How to stop external hard drives from randomly disconnecting and reconnecting?

By Vivian | Updated to Data Recovery Tips on November 17th, 2020 |

Summary: It is rather annoying that an external hard drive keeps disconnecting and reconnecting when you copy, back up, or transfer files on Windows/Mac computers. Don't know how to fix this issue? Read this post to stop external hard drives from ejecting by itself and to recover lost data from external hard drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery.

In this article, there are 6 solutions you can make an attempt:

  • 1. Check the connections.
  • 2. Update the USB driver.
  • 3. Turn off USB selective suspend.
  • 4. Check for USB hard drive in system information (for Mac).
  • 5. Change power management settings for USB Root Hubs.
  • 6. Reformat the drive.

Just picture this, you are trying to copy some important files from a WD my passport external hard drive, but the USB drive keeps disconnecting and reconnecting on the computer all the time. You need to use these files in tomorrow's conference but all the efforts you've done were in vain. You can't copy, transfer, or back up these files on this drive at all because it is always interrupted by disconnection. Annoying, right?

Indeed, you're not the first one who meet this problem, and here is a case from one of our users.

Hi. I'm having a bit of disk problem here. My external hard drive (Seagate 1TB) keeps disconnecting. When I plug my hard drive into my Windows 10 computer, this external hard drive is detected, but after 5 seconds or so, it starts disconnecting and reconnecting every second. After a while, I get the prompt "You need to format the disk in drive D: before you can use it". I am not going to format this drive as I have many important files on it, so I unplug the drive, which didn't fix this problem. Now, I am at loss. Can you help me? Thanks in advance.

It's commonplace for Windows and Mac users, whether you're using WD, Seagate, Lacie, or any other external hard drive. Hence, this article provides 6 solutions to stop external hard drives from disconnecting, and how to recover your data from this external hard drive in this case.

But before you check these solutions, why not catch a glimpse of the causes for this issue?

Why your external hard drive keeps disconnecting?

An external hard drive is connected to a computer through the USB cable/Thunderbolt and port. As you can see, reading a USB hard drive on the computer involves three parts at least - the external hard drive itself, the USB cable, and the USB port. Thus, it is hard to tell which part goes wrong when the hard drive constantly disconnects and reconnects. Generally speaking, the related factors could be:

  1. The external hard drive is corrupted due to unsafe ejection, bad sectors, virus infection, etc.
  2. The USB cable is broken or aging.
  3. The USB port is wobbly or damaged.
  4. The USB 3.0 driver is outdated or incompatible.
  5. The USB hub is not supplied with enough power.

Compared with external hard drive not showing up, this "randomly disconnecting" issue is worse as it could make your external hard drive dead completely. You will not be able to open this drive nor access files on this drive at that time. So, no matter what the reason is, you need to recover your files from this drive as soon as possible, and stop the external hard drive from disconnecting and reconnecting right now!

How to recover lost data from the corrupted/unrecognized external hard drives?

When an external hard drive is showing up but later disappears/disconnects randomly, the most urgent thing, in this case, is to recover lost data from this external hard drive as soon as possible. Because constant disconnection and reconnection will damage your external hard drive and make this hard drive inaccessible possibly. So, you'd better recover your files from this external hard drive in no time before the "disconnecting" thing destroys your drive completely someday.

Then, how can you recover lost data from the hard drive in this case? Actually, all you need is professional hard drive data recovery software. for example, iBoysoft Data Recovery.

iBoysoft Data Recovery is a professional file recovery tool. It can recover photos, documents, emails, etc. when an external hard drive keeps disconnecting and the drive becomes corrupted. Moreover, this free data recovery software can recover lost data from formatted, inaccessible, corrupted, RAW, unreadable, unmountable external hard drives. With this useful program, hard drive data recovery and SD card data recovery, as well as USB flash drives and CF card recovery, etc. are possible for both Mac and Windows users.

Supported Windows operating system: Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003

Supported Mac operating system: macOS Big Sur (11), Catalina (10.15), macOS 10.14 (Mojave), macOS 10.13 (High Sierra), macOS 10.12 (Sierra) and Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan), 10.10 (Yosemite), 10.9 (Mavericks), 10.8 (Mountain Lion), 10.7 (Lion)

Take windows computer as an example to recover lost data form external hard drives here:

Tutorial to recover lost data from external hard drives

  • 1. Download iBoysoft Data Recovery on your Windows computer and launch it.
  • 2. Select your external hard drive in the list and click "Next" to scan for files on this drive.
  • Recover lost data from SD card with iBoysoft Data Recovery
  • 3. The scanning results will be listed in the left sidebar. Select the files you want to recover and preview if you want to check if it is intact.
  • 4. Click "Recover" to get your files back.
  • Recover lost data from formatted SD card

Note: If your external hard drive keeps disconnecting and reconnecting on a Mac computer and you need to recover lost data from this drive, you can download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac (after installation, you need to restart your Mac) to get your files back as well.

My external hard drive keeps disconnecting, how to fix?

After recovering files from this external hard drive, you can go ahead to fix this "disconnection" problem with ease.

Solution 1: Check the connections - the USB hub and cable

It may sound ridiculous and foolish, but actually, checking the connection does work for many users whose external hard disk keeps disconnecting on the computer just like yours. So why not give it a try since it is as easy as pie?

  • 1. Re-insert this external hard drive into your computer.
  • 2. Plug this external hard drive to another USB port.
  • 3. Use another USB cable to connect this device to the computer.

These steps didn't fix your disk problems? No worries, you still have other options to have a bash.

Solution 2: Update the USB driver

If the external hard drive keeps disconnecting during files copying, or the hard drive is not working on computer normally, you might be experiencing one of the USB 3.0 controller driver problems listed below:

  • The USB driver is outdated and a new driver is available now.
  • The USB driver has a conflict with some hardware devices that were connected to the USB port.
  • The operating system of your computer has been upgraded, resulting in software incompatibility. It happens especially on Windows 7 where a new USB communication protocol was implemented and is known as USB 2.0.
  • The USB driver has been corrupted because the computer is crashed or is infected by malware.

Can you fix this on your Windows or Mac computer? Yes, as sure as eggs is eggs! Simply update the USB driver as instructed below.

How to update the USB driver on Windows computer?

  • 1. Press "Win + R" to open the "Run" dialogue box.
  • 2. Type in "devmgmt.msc" and press Enter to go to Device Manager.
  • 3. Expand "Disk drives" and find your external hard drive in the list.
  • 4. If there is a yellow/red sign that indicates a problematic driver or if you find any "Unknown device", you need to right-click and select "Update Driver software…" and follow the instructions to update USB drivers. If there is no abnormal sign, you can right-click your external hard drive and choose "Uninstall".
  • update and uninstall disk driver of external hard drive in Dsik Management
  • 5. Restart your PC.

How to update the USB driver on Mac computer?

  • 1. Click on Launchpad at your Mac Dock.
  • 2. Find App Store in the menu and open it.
  • 3. Click on "Updates" and see if there is a new update available. If so, update it as the wizard said.
  • update external hard disk driver

Solution 3: Turn off USB selective suspend

When an external hard drive continues unplugging randomly on your Windows laptop, it also could be the power saving feature that stops your external drive from working. Your PC could be set to turn off USB devices after a while just for saving power. If this is the reason that your drive disconnects and reconnects, you can disable it for good.

  • 1. Click Start and enter "control panel" in the search box of your computer, then select Control Panel from the list of results.
  • 2. Select Power Options in the menu and open it.
  • 3. Find your power plan and click on Change plan settings.
  • 4. Choose Change advanced power settings.
  • 5. Click USB settings, choose USB selective suspend setting, and then set it to Disabled.
  • disable USB selective suspend setting
  • 6. Click on Apply and OK to save changes.

Solution 4 : Check for USB hard drive in system information (Works for Mac)

Since this hard drive problem resulting from power issue can be settled down on Windows, you may ask: Can I stop my external hard drive from disconnecting and reconnecting on Mac?

Fortunately, the answer is pretty positive. When a USB hub doesn't provide so much power to external devices, this external hard drive will not be recognized by your computer. You can check if this hard disk is supplied with enough power in a few clicks and the result will be shown in an intuitive way .

  • 1. Click on the Apple logo at the upper left corner of your desktop.
  • 2. Choose About This Mac and choose System Report where almost all information about your Mac computer is listed.
  • 3. Click on USB under Hardware in the left sidebar, and you will see all the USB devices connected to this Mac.
  • 4. Look for your USB external hard drive in the list. You can see the available power for this USB hub and the required power for your hard drive exactly.
  • USB external hard disk information on Mac
  • 5. Do the math and see if this USB hard drive is pulling too much power from the USB port. If the required power is higher than the available one, connect this hard drive to a different USB hub or eject other unnecessary USB devices.

Solution 5: Change power management settings for USB Root Hubs

The hard drive keeps disconnecting at will still? All right, you need to check the power management as your system might be too considerate to disconnect your external hard drive unnecessarily. To stop it from randomly disconnecting and reconnecting, you need to tell your computer you don't want it to disconnect your hard drive automatically.

Here is how.

  • 1. Press the "Windows logo key + R", and then type "devmgmt.msc" in the dialogue box and press Enter to open Device Manager.
  • 2. Navigate to Universal Serial Bus Controllers and double click on the target USB Root Hub.
  • 3. Choose Power Management in the pop-up window and uncheck Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power.
  • USB external hard disk power management on Windows
  • 4. Click OK to save changes.

Solution 6: Reformat this drive

What! You walk through all the solutions above but the external hard drive won't stop disconnecting? The system still asks you to format this drive before you can use it?

Well, the last solution is to reformat this drive.

How to reformat external hard drives on Windows PC?

How to reformat external hard drives on Mac?

Warning: Don't practice reformatting if you have important files on this drive because this operation will delete your data on this external hard drive. On the contrary, you need to make sure you have recovered data from this external hard drive first and if you don't have a copy of data backup.

The external hard drive won't stop disconnecting after all this fixes? Well, since you have successfully recovered data from the external hard drive, you dont need to worry about losing files at least. You can send this drive to a local repair store for help and see if you can fix this issue, just pick up your phone now.