The iPad does not include any USB port on the device itself, but Apple does offer iPad accessory named iPad Camera Connection Kit accessory (at additional price, of course) which kind of like port converter that gives users a USB port, and SD card reader. The USB port on iPad Camera Connection Kit can actually works like a normal USB port, in addition to its official function – to connect digital camera to iPad for photos viewing.

For example, with iPad Camera Connection Kit, iPad can support USB headset and USB keyboard. Now, through a slightly complicated hack, an external USB mass storage device including portable USB hard disk or USB flash drive and memory stick can be connected to iPad for extra storage space.

The iPad connects with USB disk drive hack was revealed by Maxwell C. Shay, after getting some clue about possibility to mount USB drive to iPad by mounting the drives to show up in the system as /dev/disk2s1, but the access to the mount point is sandboxed and restricted from been used. The lock on the mount points can be removed by jailbreaking iPad.

Here’s the brief guide by Maxwell C. Shay on how to connect and attach a USB drive to iPad via iPad Camera Connection Kit. The guide will fit for any SD card too, without having to worry about the power source (portable hard disk may require more power that the Camera Connection Kit does not supply enough). Both FAT32 and HFS+ formatted drives are supported. And it’s possible to add more external drives to iPad via a USB hub.

Prerequisite:

  1. Have an external hard drive formatted to either HFS or FAT32.

    NOTE: Format a hard drive will erase all data.

  2. Install the Spirit and jailbreak the iPad.
  3. In Cydia, install iFile (free trial version or $4.00 for full version).
  4. Install OpenSSH (free).
  5. Install the “Nano” terminal text editor.

    Note: User may need to add the “apt.saurik.com” source, in Cydia.

  6. Install the GoodReader app for iPad ($0.99 from App Store) – for example only, user can choose any other reader.
  7. Ensure that the external hard disk drive is properly powered, by either plugging in the power supply (if supplied), or using a split Y USB cable with dual power inlets.

Hack Steps to Connect USB Drive:

  1. Open “Settings” on iPad to find the IP address (make sure the computer is on the same network as the iPad).
  2. Open Terminal on Mac (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app).

    NOTE: Once Mobile Terminal has been updated to work with the iPad, you will not need to SSH from the Mac.

  3. At the Terminal prompt, SSH into iPad as root with the IP address found in the “Settings” app (make sure OpenSSH is installed!), with the following command:

    ssh root@[iPad IP address]

    Tip: For first time login, the default password for iPad root account is “alpine”. To change the password, just type “passwd root”. There is another user account with default password, namely “mobile”.

  4. Type and run the following commands in Terminal:

    mkdir /Volumes
    mkdir /Volumes/EXT
    ln -s /Volumes/EXT /var/mobile/EXT
    nano /var/stash/Applications.xxxxxx/iFile.app/Info.plist

    Note: “xxxxxx” is a series of numbers after “Applications”. If you type “/var/stash/Applications” and hit the “Tab” key, it will fill in the rest for you.

  5. The nano text editor will now open. Please add the following lines below the first “<dict>” in the document to make iFile look much better on the iPad:

    <key>UIDeviceFamily</key>
    <array>
    <integer>1*</integer>
    <integer>2</integer>
    </array>

  6. Hit “Ctrl+X”, followed by “Y”, and then “Enter” to save the changes.
  7. Reboot iPad. The SSH connection in Terminal will be closed.
  8. Re-establish SSH connection to iPad.
  9. Open “iFile”, and go into the “Settings”.
  10. Enable “Application Names” by setting it to “On”.
  11. Hit “Done”, and exit from iFile by hitting the Home button.
  12. Restart iFile.
  13. In iFile, navigate to “/Volumes/”. Then, select the “Edit” button in the top right.
  14. Check the circle next to the “EXT” folder created in step above.
  15. Click the “box with an arrow” (more) button in the bottom right, and in the dialogue box that opens, select “Copy/Link”.
  16. In iFile, navigate to “var/mobile/Applications/”. A list of name for applications will be shown above the actual folder names. Navigate to the “GoodReader” folder, then the “Documents” folder.
  17. Click the “Edit” button again, then click the “box with an arrow” (more) button in the bottom right. In the dialog box that appears, click the “Create Link” button. A “EXT” folder should be created.
  18. Hit “Done” in the upper right.
  19. Connect the iPad Camera Connection Kit.
  20. For users attempt to connect an external hard disk drive, first connect the hard disk to a second power source (such as a Mac or PC system), and then plug the main USB cable connector to iPad.

    Note: A message similar to “Insufficient power to mount this drive” error may be displayed on iPad.

  21. In Terminal (on Mac or PC’s SSH), type:

    ls /dev

  22. Locate the file named “disk1s1”. If the file is not found, try to re-mount the USB drive again. Note that the power source should be connected first, if any, especially when connecting a portable hard disk drive.
  23. For a FAT32 formatted drive, type the following in Terminal:

    mount -t msdos /dev/disk1s1 /Volumes/EXT

    For an HFS drive, type the following:

    mount -t HFS /dev/disk1s1 /Volumes/EXT

    Note: The command may take a few seconds to complete.

  24. The USB drive is now accessible in iFile or GoodReader (as example shown in step above).
  25. To unmount the drive, type the following in Terminal:

    umount /dev/disk1s1

Complete guide and screenshots are located at Maxwell C. Shay blog. Here’s the video demo too on how to manipulate files on the USB drive.

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