad should also display those photos if you are syncing all your devices with your iCloud and have opted to share those photos between devices.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

Transferring photos and videos from an external hard drive to an iPad or iCloud is indeed possible, with various methods depending on the type of external hard drive.

Options include using the Files or Photos app, connecting via adapters, utilizing wireless or WiFi features, or using AirDrop for seamless transfer between Apple devices. It’s important to double-check device settings and preferences to ensure a smooth transfer process.

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What about transferring photos is the most difficult for you? Have you ever run into any issues when trying to do this? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact/.

For more of my security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter/.

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