On a recent family vacation to the Grand Canyon (and surrounding area), I wanted to take the least amount of gear. That meant just an iPad (no laptop), but my iPad’s available storage was too small, and I still wanted a way to backup my photos.
- Flickr and OneDrive were considered, but that meant downloading to the limited storage on my iPad first.
- This was also before Google announced Google Photos would unlimited storage of 16MP JPEGs or smaller, but Google would not have backed up the RAW files, and this would have the same problem above.
Spoiler: I don’t advise getting this if you want something fast and easy for a lot of RAW files. If you only shoot JPEGs, you might be fine.
I compared two products on the market for our trip:
- the My Passport Wireless and
- the Kingston MobileLite Wireless MLWG2.
I chose the Kingston MobileLite because it was cheaper. I had no need for either device other than when we go out of town (and I don’t need to travel much), and I already have plenty of less expensive portable hard drives than the My Passport Wireless.
The Kingston MobileLite Wireless MLWG2 is small – slightly larger than my iPhone 5S. It could charge up my iPhone if needed, but it won’t power an iPad. The internal battery is charged up via a standard smartphone charging port in the front.
To back up photos, you do need a smartphone or tablet to connect to it and operate it. I don’t believe you can connect to it using a Windows computer.
- First hold the power button for a few seconds to power up the MobileLite without the SD card inserted or other storage card connected via a USB card reader*.
- If you do, it won’t boot properly.
- *Yes, you can transfer files from a USB card reader to an SD card in the SD card slot, but I found that not all card readers will work.
- Once powered up (which takes a while), you can insert your SD card and either a USB flash drive, a media card reader and your 2nd storage target or a portable hard drive (not an external hard drive which requires an external power source).
- Some portable hard drives may have issues if they require too much power.
- I used a small old hard drive. It is also helpful if the hard drive is pretty empty.
- the MobileLite becomes a wireless router. Connect to it on your smart device and fire up the Kingston MobileLite app.
- After several seconds, your two storage targets should be available (no longer have a slash through them). Click on the one you want to back up and click down to the folder of photos.
- Once there, click the select icon (bottom right) and start selecting what you want to back up.
Don’t use the Select All unless you don’t have many files to back up. Why?INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT!!! The MobileLite doesn’t give you any indication of copy failure, and there is no option to copy only files not in the destination. I emailed them about this and they responded that this is a highly requested feature, but that they have no timeline for when it would be included in a firmware update.
This was back in July 2015 and as of November 2015, the firmware has not changed (184.108.40.206).
Because of this, I ended up creating two destination folders (one for JPEGs and the other RAW files) and selecting and copying one page of each. More on this later.
- Once you have your selection made, click the Copy/Move icon (at the bottom), and select your destination.
- Then click COPY.
I don’t recommend clicking MOVE since the copy process is unreliable..
- The only indication that the copy process is working is a thin progress bar at the bottom.
Be patient especially with RAW files and large JPEGs. Transfers over wifi take a while.
Two copy backup
For files you value, you should always have two copies on separate devices, so how did I handle this with just the MobileLite? I copied the files to an old portable hard drive and didn’t reuse my SD cards. Luckily, I had enough SD cards for the trip.
- If you click the Download button instead of the Copy/Move button, it will save to the smart device’s Camera Roll.
- You can only click the Download button if you have one image selected.
- If you copy/move into Offline Files, the files will be full size, but the MobileLite app don’t zoom in very well. You can Download these photos to the Camera Roll to zoom in properly.
- I was able to stream separate videos to two iPads on our trip, but we ended up being so busy that we never needed this feature more than once.
- I recall that there is a way to connect the MobileLite to another wireless router to get you Internet access (basically turning it into a repeater), but I really didn’t need this feature on our trip.
- The MobileLite also has an internal Lithium-Ion battery so it will eventually need to be plugged in to use when the battery no longer holds a charge, and may eventually need to be recycled when the battery is no longer safe to have around.
- Very Important!!! If you rename a folder, it DOES NOT rename the folder, but instead creates a new folder and moves the files into the new folder. This can take a long time and will fail if there are any connection issues which is why I highly advise against this.
Because of all these issues above (and the large amount of time I spent backing up files on our trip), I don’t advise getting a MobileLite for photo backup if you shoot a lot of RAW files. You might be fine if you:
- Only shoot JPEGs
- Don’t mind a little hassle
- and want to save money.
I have no experience with its competitor, the My Passport Wireless, but if it addresses the above issues and is easier to use, I would recommend spending the extra money and getting one of these. Keep in mind that the hard drive in the My Passport Wireless will eventually be less reliable, and it also has a Lithium-Ion battery that will eventually fail and/or need to be recycled, so don’t think of it as a device you will have in 10 years.
Since our trip, new options have become available. Google announced that they will provide unlimited storage of photos 16MP or below. Most Fuji cameras like my X-T1 shoot 16MP which is perfect. Google Desktop Uploader and Google Photos via browser give you the option to shrink photos above 16MP (most people cannot tell the difference), but I cannot find this option in the iPad app and I am not sure if the iPad app will obey the account setting telling Google Photos to do this.
If you only shoot JPEGs (and if you don’t mind shrinking photos larger than 16MP down to 16MP), you can Import the photos onto an iPad and then upload them to Google Photos or Flickr (set to private) as backup when you travel and your hotel has good wifi.
But if you shoot RAW and only want to back up the JPEGs, Apple still does not have the option to only import the JPEG files and not the RAW files (so your storage will disappear quickly). If this was possible, I would give the same recommendation.