How to Copy Files From an iPad to a Mac or PC

Simple steps for transferring files between an iPad and a computer

What to Know

  • AirDrop: On a Mac or PC, open Finder and choose AirDrop. On iOS, go to file. Choose Share > AirDrop > [device]. Open file on Mac/PC.
  • Lightning: Select your iOS device in iTunes. Go to Settings > File Sharing. Highlight the file, save to destination, then choose Sync.
  • Cloud: On your iOS device, navigate to the file and select Share. Select Save to Dropbox or Save to Files (iCloud, other cloud service).

With Apple AirDrop or any other cloud service, you can wirelessly transfer files between compatible devices, including from an iOS device to a Mac or PC and vice versa. Here, we provide instructions for three scenarios: How to move files from an iPad to a Mac with AirDrop, how to move files from an iPad to a PC using a Lightning connector, and how to transfer files from an iPad to a PC using a cloud storage service.

How to Transfer Files From an iPad to a Mac Using AirDrop

If you have a Mac, you can transfer files between your iPad and your computer without the need for a cable or cloud storage. AirDrop is designed for wirelessly sharing files, but the process can be a little finicky.

Here's how to use AirDrop on a Mac device:

Make sure the Bluetooth function on your iOS device is turned on and that it is within a few feet of your Mac device.

Illustration of computer, tablet, and smart phone with sharing arrows on the screens
  1. On your Mac device, open a new Finder window and select AirDrop. This will turn on AirDrop and allow the Mac to either transfer files to a nearby iPad or iPhone or be discoverable by other devices.

    Selecting AirDrop on a Mac.
  2. AirDrop will scan for compatible nearby devices.

    You can narrow the discoverability of your device by selecting No One, Contacts Only, or Everyone from the Allow me to be discovered by: drop-down menu.

  3. On your iPad or iOS device, navigate to the file or content you would like to share and select the Share button > AirDrop.

    Selecting to share a document via AirDrop.
  4. Select the icon representing the PC or Mac device you would like to send the file to.

    Connecting to another device via AirDrop.
  5. In the Finder window of your Mac device, a pop-up window will appear asking you if you would like to Open with Pages, iTunes U, Files, Scriptable, Drive, or Cancel.

    Accept & Open will immediately download and open the file on your Mac device. Accept will download the file to your Downloads folder.

    Receiving a file via AirDrop on an iPad.

You can also transfer files from your Mac to your iOS device by clicking and dragging files onto the icon representing your iOS device in the Finder AirDrop window. You will be asked to either Accept or Decline the file. You will also need to select an app with which to open the file.

How to Transfer Files From an iPad to a PC Using a Lightning Connector

If you have a Windows PC or if you're having problems with the Mac AirDrop method, you can transfer files using the Lightning (30-pin) connector that came with your iPad.

To transfer files using a Lightning connector you will need the latest version of iTunes on your PC. If you don't have the latest version installed, you will be prompted to update when you launch iTunes.

  1. Open iTunes and select the iPhone or iPad icon next to the Music drop-down menu.

    You may be asked on your iOS device whether or not to "Trust" the PC once iTunes loads. You will need to trust the PC in order to transfer files.

    Icon for an iPad in iTunes.
  2. Under the Settings menu on the left-hand side, select File Sharing.

    File sharing in iTunes.
  3. Navigate to the file(s) you would like to transfer to your PC by selecting from the Apps pane on the left. Once you've located the file, select to highlight the file under the Document pane on the right.

    You can only share files to and from the apps listed here. If the file(s) cannot be accessed through one of these apps, then it cannot be shared through iTunes.

    Selecting a file to copy.
  4. Scroll down and select Save.

    Selecting Save.
  5. Choose a destination for the file(s) on your PC, then select Select Folder.

    Selecting a folder to save to.
  6. Select Sync.

    Selecting Sync.

You can also transfer files from your PC to your iOS device by navigating to the file(s) using a Finder window, and then clicking and dragging the files into Documents pane.

How to Transfer Files From an iPad to a PC Using Cloud Storage

If the app doesn't support copying through iTunes, you will need to use a cloud storage service like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive. This is an easier solution than using a Lightning cable.

However, you will need to first set up the service on your PC and on your iPad before you can use it to transfer files. This may require downloading Google Keep or adding Dropbox to your iPad's Files app.

  1. On your iOS device, navigate to the file you would like to transfer and select the Share button.

    Sharing options.
  2. Select the appropriate destination. Some files will include the option to Save to Dropbox, if you'd like to share to Dropbox. In other cases you may need to select Save to Files, allowing you to select from a number of local and cloud storage options.

Methods and menu options vary, but the cloud storage option is almost always accessed through the Share menu.

In some cases, you can transfer files from a cloud storage device to your iOS devices by syncing them. With Dropbox, for example, you only need to copy the file into your desktop or cloud-synced Dropbox folder and then access that same folder on your iOS device.

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