I'm looking to access the filesystem of an iPhone 3Gs iOS 6.1.6 via Windows 8.1:

  • i will never use it as a phone.
  • i do not want to install iTunes or any Apple software whatsoever

I'm looking to build up a technical stack so that I can interact with the iPhone just like I do with non-Apple devices like cell phones, Kindle, digital cameras, personal dictation recorders, flash drives, et cetera.

I simply connect it via USB and want it to act like a USB drive.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn't treat the iPhone 3Gs intuitively like a USB mass storage device. This could be my fault for being a newbie to this particular device.

Example ~~ "Spock" is my computer:
i plug in the 3Gs; this folder opens Spock\Apple iPhone;
that folder contains Spock\Apple iPhone\Internal Storage;
Internal Storagecontains Spock\Apple iPhone\Internal Storage\DCIM;
DCIMis empty.

However, i can do NOTHING at all in this empty DCIM folder.
Ctrl+Shift+nwill not create a folder; instead i get this dialog:
_____ Error Creating Folder _____
(X) the new folder could not be created in this location
The device has either stopped responding or has been disconnected.

However, i click OKand the 3Gs is not disconnected because i can still go back and forth among the folders that the 3Gs allows me to see.

in Spock\Apple iPhone, i see that the Internal Storage has 5.76 GB free of 6.19 GB, so it's also not a space issue.

Also, i've taken pictures with the 3Gs and instead of an empty DCIM folder, i should see sub-folders instead of This folder is empty.

What options exist to emulate the Apple USB controller software stack I am forgoing by not installing iTunes on Windows?

2015-09-10 update
Spock\Apple iPhone\Internal Storage\DCIM\860OKMZO now appears but only recently.
contents (Windows 8.1 details view):
IMG_0007.JPG IMG_0008.JPG IMG_00012.JPG IMG_00013.JPG IMG_00014.JPG
created 2015-08-29.
also Windows 8.1 details view shows folder 860OKMZO was created 2015-08-24.

The *.JPG files shown above can be selected in Windows 8.1 can be copy/pasted into a Windows 8.1 folder; however, copy/paste from Windows 8.1 to the 3Gs folder 860OKMZO is not possible.
2015-09-10 update END

2015-09-10 update #2:
since my last post, i've taken a combination of 42 photographs and videos; the 3Gs shows 47 items but again for Spock\Apple iPhone\Internal Storage\DCIM, the folder DCIMdisplays "This folder is empty."
2015-09-10 update #2 END

  • The paradigm for creating folders has existing since before Windows 3.x on Apple devices; two decades again a nephew was able to help his father learn Windows because the meme was similar ~~ when i say that the 3Gs appears counter-intuitive, that is what i mean. – gerryLowry Sep 5 '15 at 17:46
  • My first experience with Apple devices was in 1994 while working for Microsoft and supporting Microsoft Office on both platforms Mac and Windows ~~ Apple has in my experience always restricted access to its end users whereas Microsoft provides tools like a registry editor that allow power users to tweak many features of Windows ~~ this is why imho Apple is a control freak. – gerryLowry Sep 5 '15 at 17:50
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    I'm not going to close this immediately, but it need more details and less complaining IMO. What OS build is on the iOS device. Also - incorporate these details in the body of the post - tagging windows 8 isn't as good as epcifying exactly what flavor of windows 8 is in play. As asked, the obvious answer is install iTunes since it handles arbitrary OS combinations and enables the file transfer you want. It's OK to be critical, but try to minimize that to avoid being seen as a troll. Acting like apple is a single person with motivations is a bit straw-man argumentative for my tastes. – bmike Sep 5 '15 at 18:01
  • @bmike Thank you ~~ iOS 6.1.6; Windows 8.1 (i could not find a tag for Windows 8.1; as a newbie in this stack exchange group, i do not have enough reputation points to create that tag). FWIW, i'm looking for solutions that do not require me to install iTunes; as a computer programmer since 1967, i'd even be happy to code my own solution. BTW, as an aside, regarding seeing Apple as a single person, please see this article "Corporations Are People, ..." by Adam Winkler, Professor of Law, UCLA, 2014-06-30. – gerryLowry Sep 5 '15 at 19:33
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    Perfect. I'll take a stab at editing the details into the post. FYI - asking why Apple does anything isn't on topic here. Asking how to do XYZ and objectively ruling out certain options for reasons (be they moral, idealogical, wrong, reasonable) is all fine. We're not a place for opinion pieces - we are a place for practical/answerable questions. Feel free to refine my edits. Also - discussion on on/off topic should get moved to Ask Different Meta or Ask Different Chat. Cheers and Welcome to Ask Different! – bmike Sep 5 '15 at 20:05

The iPhone is not mounted like a classic drive. It only mounts as a Camera (therefor the DCIM folder). Pictures taken on the phone will appear in the DCIM folder. For syncing of music, apps and other data, iPhones and all iOS devices for that matter rely on iTunes or Cloud services. There is no official way to play with the filesystem on either the phone or the PC. There are possibilities like jailbreaking.

  • Thank you. My Kodak EasyShare DX6340 from 2003 also uses DCIM. When i connect it via USB, i get 2 folders, Spock\DX6340 Zoom Digital Camera\Fixed storage and Spock\DX6340 Zoom Digital Camera\Removable storage ... FWIW, when connected via USB, it appears to have similar restrictions. B-( – gerryLowry Sep 5 '15 at 19:55
  • ~~ your idea about jail breaking is appealing. Given the age of my 3Gs, it's likely not under any warranty and i never intend to use it as a phone ~~ for me it's more like a tool for viewing .mp4 files that i create on my PC using TechSmith's Camtasia Studio as well as from other sources ... also i want to use it for other projects. Example, the out of the box Compass application works so it seems to have a built-in GPS; i can think of several applications that i'd like to code for that. – gerryLowry Sep 5 '15 at 20:03
  • @gerryLowry Jailbreaking the iOS device will be extremely useful for you in accessing and modifying the storage. You will basically have a miniature OS X server running with a bluetooth stack, network stack, wifi stack and USB stack. I'll see if the framework I use on OS X to access the USB works on windows or linux (so you could run an ubuntu vm for example) if windows drivers are not abundant. – bmike Sep 5 '15 at 20:10
  • F.Y.I.:: update, not a resolution. see body text dated 2015-09-10 – gerryLowry Sep 10 '15 at 15:39

I would start by installing ifunbox - http://www.i-funbox.com as it exists to allow the precise USB storage you ask for and it supports Windows.

From there you could jailbreak the device (possibly) or look for more full featured windows software to access the storage. Basically, you'll need to replace the usbmuxd component that iTunes would have installed to act as Windows drivers and bridge code to allow better communication and control of the iPhone hardware than Windows ships with natively. I'm a little concerned that you are taking pictures and not seeing them. I was under the impression that Windows could access those directly without any other settings or accommodations, but perhaps the iOS device needs a full erase. You can test that at settings -> general -> reset

  • Thank you. i'm currently checking out security via links like iFunbox security concern; i also found this "How to Use iFunBox as a Robust iTunes Alternative" ~~ i will check it out and report back. – gerryLowry Sep 6 '15 at 0:30
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    also, thank you for your concern ... my relative actually did a factory reset before giving me the 3Gs. Yes, it's weird imho that the photos that i took do not show under the DCIM folder ~~ perhaps that was a quirk of 6.1.6(?) ~~ after i install ifunbox, perhaps i'll be able to see where the pictures are being stored. – gerryLowry Sep 6 '15 at 0:34
  • F.Y.I.:: update, not a resolution. see body text dated 2015-09-10 ... i'm waiting to hear back from ifunbox regarding whether Windows 8.1 with 3Gs is supported. – gerryLowry Sep 10 '15 at 15:38

The iPhone doesn't simply 'restrict users' from access. The reason it is not accessible is due to the design of the hardware and software. The software is designed in discrete layers that are each digitally signed with a key, thus reducing the ability of one layer to access the other without the appropriate signature or API. The user space is separated from the OS, and likewise, each application is sandboxed from the user space and OS. For this reason, even if you were to install an application to act as a file explorer, it would only see its own file space, not the entire device.

To learn more, please read this excellent document: iOS Security

The only way to access much of the iPhone system is to 'jail break' it. Essentially, what you do when you jail break an iPhone is to crack the root certificate and device keys, unlocking all the encryption. Of course, when you do this, you are now vulnerable to any application which can take over your device, grab your credentials, etc.

  • Thank you for your input. Apple could choose to be more open and less restrictive and still maintain security, for example by partitioning their internal storage into two parts, one for the purposes that i require. That said, i'm not too worried about security because i only run the 3Gs on my Wi-Fi and do not put anything like banking credentials on my device. i can copy videos and .mp4 files to my dumb phone but the quality is too low; for that reason i'd prefer to use the 3Gs as a media player but not as a phone. – gerryLowry Sep 10 '15 at 17:12

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