External hard drive is not showing up/recognized? Here is how to fix

By Vivian | Posted to Data Recovery, updated on August 13th, 2019 |

Summary: If your external hard drive is not showing up or recognized, here are the solutions to fix it. Worry about data loss? You can download iBoysoft Data Recovery to recover files before you repair this hard drive.

You may be confronted with this situation: you insert an external hard drive into your Windows computer, but it is not showing up on the desktop, looking like it is not recognized. Actually, it is a common error that the external is not showing up on Windows 10/8/7/XP. The reasons for this could be hard drive corruption, file system crash, partition table lost, etc.

Also, it's frustrating because you have no access to your files nor have any idea about how to fix this problem. But now, you can read this page and learn how to fix the external hard drive not showing up issue without data loss.

Table of contents
1. 6 solutions to fix external hard drives not showing up on Windows
2. Final thoughts

6 solutions to fix external hard drives not showing up on Windows

Before we handle the disappeared external hard drive, let's see a real case from forums and see if you are facing a similar problem as below.

Help! I have a Seagate (1 TB) external hard drive from my friend, but now it is not showing up in files explorer. I am sure it is supplied with power but I just can't find it nor open it. How can I access my files if it is not showing up on my computer? Help is greatly appreciated!

-- From Tom's Hardware Forums

Well, it's tricky to fix if an external hard drive is not showing up on a PC because it could be caused by different reasons. Fortunately, you will find multiple step-by-step solutions in this section so that you can fix your disk problems with no fuss.

So, let's go to check them one by one.

Solution 1:Check the connection

Even though this solution is foolproof but it turns out to be one of the most efficient ones. You can simply check this by using another USB port, cable, computer to connect this external hard drive.

Solution 2:Check if your external hard drive is showing up in Disk Management

Sometimes, your external hard drive is not showing up on your Windows computer even after confirming the right connection. Then you need to check if it is a hardware issue because the serious hardware problem will cause a dead external hard drive. And it is extremely tough to repair a dead external hard drive.

You can do this check through a Windows utility called Disk Management and here is how.

1. Right-click on My Computer/This PC and choose Manage.

2. When it enters to Computer Management, select Disk Management in the left sidebar.

3. Check if your external hard drive is detected in Disk Management with a healthy condition, if so, it should be no serious hardware error.

external hard drive in Disk Management

Solution 3:Check the drive letter of your external hard drive

When the drive letter of an external hard drive is missing or collides with other drive letters, the external hard drive can't be shown normally on the computer as well. In this case, you need to assign or change the drive letter because it will reload the file system of your external hard drive as well as repair some minor disk errors.

  1. Go to Disk Management as Solution 2 above.
  2. Find your external hard drive by the disk information and right-click on it.
  3. Choose Change Drive Letter and Paths. If your external hard drive doesn't have a letter, click "Add" and choose one. If it already has a drive letter, click "Change" and try another one.

Solution 4:Check if the disk driver is up to date

If fortunately, your external hard drive has no hardware problem and shows normally in Disk Management. Then why you can't open this external hard drive in Windows files explorer? Hold on! Are you sure your USB driver on this Windows computer is up to date? If not, you need to reinstall or update the device driver first.

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 sign that indicates a problematic driver, or if you find any "Unknown device", you need to right-click and select "Update Driver software…". 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 and check if your external hard drive is unrecognizable still.

Solution 5:Repair the external hard drive with CHKDSK command

However, if your computer won't read this disk and you can't open this drive still after all these checks, it could be disk errors like file system corruption that linger on your external hard drive and stop it working normally. You can fix this corrupted external hard drive with CHKDSK command which is a native tool to repair some common disk problems.

  1. Go to the Start menu of your computer, type in "cmd" in the search box and press Enter.
  2. Right-click on cmd.exe or Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator.
  3. Type in "chkdsk" in the command prompt and press Enter.
  4. Type in "chkdsk G: /f" (you need to replace G with the drive letter of your external hard drive.) and press Enter to repair disk errors.
  5. When it repairs the error successfully, type in "exit" to quit this window. Then you can check if your external hard drive is showing up after restarting the computer.

Solution 6:Reformat this external hard drive

If the listed troubleshooters can't solve the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue for you, especially when your external hard drive becomes RAW, reformatting is the last solution you can resort to.

Warning: Don't jump to reformat if you have important files on this inaccessible external hard drive because reformatting will wipe your files off this drive. So, it would be better if you firstly recover data from this hard drive with data recovery software.

How to recover data from the unrecognized external hard drives?

If you want to fix this unrecognizable external hard drive without reformatting, i.e. without data loss, you can recover data from this corrupted external hard drive with one of the best external hard drive data recovery software - iBoysoft Data Recovery before you reformat this hard drive.

iBoysoft Data Recovery can recover data from the hard drive that is not showing up, inaccessible, unreadable, formatted, or unmounted. With some simple clicks, you can restore your emails, documents, pictures, videos and many other files efficiently.

Here are some specifications about this free data recovery software:

  • Supported storage devices: hard drives, external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, CF cards, etc.
  • Supported file system: NTFS, FAT32, exFAT
  • Supported OS: Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003

Video tutorial to recover data from external hard drives on Mac

Steps to recover data from the external hard drives with iBoysoft Data Recovery?

You can simply download iBoysoft Data Recovery on your computer and recover lost data from the external hard drive with 3 simple steps.

1. Connect your corrupted external hard drive to your computer properly and launch iBoysoft Data Recovery.

2. Select this hard drive in the context list and click Next to scan for data on this drive.

Recover data from external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Note: If your external hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker, you need to click on the BitLocker Data Recovery button at the upper right corner and then enter the correct password to recover data.

3. When you find your files in the scanning results, you can double-click on this file and preview it. Then you can click on Recover button to get your files back from this external hard drive.

Recover data from corrupted hard drives

After you retrieve files from this hard drive, you can fix the corrupted external hard drive by formatting with ease.

How to fix the external hard drive not showing up issue by reformatting

If your external hard drive is showing up in file explorer:

  1. Right-click on this external hard drive and choose Format.
  2. Fill in the volume label, file system, and allocation unit size as the wizard asked.
  3. Check the "Perform a quick format" box and click OK to reformat this hard drive.

If your external hard drive is not showing up in file explorer:

  1. Type "cmd" in the search box of the Start menu and press Enter.
  2. Right-click on "cmd.exe" and choose Run as administrator.
  3. Type "diskpart" in the new window and press Enter.
  4. Type "list volume" and press Enter to show all volume on this PC.
  5. Type "select volume 1" and press Enter(You need to replace "1" with the name of the volume that you want to reformat, so you need to take time and identify which one is the disk according to the disk information. Make sure that you chose the right one).
  6. Type "format fs=ntfs label=* quick" (You can replace "ntfs" with fat32 or exfat as you like, and * is the name that you want to give to this drive) and press Enter.
  7. Type "exit" to close the command prompt.

If your external hard drive is not showing up on Mac, you can recover data with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery and then reformat this disk as well.

Nevertheless, if your external hard drive is not even showing up in Disk Management normally, your external hard drive could be physically damaged and you'd better send it to local data recovery store for professional help.

Final thoughts

To sum up, when your external hard drive is invisible on Windows computers, it is complicated to figure out why it is not showing up. If the mentioned solutions can't fix this issue, you're strongly advised to recover data from the external hard drive with external hard drive data recovery software in case of data loss.

Vivian

Vivian likes to share technical tips and solutions with people, especially in macOS and Windows data recovery tricks. Being a part of @iBoysoft, she has solved many computing and technological problems for readers with ease.

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