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Using an Encrypted USB Flash Drive with an iPhone or iPad

There are plenty of well-known and hidden features in Apple® iOS and iPadOS®. One of the hidden features is the ability for users to plug in an external USB drive and access documents directly within the Files app of iPhone® and iPad® devices running iOS 13 and newer. The capability of doing this, especially regarding the iPad Pro, is enormous, as it adds virtually unlimited storage capacity for things such as photos, videos, emails, documents and spreadsheets, games, and other personalized applications.

iOS 13 can read any standard USB device that has been formatted with a compatible file system, has enough power-to-device to allow it to work and is non-encrypted.

As we all know too well, standard, everyday flash drives are easy targets for breaches, theft, and loss of confidential and personal data. Even all of Apple’s technical wizardry can’t prevent that from happening. On the other hand, encryption technology can. Encryption is the most trustworthy means of protecting any and all sensitive data stored on a USB drive.

Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 USB drive connected to Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adapter and iPhone

We’ll be using the Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 hardware-encrypted USB drive with a physical-based password keypad to demonstrate how to use an encrypted flash drive with an iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 device. Even the most confidential data will be secured and protected and still be accessible while you are on the go.

We’ll discuss two types of devices: iPhones and iPads with a Lightning® Connector, and the iPad Pro which uses USB-C®.

For units with a Lightning Connector, you need: a lightning-to-USB adapter which offers USB 3.0 support – such as Apple’s Lightning-to-USB 3 Camera Adapter – and a Lightning-port pass through for extra power.

For an iPad Pro (USB-C), you need: a high-quality USB-C to USB-A adapter – such as the compact Kingston Nucleum™ with built-in cable, or Apple adapter. (Note: Any future iOS or iPadOS devices with a USB-C port should work in the same way.)

On a Lightning device, simply plug in the adapter, then plug both the Kingston IronKey Keypad 200 and power cord from the adapter to the wall. (It is important to recognize that the USB-A interface draws more power than the Lightning Connector delivers, so be sure enough power is being supplied.) Then, simply key in the PIN to unlock the data files on the drive, and voila! Protected files are now accessible.

iPad Pro screenshot showing list of connected locations including a Kingston USB drive

For an iPad Pro in landscape mode, the drive icon will appear in the sidebar automatically.

Screenshot of iPad Pro Files app showing drives directory

In portrait orientation or on an iPhone, you can find the drive simply by tapping the browse icon on the bottom of the screen, which lists all of the device’s locations.

Screenshot of iPad Pro showing Files app’s Locations including Kingston USB flash drive

Once the drive is available, the encrypted, secure information is ready to be viewed, copied, pasted, or moved.

Now with external drives support, iOS takes your device to a whole new level.


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