How to Copy Files to and from Your iPhone

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Transferring files directly to your iPhone is something of a lost art. It used to be that the iPhone was extremely restrictive about the files it could store, but Apple has loosened their policies over time. Today a variety of files can be transferred through iTunes, synced via iCloud and Dropbox, or shared through AirDrop. But if none of those methods will quite cut it for you, there are other options.

AirDroid, despite the name, works on iPhones, iPads, Macs and Windows PCs. You can use it to access your files, but not in the total-freedom way of a USB. You’ll still have some restrictions in place, but it’s far more controllable than random background file sync controls.

1. Download AirDroid on your iPhone from the App Store.

2. Create a user account by clicking “Sign Up” at the bottom of the tutorial screen.

3. Once logged in, tap on the “My devices” tab at the top of the app’s window.

4. Tap on the info bubble next to AirDroid Web.

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5. Make sure your computer is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your iPhone.

6. Open a web browser on your computer and navigate to the address provided in step 2 of Airdrop’s on-screen instructions. It will look something like “192.168.0.102:8888” or “10.0.0.3:8888.”

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7. Tap to accept the incoming connection request on your iPhone.

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You’ll now have access to the AirDroid web interface on your computer. From here you can transfer files to your phone.

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1. To upload a generic file to AirDroid, click on the “Files” icon on the AirDroid Web desktop.

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2. Click on the “Upload” icon to select a file to upload.

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3. You’ll see the same file appear within AirDroid. If you don’t see it, tap on “AirDroid” web on your iPhone.

These files are stuck within AirDroid’s sandbox: iOS restricts the app from saving files directly to your iPhone. If you need to have an editable file on your device, you should use built-in tools like iCloud or Dropbox.

1. To transfer a photo or video, click the “Photos” or “Videos” icon on the AirDroid Web desktop.

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2. Click the “Upload” button and select a photo or video to upload.

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3. As before, the file will appear in AirDroid. It will also automatically download to your photo library on your iPhone.

The transfer also works in the opposite direction. Just like AirDroid enables you to transfer files from your computer to your iPhone, you can also transfer files from your iPhone to your computer.

1. Click on “Photos” or “Videos” in the AirDroid Web desktop.

2. To download one image, click on the download icon at the bottom of the thumbnail.

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3. To download multiple images, tick the checkboxes on the thumbnails and click the “Download” button. This will download a ZIP file containing all the selected files.

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If you want to use a wired connection to transfer files, your best bet is to use iTunes. By default, iTunes supports files based on the applications installed on your device. We can install an application that allows us to transfer any type of file.

1. Download File Manager & Browser from the iOS App Store.

2. Connect your iPhone to your computer via a USB cable.

3. Open iTunes and click on the phone icon at the top of the screen.

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4. Click on “File Sharing” in the sidebar.

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5. Click on the File Manager icon. This is where we’ll be moving files through.

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6. Click on the “Add…” button and select files to transfer to your iPhone.

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7. Open the File Manager app on your iPhone to view the files.

8. To move files from the iPhone to your computer, click on the “+” button at the top of the File Manager app window.

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9. Select the file in your iTunes window and click “Save…” to download the file.

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Again, these files can’t really be moved outside of the app’s sandbox. You’ll need to use something like iCloud or Dropbox to make that happen.

Both apps will work on macOS and Windows. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t offer the flexibility of a USB drive. iOS protects users by sandboxing apps, and you can’t overcome that without hacking the device. But either app above will provide more flexibility than built-in tools. You should also explore the free tier of iCloud and Dropbox which are both more tightly integrated with iOS and work through the Files app on your iPhone.

Image credit: iPhone 8 Space Gray connected to laptop on table by Africa Studio/Shutterstock

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