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Fixed: External Hard Drive Spins Up & Down Constantly on Mac

Updated on Wednesday, January 3, 2024

iBoysoft author Connie Yang

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Connie Yang
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Jessica Shee

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Fix External HDDs/USB Drives Spin Up/Down Constantly on Mac

Summary: Follow this post to fix your external hard drive that spins up and down constantly or randomly. To keep your external hard drive from spinning down, you can run iBoysoft DiskGeeker first to check if the external drive has errors and fix them.

external hard drive spins up and down constantly

You find that your external hard drive spins up and down constantly since the time it connected to your Mac. And you worry that is terrible for the hard drive's lifetime. In fact, this is not a rare issue. Many other users also encounter the same or similar trouble. Here's a case from the Macrumors forums:

My WD EasyStore USB 3 hard drive spins up and down constantly every few minutes on my new M1 MacBook Air (macOS Monterey 12.1). And I've turned off "Put Hard Disks to sleep when possible" in the Battery preferences, no luck. It is annoying and I worry about the condition of my drive. Any suggestion? Thanks!

If you want to learn why your external USB hard drive spins up/down all the time on your Mac, follow this post to find answers and meanwhile get tricks to resolve it.

Guide to fixing your external hard drive, USB Flash drive, or HDD spins up/down constantly on Mac:

Why is your external hard drive spinning constantly on Mac?

Some users tell that the Western Digital external hard drives keep spinning after they upgrade to macOS Big Sur or Monterey. So, they think that this problem may be caused by system bugs.

In fact, we also find that the external HDD constantly spinning mainly on M1 or M2 Macs. So, it can't be excluded that something has broken in the way macOS is driving these external drives on Apple Silicon.

Apart from the mentioned above, there also have other possible causes for this issue. Here's the list of all reasons why your external hard drive keeps spinning up on Mac:

  • The faulty connection.
  • Energy Saver or Battery settings.
  • Interference from disk sleep settings.
  • Errors on the external hard drive.
  • System glitches.
  • Apple Silicon bugs.
  • Disruption from running apps that keep writing to the drive.

Go to tell others the causes of this issue.

 

How do you stop your external hard drive from spinning up and down?

If you wonder "How to keep my external drive from spinning down", you can follow the solutions in this part.

Here are the ways to stop your external hard drive from constantly spinning up/down:

  1. Eject the external hard drive and then replug it
  2. Restart Mac
  3. Disable the disk sleep settings
  4. Use Terminal to disable the disk from sleep for all states
  5. Run iBoysoft DiskGeeker to check the hard drive
  6. Quit the apps that keep writing to the drive
  7. Delete the Energy Saver/Power .plist file and reboot Mac
  8. Update Mac

Replug the external hard drive into your Mac

Perhaps, there're some problems in the communication between the external hard drive and your Mac. Then, it loops between being detected and then unmounted by your Mac. Or your external hard drive is spinning but not detected. You can eject the external hard drive and unplug it. Then, reconnect it to another port on your Mac.

Restart Mac

Sometimes, temporary errors appear on your Mac, leading it to behave improperly, such as making your connected external USB hard drive spin up/down all the time. To verify and fix that, simply restart your Mac. A restart will refresh the system and the installed programs to the original state and clear up the temporary software issues.

Disable the disk sleep settings

Perhaps, you've checked the option "Put hard drive to sleep when possible" in Energy Saver or Battery preferences. Therefore, your external disk keeps ejecting itself from your Mac to sleep and then mounting to wake up.

Besides, if you set the Mac display to off after a few minutes or even less, the connected external hard drive also constantly spins up and down.

You can disable the disk auto-sleep settings in System Preferences:

  1. Open the Apple menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver (or Battery).
    open Battery in System Preferences
  2. Uncheck the box next to "Put hard drive to sleep when possible". And if you set the display to off after a very short time, change it to longer.
    disable Put hard disks to sleep when possible 

Use Terminal to disable the disk from sleep for all states

If this problem goes on after turning off the disk sleep settings (or you haven't enabled it at all), you can try running a command to disable the disk from sleep for all states.

Here's how:

  1. Click on Launchpad > Other > Terminal.
  2. Enter the following command in the Terminal window and press Return. sudo pmset -a disksleep 0run command to disable disk from sleep for all states
  3. Type your admin password and press Return.

Then, you can see if the external USB hard drive still constantly spinning up and down on your MacBook.

Run iBoysoft DiskGeeker to check the external hard drive

It is worth noting that, if the external hard drive had some errors, it could perform abnormally. That is why you find the external hard drive spinning up/down constantly.

To verify and fix the possible errors on the external disk, you can use iBoysoft DiskGeeker. It is a multi-functional disk management tool that can check the hard drive and repair the found errors.

 

iBoysoft DiskGeeker

Check & repair disk errors

How to run iBoysoft DiskGeeker to check the external hard drive that continuously spins up on your iMac, MacBook, or other models:

  1. Free download, install, and open iBoysoft DiskGeeker on your Mac.
  2. Select your external hard drive on the sidebar of the app.
  3. Click "First Aid" on the right-side toolbar.
    iBoysoft DiskGeeker First Aid check external drive 
  4. Wait for the iBoysoft DiskGeeker First Aid to check and repair the disk.

Then, you can also click the Unmount button on the app's toolbar and wait a moment to click the Mount button to let the system recognize the drive again. After that, you can keep the external hard drive awake on Mac, and won't spin up and down constantly.

Share this useful disk-checking tool with your friends.

 

Delete the AutoWake .plist file and reboot Mac

Maybe you've never enabled or already disabled "Put hard drive to sleep when possible" in Energy Saver or Battery settings, but the external hard drive keeps spinning up/down randomly or all the time. That may be caused by the corrupted AutoWake settings file. In other words, the AutoWake .plist file.

You can delete the AutoWake .plist file and then reboot your Mac to let it be automatically recreated.

  1. Open Finder and press Command + Shift + G to launch the Go to Folder box.
  2. Enter /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration to the search box and press Return.
    use Go to Folder to find the AutoWake plist file 
  3. Find and select com.apple.AutoWake.plist and then move it to Trash.
    find and delete the AutoWake plist file 
  4. Restart your Mac.

Keep reading the external drive

The continuous reading or writing to the external HDD will stop it from spinning up and down on your Mac. You can open a file on the external drive and keep your Mac awake to let the system keeps reading the drive. Or, you can download and use Amphetamine - a keep-awake app for macOS. It has a "Drive Alive" option that can keep writing a small piece of the file to the target disk.

Amphetamine Drive Alive

Update Mac

If the above ways can't fix your external hard drive that spins when it's not in use, you can check if any minor updates are available and update your Mac. A software update contains bug patches to fix the errors on the former update that cause abnormal performance on a Mac.

If this post helps you out the trouble, share it with more people.

 

FAQs about external hard drive spins up/down constantly

A

To make your external hard drive awake on your Mac, go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Energy Saver or Battery. Then, disable "Put Hard Disks to sleep when possible".

A

The reasons are not unique, maybe you've enabled "Put Hard Disks to sleep when possible" in Energy Saver or Battery preferences, the external hard drive is corrupted, or macOS has glitches to detect and recognize the drive.

A

Check the connections. You can unplug the external hard drive and then reconnect it to another USB port on your Mac.