Can an iPad Be Connected to an External USB Hard Drive?

By Tricia Ballad

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The iPad gives you the ability to carry music, movies, books and games, all in one convenient device. Unfortunately, all of this entertainment also highlights the iPad's space limitations. Even the high-end iPad only holds 64GB, and some of that space is taken up by the iOS operating system and built-in apps. If you want to carry a wide selection of movies or a large music or photo library, you'll need to investigate external storage options, including an external USB hard drive.

Uses for External USB Hard Drive for the iPad

Your movies, music, books, and apps are stored in the iTunes library on your home computer. When you travel, that library may not be available to you, so you'll have to load everything you'll want onto your iPad. An external USB hard drive gives you the ability to bring more of your entertainment with you when you travel. An external hard drive can also be useful for creative professionals who use the iPad to share their portfolios or individual projects with clients. Storing that data on an external USB hard drive rather than on the iPad itself helps ensure that projects are kept confidential and that your iPad's space is not eaten up by large image files that you don't need to access every day.

Limitations on External USB Hard Drives for iPad

The iPad was not intended to work directly with external hard drives. By design, it shares files via Wi-Fi to iTunes and iCloud. However, when you travel you may not always have access to Wi-Fi or your signal may not be strong enough to stream movies and download your photos. The iPad does have a USB connection via the Lightning Connector and iPad Camera Connection Kit available from Apple.

HyperDrive USB Hard Drive

The HyperDrive USB Hard Drive, available from Sanho (see Resources), is designed to interface with the iPad as an external hard drive. It can hold up to 750GB of high-definition video. Each movie is stored as a separate folder, which the iPad recognizes as a virtual drive via the adapter in the Camera Connection Kit. To transfer a movie from the HyperDrive to the iPad, simply connect the HyperDrive to the iPad via USB cable and Camera Connection Adapter. Locate the movie you want on the HyperDrive's LCD screen, then transfer it to your iPad.

Alternatives to USB External Hard Drive Storage

While it is possible to connect your iPad to an external USB hard drive, such hard drives are unsupported devices. If Apple changes its specifications or releases an iOS update, a USB hard drive could become incompatible with iPads. If you travel with a laptop computer, it is easier and more reliable to sync your iPad to your laptop when you want to transfer files. If you do not have this option, consider whether you expect to have access to a reliable Wi-Fi connection. If so, you may be able to download your movies, music, or other entertainment to your iPad.