How to Connect External Storage to Your iPad

External Device Ipad Featured

Apple has been quite busy developing and evolving iPadOS these past years, with the company’s tablet receiving many computer-level features. For example, you can connect all kinds of devices to your iPad and access them from the Files app. This tutorial shows you how to connect external storage to your iPad. 

Make Sure to Have iPadOS 13 or 14 on Your iPad

Keep in mind that iPads weren’t always capable of reading external drives. That feature was only added in iPadOS 13. Before we start, make sure you navigate to “Settings -> General -> System Update” and check whether you can update your iPad. 

External Device Ipad System Update

Make Sure to Have a Compatible Drive

Just like internal drives found in computers, external drives also come formatted. They can use all kinds of formats. iPadOS 14 supports the following formats: ExFAT, FAT32, HFS+, and APFS. That means you can’t plug in an NTFS drive and expect it to work in iPad.

The good news is, there’s no need to buy a new one. Instead, use your computer to reformat it. Here’s how to format an external drive using a Mac and how to format one on Windows.

Use a Cable Compatible with Your iPad

Keep in mind that the iPad Pro and the new iPad Air 4 have USB-C ports. That means that you must have a cable with a USB-C connector on the end that goes into your iPad. Other iPads still use Lightning ports, which means you need a cable with a Lightning connector on the end that goes into your iPad. 

External Device Ipad Adapter

If you have an older external drive, chances are that you don’t have a compatible cable. However, know that any adapter will do the job (and these are usually very affordable). Just make sure to know exactly what port is found on your iPad.

Here’s how to differentiate between USB-C and Lightning ports. Apple’s Lightning port is typically quite thin and appears hollow when you look at it directly. The USB-C port is slightly thicker and has a slim connector in its center.

Connect External Storage to Your iPad

Once you prepare everything, the rest of this process is straightforward. Follow these steps to connect any external storage to your iPad and read its contents. 

1. Connect your iPad and your external storage drive using a compatible cable (as explained above).

2. Open the Files app. If you don’t see the app’s sidebar (on the left side), tap on the “Sidebar” icon in the top-left corner. Then, select your external drive from there.

External Device Ipad Files App Connecting

3. You can perform any kind of action using the Files app, such as moving your files, creating folders, working on your files, and adding new data., If you need help, here’s our guide on managing your files using the Files app.

External Device Ipad Files App

4. That’s it! Once you are done working on your external drive’s data, feel free to disconnect your external drive from your iPad by unplugging the cable. 

Wrapping Up

Now that you know how to connect external storage to your iPad, if you wish to keep exploring more about your tablet, here’s what you need to know about iPadOS. Also, we highly recommend connecting a wireless mouse to your iPad and turning it into a laptop-like device (especially if you wish to become an iPadOS power user).

Isaac Norman
Isaac Norman

Isaac is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience covering the latest technological innovations. Mainly focused on Apple-related software and hardware systems, his aspiration is to explore all the ways today's digital world intertwines with our everyday life.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox