Even if you've got an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, chances are that if you need to take files away with you, a USB stick will be your method of choice. But this needn't be the case – after all, your portable Apple device has a hard drive built into it.

However, using it as simple storage isn't intuitive at all. Anything you transfer to and from the device has to be done through iTunes, or in the case of images, iPhoto or Image Capture.

There's an easy way around this obstacle that doesn't involve jailbreaking. A little app called Phone Disk mounts the device on your desktop, meaning you can use it as you would a memory stick.

It will still appear in iTunes, as it normally would. All you need to do is install the lightweight application on any Mac where you want to use your iPhone, iPod or iPad in this way.

The best thing about Phone Disk is that it's free until 1 September 2010. You'll need to activate it using the registration code that's provided on the developer's website at www.macroplant.com/phonedisk.

Phone Disk unlocks other useful features on your Apple device too. It enables you to access the images you've taken using the built-in camera straight from Finder, meaning you can copy these to your Mac without using iPhoto or Image Capture. The Camera Roll is the only album you can currently access in this way, so albums that you've copied to your iPhone through iTunes or iPhoto are hidden away.

You can also copy images from your Mac to the Camera Roll on the device, to show off when you're out and about. We had some issues copying photos to the iPhone, but this was intermittent, so it may work fine for you.

Also, make sure you eject/unmount your iPhone/iPod before disconnecting it.

How to mount your iPod, iPhone or iPad like a USB drive

01. Note the number

Step 1

Go to www.macroplant.com/phonedisk and start your download. Make a note of the registration code displayed on the homepage – you'll need to type it in manually later on. Then install Phone Disk. Its yellow icon should appear in your Applications folder.

02. Enter registration code

Step 2

Double-click PhoneDisk. On the welcome screen, click Enter Registration Code. Now type in the code you wrote down earlier. Remember the dashes, and note that it's case-sensitive. Then click Unlock. You should see a message confirming that registration's been successful.

03. Menu bar icon

Step 3

Phone Disk will now quit. Fire it up again by double-clicking its icon. If you'd like it to check for updates, click Check Automatically. On the welcome screen, uncheck the Show this menu when Phone Disk starts box and click Close Window. Note the icon in your menu bar.

04. Plug in your device

Step 4

The icon will be grey if nothing's plugged in, but it'll turn yellow when you connect. Your iPod will appear on the Desktop. Double-click it to have a look inside. A lot of what you'll see shouldn't be touched, because they're files the device uses to work properly.

05. The portable hard drive

Step 5

To use your iPod, iPhone or iPad as a portable disk, drag files and folders to it as you would with any other drive – just don't meddle with anything that's there already. Removing the device is simply a matter of dragging it to the Trash or pressing Command+Backspace.

06. View your photos

Step 6

There's a folder on iPhones (but not iPads) called DCIM. Inside it, there's another called 100APPLE, which contains the images taken using the iPhone's camera. You can copy these across to your Mac without needing to use iPhoto or Image Capture.

07. Images from your Mac

Step 7

Now find some photos on your Mac's hard drive, and copy them into the 100APPLE folder. They'll be renamed so that your device can display them correctly. These will then display in the Camera Roll on your iPhone, from where you can show them off out and about.

08. Launch at startup

Step 8

To ensure you can always access your iPod, iPhone or iPad like a portable hard drive, set Phone Disk to load automatically when you start up your Mac. Click its icon in your menu bar, choose Preferences… and tick the Open Phone Disk when computer starts box.

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First published in MacFormat Issue 223

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