How to fix 'external hard drive not showing up' issue on Windows and Mac?

By Vivian | Posted to Data Recovery on April 17th, 2019 |

Summary: This post is about how to fix the 'external hard drive is not showing up or recognized' issue. Still worry about data loss? Download iBoysoft Data Recovery to recover files from the inaccessible external hard drive first.

It is a common error that the external or internal hard drive is not showing up on computers, which could result from hard drive corruption, file system crash, partition table lost, etc. You may be confronted with this situation: when you insert an external hard drive into the computer but it is not recognized, it would be frustrating because you have no access to your files. Don't know how to fix this problem? Check this page to fix the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue without data loss.

Table of contents
1. How to fix if an external hard drive is not showing up on Windows?
2. How to fix if the external hard drive is not showing up on Mac?
3. How to recover data from the unrecognized external hard drives?
4. Final thoughts

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

Here is a general infographic:

how to fix 'external hard drive not showing up' issue'

How to fix when an external hard drive is not showing up on Windows?

The 'external hard drive not showing up on PC' issue is tricky to fix in that it could be caused by different reasons. Thus, this section illustrates a step-by-step guide that contains many accordingly countermeasures to fix your problems with no fuss.

Step 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 changing another USB port, cable, computer to connect this external hard drive.

Step 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, while a dead external hard drive is extremely tough to repair. 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 serirous hardware error.

external hard drive in Dsik Management

Step 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. 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 Step 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, and if it already has a drive letter, click "Change" and try another one.

Step 4:Check if the driver is updated

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

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…". 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.

Step 5:Repair the external hard drive with CHKDSK command

However, if your external hard drive is inaccessible or 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. Then you need to fix the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue by CHKDSK command which is a natural 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.

Step 6:Reformat this external hard drive

It is possible that you can't repair this external hard drive error especially when your external hard drive becomes RAW. Under this circumstance, if you don't have anything important on this drive, you can fix the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue by reformatting.

Warning: Don't jump to this step if you have important files on this inaccessible external hard drive because reformatting will wipe your files off this drive. Instead, recover your data from this drive with the best data recovery software before reformatting

How to fix if the external hard drive is not showing up on Mac?

It is acknowledged that Mac computers perform well in working, but inevitably, accidents like an external hard drive is not showing up are likely to happen. How to fix this issue on Mac computers? This part will show you in detail.

Solution 1:Check the Finder Preferences

If your external hard drive is not showing up neither in the Finder nor on the desktop, you need to check the configuration as follow steps.

1. Open Finder and select "Preferences…" (Control + ,).

2. Check "External disks" in the General bar to show your external hard drive on the desktop.

show external hard drive on the desktop

3. Check "External disks" in the Sidebar tab so that you can find your external hard drive in Finder's sidebar.

show external hard drive in Finder

Solution 2:Check the file system of the external hard drive

Since macOS High Sierra and later macOS, all devices with flash storage are automatically converted to APFS. However, this Apple file system is not readable in previous versions of macOS such as Sierra and Mac OS X. So, if your operating system is earlier than macOS 10.13 and the external hard drive is not showing up on the computer, you can check if your external hard drive is APFS formatted.

Solution 3:Check your external hard drive in Disk Utility

Just like Windows computer, Mac has its own repair tool, Disk Utility, to fix minor disk errors as well. When the external hard drive won't open normally, Disk Utility is an advisable way to fix the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue for free.

Step 1: Go to Utilities and choose Disk Utility.

Step 2: Launch this application, click "View" at the upper left corner, and choose "Show all devices".

Step 3: Check if your external hard drive is in the left sidebar and click on its name.

Note:If your external hard drive is showing up but the drive is greyed out in Disk Utility, you need to right-click on it and choose Mount manually.

Step 4: Select "First Aid" at the top menu of Disk Utility and click "Run" to repair this external hard drive.

First Aid to repair external hard drive

Solution 4:Delete conflicting software

Did you experience the issue that an external hard drive is not showing up on Mac just recently? If so, you may need to check if you have downloaded and installed any software recently because the problem might result from software conflict. This is not a common case but it is possible that the intermittent hardware failures make two programs conflict and your external hard drive won't be readable by the computer. In this case, the software needs to be uninstalled so that it won't be a problem for your external hard drive.

How to recover data from the unrecognized external hard drives?

If the listed troubleshooters can't solve the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue for you, reformatting is the last solution you can resort to. However, reformatting will erase data on this external hard drive, be it Windows or Mac computer. You may be wondering "Can I fix this unrecognizable external hard drive without reformatting, i.e. without data loss?"

Certainly. You can recover data from this 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. When your external hard drive is corrupted, your files are deleted mistakenly, your drive is not showing up, etc. this tool 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:
    Mac: encrypted APFS, APFS, FAT32, exFAT
    Windows: NTFS, FAT32, exFAT
  • Supported OS:
    Mac: macOS 10.14/10.13/10.12 and Mac OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7
    Windows: Win 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2016/2012/2008/2003

You can simply download the right version of iBoysoft Data Recovery on your computer and recover lost data from the external hard drive with 3 simple steps. After you retrieve files from this hard drive, you can reformat this unrecognizable external hard drive with ease.

Here takes a Windows condition as an example guide.

Step 1:Recover data from the external hard drive with iBoysoft

1. Connect your inaccessible 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 your deleted or lost data on this drive.

Recover data from SD card 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 formatted SD card

Step 2: 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" (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.

Final thoughts

To sum up, when your external hard drive is not showing up on Windows or Mac computer, it is complicated to fix this problem. 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.

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

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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