Photo backup without PC: hard drives with SD card reader

Back up photos and videos on the go, preferably without a notebook? This requires special hardware. In addition to commercial products, we are showing a clever self-build based on Raspberry Pi.

Drone aviators, amateur photographers, divers: They all have in common that they rarely have a PC with them to quickly save their pictures. There is a special niche for devices that combine data storage and card readers for backups on the go. We looked at finished products and a DIY solution for this guide.

The simplest solution is the Travelair AC from Asus. The big limitation is that backups are only possible from smartphones. The device is reminiscent of a white puck and offers 32 GB of internal memory that can be expanded via an SD card. The small device either transmits on 2.4 or 5 GHz WLAN. To use it, you need the free app Aidrive,

The Travelair AC can either communicate directly with the cell phone in its own WLAN or connect to an existing network. You can open the box for guests and show pictures, for example. Yes, the device is limited, but very cheap at just under 25 euros. And it's an easy way to quickly back up pictures and videos from your smartphone locally.

This makes sense, for example, if you already have the drone or action cam videos on your smartphone and want an additional backup location on the go. Unfortunately, the micro USB connection is only for charging the internal battery, direct data access from the PC is not possible.

If you are serious, you have to dig deeper into your pocket. Then you get a so-called boss drive from Lacie. Boss does not stand for any Deutschrapper, but for Backup On Set Solution. The advantage of these drives: There is an SSD or HDD with the necessary intelligence to back up data on site. There is also a power bank that not only keeps the hard drive running, but can also charge external devices such as smartphones (for which there are apps for the hard drive).

Lacie offers the hard drive in two versions. The affordable Lacie DJI Copilot offers a 2 TB HDD that is protected against impacts. If you prefer a trendy orange instead of gray, you can use the 1 TB rugged SSD – which is twice as expensive. Both products offer a three-year data rescue service and a one-month free membership in the Adobe Cloud.

We liked the speed of the Lacie Rugged Boss SSD in the test. The device backed up a micro SD card with 16.9 GB photos in just under 7:30 minutes. The hard drive is so clever that it only carries out incremental backups. All work steps are controlled by a single button on the front, an integrated display informs you about the progress or data such as battery charge and free space. The data ends up neatly sorted by folder on the hard drive, which can be read out on Mac or PC using Lightning, USB-A or USB-C.

The My Passport Wireless series from WD (test report) is a solid medium between Asus and Lacie. This also backs up the data on a memory card, but there is no option for data recovery.

In addition to the card reader, the external SSD card has WLAN, which smartphones can use to secure photos & Co. thanks to the appropriate app. This happens automatically as soon as the SSD and smartphone are in the same WLAN. As if that weren't enough, the hard drive also works as a DLNA server and makes the content available in the LAN for streaming. This is not limited to photos, but also works for music or videos. And thanks to the integrated power bank, it has enough juice to be active longer without a socket.

A cheaper alternative for hobbyists is a mobile backup system based on the Raspberry Pi. There are several instructions on the web, an actively developed solution is that Little backup box, The idea is that the Raspberry Pi automatically copies all data from an inserted SD memory card to a USB stick.

The project has now brought it to an impressive feature package. Not only are there different backup modes (manual or via an integrated web interface), the Little Backup Box can transfer images in compatible cameras directly to the USB stick in compatible cameras, can handle or display multiple SD cards Data in an integrated web server.

The Little Backup Box itself is quite flexible when it comes to the choice of parts. In the project forum, various users are working on solutions based on a Raspberry Pi Zero W. If you want more speed, you should rather take a Raspberry Pi 4. As always, you need a micro SD for the operating system and the scripts, a card reader for the photos, a data storage device and a power bank to supply enough power on the go. If you want information about the status, you can integrate various displays. The Little Backup Box forum is active and a good point of contact for questions.

Apparently, mobile backup of SD cards is a very small niche. Well, you often have a laptop with you to back up data. Or you simply use several SD memory cards and distribute the risk of data loss accordingly. Nevertheless, if you take photos at least semi-professionally, you should consider investing in a ready-made solution or at least building a litle backup box.

The latter should cost less than 100 euros even with a large USB stick. The TravelairAC, however, is a nice gimmick. It's not meant to keep up with the big backup solutions, but it can be handy on the go.


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