Learn how to get the most out of Files by downloading and managing your locally stored files and use external drives with your iOS devices.
The Files app has grown into a full-fledged document and file management app with the latest iOS releases, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. You can now easily copy files between multiple file services, download files locally, and even connect up removable storage to copy files to and from.
In this article, we’ll delve into how to manage internet downloads from Safari, configure the local location in the Files app, and copy or move files to and from removable storage from local storage.
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How to manage your local storage
iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 allow you to easily manage local storage. Local storage is a place where files can be stored locally on the SSD or device without storing it on a file sharing service or iCloud Drive.
Before you can begin storing files locally, you first need to enable the local storage inside of the Files app. To do this, perform these steps:
- Open the Files app on your iOS device.
- Select the “…” button in the sidebar on iPadOS, or in the root of the Browse tab on iOS.
- Select Edit / Edit Sidebar.
- Enable the switch for On My iPhone/iPad (Figure A).
- Tap Done.
Once you’ve done this, a new location will be added to the sidebar called On My iPhone/iPad. Tapping on this location will present you with the contents of the local file system. Folders for apps that have files stored locally will appear. In this location, you can create a new folder by tapping the Folder+ at the top of the screen.
You can easily copy files to this location from iCloud Drive or another service by tapping and dragging from the other service into this local location. The files added here will be stored on the device and if you go offline, they will still be available for manipulation without any need to rely on an internet connection.
This is a great place to store books, PDFs, or other documents that need to be frequently accessed when offline.
How to download files from Safari
Newer versions of Safari, including the one in iOS 13 and 14, can let you easily download files, such as zip files, PDFs, and more. To download a file in Safari, just tap on a download link on a website or tap and hold on a link and then tap Download Linked File (Figure B).
If you have an iCloud Drive account, by default, this will cause the files to be downloaded to a Downloads folder contained in your iCloud Drive account. However, you can change this setting so that the files are downloaded locally to your iPhone or iPad.
To change the download location in Safari, perform these steps:
- Open the Settings app.
- Navigate to Safari | Downloads.
- Select On My iPhone/iPad as the location to store downloaded files (Figure C).
Once a file is downloaded, it will be available in the Files app at the selected location.
Inside of this Downloads view, you can also choose to clean up and remove downloaded list items. This is not removing the file itself, but rather the list items that appear when tapping the Download button in Safari’s toolbar. We tend to keep this on Upon Successful Download.
How to use removable storage
To use removable storage, you’ll first need to plug in the drive to your iPad or iPhone. To do this, you’ll either need a USB-C or Lightning compatible thumb drive, or use an adapter.
If you’re using an iPad with USB-C, then you can easily use any USB-C hub adapter to connect an external drive; if you’re using an iPad with a Lightning port or iPhone, then get the Apple Camera Connection Kit, and you can easily plug in a thumb drive or external drive. You may have issues with some iPad or iPhone models if you’re connecting an external drive that requires power to operate. Some iPhone and iPad models will only supply limited power over the Lightning port.
Once you’ve plugged in the adapter, then your external drive, open the Files app, and you’ll notice that your drive will automatically appear under the Locations section in the sidebar on iPadOS or the Browse tab in iOS (Figure D).
This works just like any other file location and you can easily tap, hold, and drag files to and from this location to your iPad, or vice versa. You can also drag files from cloud storage locations like iCloud Drive onto the external storage location.