IPad External Storage

How to Use External Storage on the iPad

Are you looking for a way to increase the storage capabilities of your iPad? If you have large files you don’t need on a daily basis or want to offload a bunch of photos and videos to free up space, you can plug in an external hard drive to move those files between devices.

In this guide I’ll share everything you need and walk you through how to use external storage drives on your iPad.

This will work on all iPads as long as they are updated to iOS 13 or newer.

What You Need

Along with your iPad you will need either:

  • a compatible flash drive having lightning or USB-C connector depending your iPad model, or
  • A lightning or USB-C hub or USB adapter to connect the drive.

How to Connect External Storage to Your iPad

  • Be sure your iPad is charged because connecting an external drive can drain your battery faster.
  • Unlock your device and go to the Home Screen
  • Plug in your compatible external drive to your iPad’s charging port or plug in the USB-C or Lightning hub to your iPad and then connect your drive.

  • Now open the Files app on your iPad

  • You’ll see the connected drive in the left sidebar under Locations. If you aren’t seeing the sidebar tap the sidebar icon in the upper left corner.
  • Tap the drive name to access your files.

Note: Some large external drives my need additional power to work. In this case you’ll need a powered hub to provide the extra juice.  I’m using a 2 TB Samsung SSD and it works fine with my 12.9 inch iPad Pro.

Open or Play Media Files on Your External Storage Drive

Tap on any images, videos, PDF’s inside the Files app to open. However, some files may not be compatible and in that case you’ll need an app on cv your iPad that can open that file.

Copying Files From the External Drive to iPad

  • Select the External Drive from the Sidebar of the Files app
  • Find the folder or location of the file
  • Push and hold a single file to bring open the menu pop-up. Tap Move.

To copy more than one file at a time, tap select and choose the files, then tap Move.

  • Now you’ll see a small screen showing all the locations. Select On My iPad (for local storage) or iCloud Drive.
  • Tap Copy

The files app will copy the files from the external drive to your local iPad storage if selected or to iCloud Drive.

Note: Move and Copy mean the same thing when moving files between two storage devices such as the iPad and an external drive. Choosing Move in this case will just copy the files without deleting them. However, Moving files from one folder to another within the save drive will actually move those files.

Copy and Paste Method

With the external drive connected:

  • open the Files app and select the location of your external drive.
  • Push and hold on a file ad choose copy


To copy multiple files you’ll tap Select and choose your files. Now tap More and copy N items

  • Choose On My iPad or iCloud Drive from the sidebar
  • Push and hold on an empty area and tap Paste.

Drag and Drop Method

With the external drive connected:

  • Push and hold on a file located on the drive
  • Now, drag the file over to On My iPad or iCloud Drive that’s visible on the sidebar.

Move Images and Videos From External Storage into the Photos app

With the external drive connected, open the Photos app, and you should see a new Devices heading that shows the connected drive. Tap import all or select the images and tap import selected. As you can see in my case the drive doesn’t show up in the side bar.

Note: Some external drives won’t appear inside the Photos app even if they show in the Files app. If this is the case, you can copy the images from the external drive. 

  • Tap Select
  • Choose the photos
  • Tap Share
  • Now Save the items selected.

Open the Photos app and you’ll see the images there. If they were from an earlier date you may see you’ll need to find them in that month and date.

Create a New Folder on the External Storage Drive

  • Open the connected external drive inside the Files app
  • Tap New Folder icon top right
  • Give your folder a name and tap done.

Share, Move, Rename, or Duplicate File on the Connected External Drive

Anytime you push and hold on a file or folder you’ll see the pop-up menu appear with options to share, move, rename, duplicate and more.

You’ll also see the same options if you tap 

Select > choose multiple files >More.

Deleting Files and Folder on the External Drive

  • Choose the external drive connected to your iPad inside the Files app
  • Push and hold on a file or folder tap Delete
  • To delete several files at once tap Select >choose the files to delete and tap Delete.

Ejecting the External Drive From the iPad

Ejecting the external drive from the iPad is different than ejecting from a Mac. There’s a proper way to eject from the Mac. However on the iPad you can simply unplug the connected drive and it’s safely ejected. 


As you can see it’s easy to access files from an external drive as long as you have the right equipment. Your iPad can act as a great solution for viewing and editing while you’re on the go and away from your computer using an external drive.

Need help with your device? I’m always available for a  Free Consult.

Like video instead? Head to my YouTube channel for more great tips and a complete video walk-through.

Hi, I'm Ellen!

I help mature adults master their iPhone and iPads, even if they aren’t  techie! 

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