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Storing and Moving Files on Your iPad

written by: Winston Smith•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 2/24/2011

DropBox and MobileMe are two apps you can use to move all kinds of files to and from your iPad. Of course for songs, music and movies, you can use the iTunes program to transfer files for free.

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    Using iTunes to Move Libraries to an iPad

    The easiest way to conduct an iPad file transfer is to simply use iTunes. The iTunes Library function can easily accommodate music files, audio recordings, movies and other audio-visual files. To transfer files using iTunes, follow these steps:

    1. Open iTunes.
    2. Connect your iPad to your computer.
    3. Select the files for iPad file transfer.
    4. Copy the files to the iTunes Library.
    5. Sync your iPad with iTune.

    Unfortunately, iTunes does not easily process every type of file you might want to transfer to your iPad. For example, iTunes is not set up to process Microsoft documents like PowerPoint files, Excel spreadsheets or Microsoft Word documents. If you want to read a PDF on your iPad, iTunes is the right solution.

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    iPad File Transfer: Use Your iPad as an External Hard Drive

    The iPad can also be used as an external hard drive. This iPad file transfer method is best suited for cases where you want to transfer a large amount of files or data between two computers. If you happened to working on a large video editing project at work and wanted to continue the project at your home office, emailing this kind of file is not feasible.

    Follow these steps to use your iPad as an external hard drive:

    1. Connect your iPad to your computer using a USB cable.
    2. Open "My Computer" on Windows computers (Apple users should see an icon for their iPad appear on their desktop).
    3. Open your iPad as a hard drive (hint: if you have given your iPad a name, like "my iPad," look for that name here).
    4. Copy files to your iPad.
    5. When the file transfer process is complete, disconnect the USB cable. Your files have been transferred.

    The main downside to this method is that your files will not be accessible to you on your iPad. Think of this method as the iPad equivalent to putting paper files into a briefcase and then locking the briefcase closed.

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    Use Apps for iPad File Transfer

    Using apps is ultimately the best way to transfer files to your iPad if the iTunes method outlined above does not satisfy your needs. Some apps specialize in certain types of files (e.g. Stanza is best for text documents) while other apps can transfer any type of file.

    Drop Box Logo (Image Credit: 


    The DropBox app connects your iPad to the DropBox server where you can store up to 2 GB of data for free. If you need to transfer larger files to your iPad, you can pay for more storage. DropBox is a good choice if you have files you often move between your computer, the Web and the iPad. DropBox can also serve as a backup tool for important files.

    In addition to storage, the Dropbox for iPad app can steam music and movies. This feature is data intensive and should be avoided by users on limited data plans.

    Mobile Me

    Mobile Me is an Apple service that synchronizes data between your computer, iPad and other Apple devices. In addition to keeping files up to date, you can also use Mobile Me to transfer email and contact information. Files that can be accessed with Mobile Me include office documents, music and other files. Though Apple offers a free trial for Mobile Me, using the service ultimately requires a paid subscription to transfer files.

    Other apps you can use for iPad file transfer include: Stanza and Good Reader. These two apps are specifically designed for reading text files and PDFs.

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    To learn more about the apps and iPad file transfer methods discussed in this article, consider the references provided below. Try experimenting with free methods before purchasing apps.

    • DropBox for iPad,
    • iPad and Mobile Me (Apple),
    • Image Credit: Drop Box,