External Hard Drive not Showing up or Recognized, How to Fix

By Vivian | Posted to Data Recovery, updated on April 27th, 2020 |

Summary: External hard drive not showing up or recognized? This page is about how to access external hard drives when you can't find drives on your computer. To prevent data loss during fixing this issue, you can download iBoysoft Data Recovery and recover files before you repair this hard drive.

Sometimes, you insert an external hard drive into your computer, but the hard drive is not showing up, looking like it is not recognized. Many users have encountered this issue. Some say that their external hard drive won't show up on Windows 10/8/7/XP, and some report that the external hard drive is missing on Mac. Both cases could be bothering.

Since the major problem is from Windows users, this post will focus on the external hard drive not showing up issue on Windows computer. Whether you are using Seagate, Toshiba, or WD external hard drive, the methods mentioned in this guide would help you to access your external hard drive again.

Why is an external hard drive not showing up?

Be it USB flash drives or external hard drives, they could get stuck with the same problem. Here is a real case from forums.

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

The reasons for HHDs not detected are basically the same. It could be a result of file system corruption, partition table lost, outdated disk driver, connections problem, etc. Sometimes, the external hard drive becomes not recognized after accidentally unplugging.

To find out exactly what stops the external hard drive from showing up on a PC, you need to follow the guide step by step.

Here takes the Windows 10 computer as an example to fix this issue.

How to Fix external hard drive not showing up on Windows 10?

Usually, the connected external hard drives, USB flash drives, and SD cards will be listed in File Explorer. And you only need to open This PC to access those external drives.

However, the external hard drive won't appear in File Explorer in some cases.

Related article:

What to do if external hard drive is not showing up in File Explorer?

When you can't find the external hard drive in File Explorer or This PC, you can find it some elsewhere. A favor from hard drive management tools will make things easier. Disk Management, loaded on your PC originally, is available with a few steps on Windows 10, allowing you to check, initialize, and manage hard drives. So, you can first see if the hard drive is showing up in Disk Management or not.

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. If your external hard drive is detected in Disk Management, you'll be able to find it in the list and check its condition.

check external hard drive in Disk Management

When Windows 10 computer not recognizing the external hard drive, one of those different symptoms will show in Disk management.

Symptom 1:The external hard drive is not initialized

Checking the external hard drive in Disk Management, you could find the disk is not initialized or unknown. A hard drive needs to be initialized before you can access it, otherwise, its storage space is unallocated. Of course, you can’t open the external hard drive in File Explorer.

This is the main reason for new hard drives not showing up on computers. In this case, you only need to follow the on-screen wizard to initialize this drive and create new partitions. Then, you can access it in File Explorer.

new external hard drive not showing up uninitialized

However, if it's not a new hard drive, great chances are that the hard drive is damaged due to hardware issues. In this case, you can't see any space information about the uninitialized external hard drive. If it's not working still after checking the hardware problems like connections, you should replace the external hard drive.

external hard drive not showing up no space information

Symptom 2:The external hard drive's space is unallocated

The physical space on a hard drive that doesn't belong to a partition is called unallocated. To make use of the unallocated space of a new hard drive, you need to create a new partition using the space.

external hard drive not showing up unallocated

However, unallocated space also occurs when the partition on the external hard drive is lost. In this case, you need to first recover data from the lost or deleted partition to prevent data loss, and then reformat this drive.

Symptom 3:The external hard drive has no drive letter

After the hard drive is initialized, at least one new partition should be created before you can save and delete files. Each partition has a driver letter, which makes it possible for computer reading and writing to the partition. However, if for some reason, the drive letter of an external hard drive is missing, the external hard drive won't show up in Windows 10 as usual.

external hard drive not showing up no drive letter

Fortunately, you can change or assign a new drive letter for this external hard drive. This operation also reloads the file system of your external hard drive as well as repairs some minor disk errors.

Here is how to fix the external hard drive not showing up issue by changing its drive letter.

  1. In Disk Management, find your external hard drive by the disk information and right-click on it.
  2. Right-click on it and choose the Change Drive Letter and Paths option. If this option is greyed out, the external hard drive might be hidden by a third-party disk management tool. You can unhide the drive and show it up on your PC.
  3. If your external hard drive doesn't have a drive letter, click Add and choose one. If it already has a drive letter, click Change and try another one.

Symptom 4:The file system of this external hard drive is RAW

Normally, the file system of your external hard drive should be FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS. But now it becomes RAW, which means this file system is not recognized nor supported by Windows. Except for reformatting it with a recognizable file system, nothing will help.

But reformatting will wipe your data off this drive. Therefore, you need to recover data from the RAW external hard drive before reformating this drive.

What to do if external hard drive is not showing up in Disk Management?

What if the external hard drive doesn't appear in Disk Management at all? Then, the first place you should check is Device Manager.

1. Check the external hard drive in Device Manager

External hard drive not showing up on Windows 10 could be a result of hardware and software issues. So, Device Manager is the key point of distinguishing software and hardware problems.

  1. Step 1: Press Win + R to open the Run dialogue box.
  2. Step 2: Type in devmgmt.msc and press Enter to go to Device Manager.
  3. Step 3: Expand Disk drives and find your external hard drive is listed here.
  4. Step 4: Right-click on the external hard drive under Disk drives.

One case is that the external hard drive appears here but you can't open the external hard drive still. Then you should check if your USB driver on this PC is up to date, especially if you have recently updated the Windows.

update and uninstall disk driver of external hard drive in Dsik Management

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. The external hard drive should be detected after you restart the PC.

2. Run Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter

Possibly, no difference is made after the disk driver software update. Then, it should be a hardware-related issue. Serious hardware problems could make an external hard drive dead. This is where you need to run the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter to fix common issues on Windows 10. External hard drive disappearing is one of them.

  1. Step 1: Open the Windows search bar and type in Control Panel.
  2. Step 2: Select Control Panel from the search list to launch this app.
  3. Step 3: In the Control Panel screen, search for troubleshooter using the search bar on the top right corner.
  4. Step 4: Click on Troubleshooting from the search result.
  5. Step 5: Choose the Hardware and Sound option, and then click on Configure a device option.
  6. Step 6: After you provide the right password of administrator, you'll be able to access the Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter.

This hardware troubleshooter would prompt you to fix the issues once any problem is detected. Then, you'll see and open the external hard drive on your PC as you usually do.

3. Check the connection of the external hard drive

If you can't find the external drives on the PC, try to check the connections. For an external desktop hard drive, you can check if it powers on. If it's a USB external hard drive or USB flash drive, you can check if the USB port is dusty and if the USB cable is damaged. You can change another USB port or even computer to connect this external hard drive.

What to do if the external hard drive appears but is not recognized by Windows

To be honest, this is easier to fix if you can see the external hard drive on the computer. At least, it's detected by Windows. Just for some reason, Windows can't read and recognize this hard drive. Here, "some reason" often refers to hard drive corruption.

To make the second hard drive work again, you can first repair the error inside the drive.

1. Repair the external hard drive with CHKDSK command

Windows not reading this disk results from factors like file system corruption, bad sectors, partition table lost, etc. You can't open the external hard drive until disk errors are repaired. CHKDSK, a native disk repair tool, allows you to repair corrupted external hard drives using cmd.

  1. Step 1: Go to the Start menu of your computer, type in "cmd" in the search box, and press Enter.
  2. Step 2: Right-click on cmd.exe or Command Prompt and choose Run as administrator.
  3. Step 3: Type in chkdsk in the command prompt and press Enter.
  4. Step 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. Step 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.

2. Rescue data and reformat this external hard drive

Sometimes, the 'external hard drive not showing up' issue can't be solved by the solutions above. For example, the external hard drive is too corrupted to be fixed. Or the external hard drive becomes RAW. Then, formatting 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 lost data from this hard drive with data recovery software.

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

It's difficult to fix this unrecognizable external hard drive without reformatting, but it's easier to fix it without data loss. iBoysoft Data Recovery, the best external hard drive data recovery software, will help you.

iBoysoft Data Recovery can recover lost 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.

So, if your hard drives, external hard drives, USB flash drives, SD cards, and CF cards are not recognized by Windows, here is how to recover data.

Video tutorial to recover lost data from external hard drives on Mac

Steps to recover lost 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. Check if the external hard drive is listed by this software. If so, select it and click Next to scan for data on this drive. However, if the external hard drive is not showing up here, it's a dead external hard drive. You should send it to a local data recovery lab and try your luck.

Recover lost data from unrecognized external hard drive

Note: BitLocker Data Recovery is provided by this software if your external hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker with password available.

3. When you find your files in the scanning results, you can double-click on this file and preview it. It shows if your files are corrupted or not before you finally recover data from this external hard drive.

Recover lost data from corrupted external hard drives

Then, it's time to fix the external hard drive not showing up issue by reformatting.

How to reformat external hard drives on Windows computers?

In addition to computer not recognizing external hard drives, many other problems can be easily fixed by reformatting. But how can you reformat an external hard drive on a Windows computer?

Reformat the external hard drive in file explorer/Disk Management:

  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.

Reformat the external hard drive using diskpart command:

  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.

Nevertheless, if the external hard drive shows up nowhere of your PC, it should be physically damaged. Replacement is the last choice.

Final thoughts

To sum up, when external hard drive is not showing up in File Explorer, try to check it elsewhere on the Windows computer. But anyway, you'd better first use external hard drive data recovery software to prevent data loss. Probably, for some users, this is more important than fixing the unrecognized external hard drive itself.