Today’s Question: How does one download photos from a memory card (from a digital camera) without a computer to an external hard drive? There are times I do not want to have my computer along but do very much want to download the photos for safekeeping.
Tim’s Quick Answer: While many of the purpose-built drives that address this issue are no longer available, you can use a smartphone or tablet to copy photos from a media card to an external hard drive.
More Detail: Over the years there have been a variety of storage devices that enabled you to download directly from a media card to the device. Unfortunately, those devices have largely been discontinued. There are some drives that support wireless transfer, but many of these have been discontinued as well. One option that is still available is the NewQ Filehub (https://timgrey.me/filehub), which is a device you can connect an external hard drive to via USB and that includes an SD card slot, so you can transfer photos from an SD card to a hard drive.
I therefore recommend using a smartphone or tablet as an intermediary for backing up photos when traveling without a computer.
The first step is to ensure you have an adapter to download photos directly to your mobile device. For example, iPhone users can use an adapter for the Lightning port to a USB port (https://timgrey.me/lightningusb) to connect a USB card reader, or use a Lightning to SD card reader adapter (https://timgrey.me/sdlightning). For iPad or other mobile devices with a USB-C connector you can use a similar adapter (https://timgrey.me/usbc2a) to connect a card reader.
You can then transfer the photos from your media card to your mobile device using the adapter. For iPhone and iPad users, for example, you can use the Import feature to download the photos to your device. I recommend creating a new album to add the photos to as part of this process, so you can keep track of which photos you were from the media card rather than captured directly with your mobile device.
Once you’ve downloaded the photos to your mobile device, you can also transfer them to an external hard drive or other storage device. You can, for example, use a USB adapter to connect a bus-powered external hard drive.
A storage device I highly recommend for iPhone users is the SanDisk iXpand flash drive (https://timgrey.me/lightningdrive). This storage device includes both a Lightning connector to connect to an iPhone and a USB connector for connecting to a computer (or a tablet with an adapter).
If you want to transfer the photos to another storage device, you can connect it to your mobile device and then copy the photos. On the iPhone, for example, you can select the applicable photos in the Photos app, and then tap the sharing button and select the “Save to Files” option. Set the attached storage device as the destination and the images will be copied to that device.
I keep hoping that an external hard drive that supports direct transfer without the need for any other device will become successful enough to be available and supported in the long term. In the meantime, since several of these types of devices have been discontinued, a smartphone or tablet provides a good solution.