Transfer HD Video from iPhone or iPad to Your Computer

Aug 14, 2012 - 29 Comments

Transfer Video from iOS to a Computer

Did you record a great video on your iPhone or iPad and now you want the full quality version on a computer? If you’ve ever used the iOS built-in sharing tools to send a movie from an iPhone or iPad, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed the quality gets reduced from the high quality HD 4k, 720p, or 1080p video to a lower resolution. That is done for bandwidth conservation reasons and because many email clients won’t accept large files, even if both the iPhone and computer are on wi-fi. Sending through iMessage is slightly better, but it still won’t provide the original resolution movie, and that only works for Mac users.

If you’re looking to transfer full HD video recorded from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to a computer, you’ll want to connect the iOS device to a Mac or PC and copy over the movies manually much like how you transfer photos to the computer.

This tutorial will walk through how to transfer high resolution HD video from an iPhone or iPad, to a Mac or Windows PC.

How to Transfer HD Video from iPhone or iPad to a Mac

This is the quickest way to pull the full resolution HD movie from an iOS device and copy it to a Mac with Mac OS X:

  1. Launch “Image Capture” found in the /Applications/ folder
  2. Connect the iPad, iPod, or iPhone to the Mac via USB
  3. Locate the video you want to copy over from Image Capture and click on it, select multiple videos by holding the Shift key – note the File Size of the HD videos will be much larger than the lower resolution videos
  4. Pull down the “Import To” menu and select someplace meaningful like the Desktop
  5. Click “Import” to copy the HD video to the Mac

Mac users can also use Preview, iMovie, and Photos, or iPhoto to transfer the video over, but ultimately Image Capture is the quickest and lightest weight.

It’s also worth pointing out that if your iOS device has iCloud configured and the Mac OS X machine is modern, you can use iCloud Drive for 720p video as well. Do note that copying HD video from iCloud can take a while, thus we still recommend the above Image Capture approach, particularly if you want the full 1080p video or 4k video resolution.

How to Copy Full Resolution HD Video from iPhone / iPad to a Windows PC

Windows PC’s can treat the iPhone, iPad, and iPod as part of the file system meaning you can access video files and pictures with Windows Explorer:

  1. Connect the iPhone, iPad, iPod to the PC with a USB cable
  2. Open “My Computer” and find the iOS device in the list of cameras and connected devices
  3. Open the iOS device and browse for the video(s) you want to copy over, copy them to the desired location as usual in Windows using copy and paste or otherwise

In a lot of ways, Windows is actually easier to access the HD movie files and pictures with, at least for those of us who are accustomed to working with a file system rather than apps like iMovie, iPhoto, Photos, and Image Capture.

Do you have another preferred method of transferring full definition videos from iPhone or iPad to a computer? Share with us in the comments below your thoughts and experiences.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Perry says:

    Sorry we use a pic rather than a Mac as they haven’t developed a system to include Macs. So we are stuck with this dilemma they recommended we go back to our old system and install a wowza program but we like the features of production truck .. still confused about a solution

  2. Perry says:

    We live stream events through a network and are currently using production truck. My icamera is old and I would rather use my iPad as the lense I’m using for football broadcasts gives a much better resolution but I cannot figure out how get the software to see my iPad .. any ideas

  3. Niko says:

    I can’t believe it, a 4yo post finally solved my problem of getting a 7GB video off my iPhone 5 and copied to my c. 2013 iMac. Much to my dismay, I spent hours trying to get AirDrop, Bluetooth, iTunes, iCloud, Facetime, the lack of Handoff, all the BS steps and nothing was working. Apparently Yosemite, my iMac and iPhone see each other but don’t want to talk. This simple solution really worked, so thanks a million!!!

  4. Carol says:

    Thank you!!! Worked great! Amazing how apple devices sometimes are not very user friendly!

  5. John says:

    Trouble is I like premier on my Mac – not iMovie on my fn phone! Built in billshut I call it. Apple has known about this issue for years. Fair enough if ur using data quota to transfer, but totally out of order on simple cable transfers.

  6. John says:

    If you cut long videos on an iPhone into less than 10 minute clips using iMovie u can then import them. That’s shooting 1080 at 30fps. Haven’t tried 4K vids, not because of file size but because I am told if using for Internet upload like yt or Vimeo there is no real advantage. Maybe an iPhone 10X when it comes out will allow transfers any camera will allow – built in obsolescence they used to call it.

  7. Lesl says:

    We have started having trouble with video files we transfer from an iPad 2 (ios 9) to a laptop. It appears that files over 4GB will frequently not open with quicktime and we get an error message. I tried to drop it into toast but it sees a problem too yet VLC will open and the preview in OS 10 plays the video fine. Is there a file size limit or possibly issues transferring video from ipad 2 via USB (using image capture)? Thanks in advance for any light you can shed ;-)

  8. Erin says:

    I’m making an anniversary video for my folks. My niece interviewed the grandkids and emailed me their response from her iphone. I am trying to use the short clips in the video on my windows computer but I get no audio. I can hear it play back on my ipad, but I need to get it on my desktop so I can insert it into my premiere elements movie making software. Help!

  9. Chris says:

    Hello, is there a way to transfer slow motion videos without losing the slow motion edit?

  10. Gabrielle says:

    Need advice. I want to transfer a long video (75 minutes) from my iPhone 6 to my computer but can only get a snippet of it transferred through copying & paste or through the share feature on the phone. My videos do not show up in/save to Dropbox. IPhoto no longer transfers my videos since last update. I need to email this video but can’t get it from phone to computer in its entirety.any advice. It will need to go from iPhone 6 to Mac desktop and be readable in a PC at the other end. I have sufficient email bandwidth and so does the recipient. thanks!

    • Jon says:

      With the last IOS 8,9 and iCloud Photo Library option turned you will no longer get your photos and movies appearing in explorer when connected to the PC.

      • knm says:

        Yes you do, you plug in your iPhone with a USB cable and you can connect to Explorer in Windows to download the videos and pictures to the PC.

  11. Mary says:

    Hi, I tried this method but the movie file I get when I open it to play, there is no video (only black) but there is audio. In the image capture window, the icon has a green check mark on it.

    If instead of your method of clicking “import” from image capture, I just drag and drop another to my desktop, the movie icon on the desktop shows the first frame of the movie clip and it plays both audio and video when I click on it.

    I’ve tried to drag and drop the from the image capture window but it won’t let me. I tried quitting the program and unplugging the iphone and starting over but the green check just stays there. How to I get rid of the green check mark so I can drag and drop that movie file?

    I have an iPhone 5 and the latest version of iPhoto and running OX10.6.8. I tried to import the movie files into iPhoto when I imported photos from my phone and I always get the message that they are a file format that isn’t recognized. I hope you can help. TIA

  12. Karen says:

    Why are the file sizes slightly larger when I copy the video from my iPhone to my Windows PC using this method?

    • yasmine says:

      i’ve tried to import using iphoto and image capture and i get an error for both, any suggestions for a 50 minute video?

      • Robbertvdd says:

        Did your Mac go into sleep? This is what happened when I tried to import a lot of photos and movies. I started the transfer, but it took very long, so I walked away from my Mac to do something else. When I came back, I was surprised to see the Mac went into sleep. I woke the Mac and made sure it didn’t go into sleep again. When it was ready importing the last item, I got an error telling me one item couldn’t be imported. It was exactly the item the Mac was importing when it went to sleep. I imported the item again while making sure the Mac didn’t go into sleep and this time it imported without problems.

        I don’t know if your problem is the same, but in my opinion it’s ridiculous a Mac goes into sleep while importing files. It’s busy, so why does it go to sleep? What does Apple expect me to do? Sitting next to the Mac and make sure it doesn’t go into sleep?

  13. Sergio says:

    Once photos are selected in Image Capture, you can copy them to desktop (or to a Finder window) via Drag&Drop ….

  14. Iphonedoc says:


    Not a bad idea, it’s just that iPhoto is not without a lot of hiccups. Additionally on a personal note I have a disdain for iPhoto. Its file management system is horrible especially for multiple cameras. So if you have two cameras that are similar it becomes a matter of luck if the two numbers ie IMG0250 gets wiped out if the two images have the same Number. Sometimes that does not happen, sometimes it does. Therefore I now prefer to upload to a folder and change the names once uploaded and enter them into iPhoto or usually to the cloud for safe keeping long term. Additionally I believe someone here has stated that there is compression on saving for video. Not an option for some of the deep sea diving videos that I have.

  15. Rodney says:

    Why make it sounds so hard on a Mac? To import HD video I:

    1) connect iOS device by USB
    2) open iPhoto
    3) Import

  16. richard says:

    wow, very nice tip

  17. Iphonedoc says:

    Paul, great and timely article. I’m on vacation and we have been using the iPhone for HD video . It’s been great but each night I have to back up the videos in their original form. I use Dropbox for the pictures but with spotty wifi in the Caribbean it’s not that easy to do video.

    I brought my MacBook Pro with me this time and decided to use files connect on the iPhone and create an ad-hoc network on the MBP. Transferring 3gb data per night amounts to about 50 minutes at a constant 1mb/sec upload. Dropbox drops out a lot and so this is a good one to do especially when you are in a bind. Great article by the way.

  18. Jeff says:

    Or use the Apple USB camera connector plugged into the ipad and then connect the iphone using a standard USB-Dock cable. The iPad treats the iphone as a camera and you can import movies and stills directly into the iPads photo app.

  19. JN says:

    What about PhotoStream – are those lower quality than doing it this way?

    • Justin says:

      Photo Stream downsamples the video as well, only way to get full HD I know of is through tethering to computer. File sizes quickly get to 100MB+ so it’s not surprising.

      • Robbert says:

        Photo Stream downsamples video? As far as I know Photo Stream doesn’t even support video. My iPhone 4S only uploads photos to Photo Stream, which actually makes it useless, because I also take a lot of video, so I always have to connect my iPhone to transfer my videos. Why should I use Photo Stream, when I have to connect my iPhone to transfer my videos? If I have to connect my iPhone to transfer videos, I can also transfer my photos.

        In my opinion this PC Free feature Apple announced when they announced iOS 5 is a big fail. Everytime I make a movie, I have to connect my iPhone with a USB cable, so it simply isn’t PC free.

        What I actually want is a feature in iPhoto to automatically recognize my iPhone when I come home, see if there are any new photos or videos on it and if there are any new photos or videos iPhoto just imports just imports them using WiFi.

      • Bob White says:

        It’s one very interesting and an easy program waltr, it helps to transfer videos and music of any format and size from Mac on Iphone. Hope you find it useful or maybe can share another tips.

  20. noel says:

    Or Dropbox it.

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