Quick Solution: External Hard Drive not Showing up in Disk Utility on Mac

By Juno | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on January 10th, 2020 |

If the external hard drive is not showing up in Disk Utility on Mac, you can try 9 solutions to make Mac recognize it again. Worry about data loss? Simply free download iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery to recover videos, music, documents, images and much more from external hard drives before you fix the external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility issue on Mac.

When an external hard drive is connected to Mac, it usually would be detected and recognized by Disk Utility. However, sometimes you check the connected external hard drive Disk Utility, it doesn't show up as you thought. It will cause for panic, because Disk Utility is a built-in disk management program for Mac computers and it should list all connected drives. So that users can use Disk Utility to verify, check, repair, erase, partition, rename, encrypt, and unmount volumes and drives.

Actually, it happens frequently that WD, Toshiba, and Seagate hard drives are not showing up on Mac, especially if you often share the same drive between different operating systems, like between Windows and macOS. Then, how to solve this problem? This article will show you how to fix an external hard drive which is not showing up in Mac Disk Utility without losing data.

Table of contents
1. Why an external hard drive not showing up in Mac Disk Utility?
2. How to fix external hard drive not showing up in Mac Disk Utility issue
3. Recover data from the not showing up external hard drives
4. Conclusion

Why an external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility?

Now, before solving the issue, you should know the reason why your Mac does not detected/recognized an external hard drive.

Malfunctioned USB port

The USB port could be loose or dusty, or the USB port is busy in dealing with the external device that you improperly ejected the last time. What's more, not all the USB ports are the same. For example, The Canon Micro USB port looks like the standard ones, while some standard external hard drives could only be plugged in but would not work.

Faulty USB cable or external hard disk enclosure

Some external hard drives are wrapped in hard drive case and then connected to Mac via USB cables. And for SD cards, CF cards and other memory cards, they are accessed by card readers. However, once these hardware devices are broken, the external storage device would not be recognized in Disk Utility due to the lack of power and data supply.

USB-C adapter problems

This matters for users whose MacBook Pro or MacBook Air only has USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports. When you use a USB-C to USB adapter to connect iOS devices, external hard drives, and many of your standard USB accessories to your Mac, the wrong USB-C cables and adapter would be unstable in data transfferring. As a result, your external hard drive is forced to disconnect, unmount, or not showing up in Disk Utility.

Some other causes for external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility

  • Imcompatible Thunderbolt port
  • The external hard drive partition or file system got corrupted due to bad sectors.
  • Virus infection.
  • Malfunction of your Mac computer.
  • Any of the programs associated with the external hard drive doesn't work properly on your Mac.
  • Circuit failure.
  • Physical breakdown in any part of the external hard drive.

Many problems appear randomly that you cannot point out the specific reason. Fortunately, there are ways and means of getting the external hard drive showing up. Let's go into some of them right now.

Notice: If your external hard drive contains massive important data, you had better recover all needed data before taking solutions to solve because any mistaken operation might cause data loss permanently. How to recover data from external hard drive on Mac is recommended here.

9 solutions to fix/repair an external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility

At first, let's take a look at this example from discussions.apple.com:

I have been using my WD Elements hard drive for about 2 years and it always worked just fine, but when I plugged it into my MacBook Pro to back up today it won't show up. The external drive doesn't mount, not listed in Disk Utility, but the hard drive itself is still spinning and lighting up as usual. Any one have any idea?

What should you do if you are one of them?

Solution 1: Reboot your Mac computer

Sometimes, it might be some data damage to your Mac system. Hopefully, this problem can be easily fixed by restarting as this operation will clear your macOS memory. Choose the Apple menu > Restart. Or press and hold the power button and, when a dialog box appears, click the Restart or press R.

Solution 2: Check the external hard drive in System Information

When we connect an external hard drive to a Mac computer, we are connecting it via the USB or Firewire port. So first things first, let's start troubleshooting the external hard drive not showing up error by checking the ports.

Step 1: Go to Applications > Utilities > System Information.

Check external hard drive in System Information

Step 2: Click "USB" on the left panel, and check the external hard drive information.

Check external hard drive in System Information

If you see the external hard drive there but it is not showing up in Disk Utility, the hard drive may be under repair by macOS. Go and check it the Activity Monitor.

Step 3: Click the Launchpad and find the Other folder. Then you will see Activity Monitor there.

Step 4: Open this tool and check if there any process named "fsck_hfs" or something similar. (If your external hard drive is exFAT formatted, then it should be "fsck_exfat".)

Step 5: Select that task and click the "Force a process to quit" button at the upper left to stop it. and Then the external hard drive should show up on the desktop of your Mac. And Run First Aid in Disk Utility manually if you doubt any disk error.

Solution 3: Reset USB ports on Mac

If you don't see your external hard drive in Disk Utility still, you have to try a different cable and USB port. Besides, try an externally powered USB hub or power supply for the drive to see if the external hard drive can show up in Disk Utility.

Necessarily, you can refresh the USB ports and see if your external hard drive is detected by Disk Utility.

1. Restart Mac computer, press the Command +Option+P+R keys until the Apple logo appears.

2. Press Command+Option+Esc keys to close all applications that are not responding.

3. Plug the USB which is not showing up to your Mac computer. If it doesn't show up, click Apple icon and select "Sleep".

4. Wake up the computer after a few seconds by pressing any key.

5. Shut down the Mac, unplug the power cord, reattach it after 15 seconds.

Solution 4: Check for hardware and software updates

The outdated firmware and software results in various hardware issues, including USB ports not working issue. Check for system updates by opening the App Store and clicking on the Update tab. If there are firmware and macOS software updates available, install them onto the Mac.

Solution 5: Run a virus cleaner software

One of the major problems is virus infection, which will cause data corruption on the drive. You can try an anti-virus software to wipe out and remove any virus, malware or Trojan from your Mac computer and hard disk.

Solution 6: Run Mac diagnostics to detect hardware issues

Apple Service Diagnostic is a set of diagnostic tools used by technicians to find faults. You can use it to isolate a possible hardware issue on your Mac. It also suggests solutions and helps you contact Apple Support for assistance.

Step 1: It is advised to disconnect all the external devices except keyboard, mouse and other useful devices.

Step 2: Reboot your Mac or you can power on your Mac if is power off.

Check Mac using Apple Diagnostics

Step 3: Press and hold D button on your keyboard. Hold the button until you would be asked to choose language.

Step 4: After selecting your language, it will display a progress bar stating "checking your mac".

Step 5: After completing the diagnostics, it will suggest you the solutions for the errors diagnosed.

Check Mac using Apple Diagnostics

Solution 7: Reset your Mac's NVRAM or PRAM

NVRAM is a small amount of memory that saves its stored data regardless if the power is on or off. If you experience issues related to these setting or others, resetting NVRAM might help. PRAM stores similar information and the steps for resetting NVRAM and PRAM are the same.

Step 1: Shut down or Reboot your Mac.

Step 2: Immediately press these four keys in a sequence i.e. command, option, P and R.

Step 3: Hold the keys for at least 20 seconds and after you hear the second chime, release the buttons.

Step 4: After releasing the keys, your Mac will restart and hopefully your drive will show up.

Solution 8: Reset the SMC on your Mac

If you have reset the NVRAM or PRAM, you've done it all, but your external hard drive is still behaving strangely. In certain circumstances, resetting SMC can be a solution. SMC, short for System Management Controller, is responsible for these and other lower-level functions on Intel-based Mac computers, particularly for power and hardware related troubles.

Reset SMC on modern Mac laptops with an internal non-removable battery:

This is how to reset SMC of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro Retina, or MacBook Pro's with an internal non-removable battery:

Step 1: Shutdown your MacBook Air/MacBook Pro.

Step 2: Connect the power adapter to the Mac.

Step 3: After your Mac shuts down, press Shift + Control + Option key combinations, then press the power button at the same time. Hold these keys and the power button for 10 seconds.

Step 4: Release all keys and the power button at the same time.

Step 5: Press the power button again to turn on your Mac.

The boot time after resetting a machines SMC can be a bit longer than usual, that is normal.

Solution 9: Ask for help from local technicians

If unfortunately, your external hard drive has some serious hardware problems, none of software can help you fix external hard drive not showing up in Disk Utility. The only solution is to send it to local repair center or replace it with a new one.

How to recover data when an external hard drive is not showing up in Disk Utility?

If you can't see this external hard drive in Disk Utility but find it showing up in any process above, you may have a chance to recover your data from this hard drive. The external hard drive might have been corrupted due to file system corruption or partition table lost. In this situation, all data on the external hard drive is so dangerous. It's high time to try lost data from the corrupted external hard drive.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is a free and professional data recovery software that recovers data from broken/corrupted external hard drives, hard disks, USB flash drives, SD cards, memory cards, etc. Even when your external hard drive is not showing up in Disk Utility or detected by Mac computers, this software may be possible to recognize the drive and get lost data back. It is compatible with macOS 10.15/10.14/10.13/10.12 and OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7.

Besides, iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery also recovers data from formatted external hard drives, recovers data when external hard drive is not mounting on Mac, recovers data from inaccessible external hard drives, recovers data from corrupted external hard drives, and recovers files deleted or lost from external hard drives, recover data when Mac computer won't boot/turn on, etc.

Simple steps to recover data from a corrupted external hard drive:

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery on your Mac computer.

Step 2: Correctly connect your external hard drive to your Mac and launch iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

Recover data from corrupted external hard drive with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 3: Choose the corrupted external hard drive and click "Next" button to let the software search for lost data on the selected drive.

Recover data from corrupted external hard drive with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 4: After a quick scan, all files will be presented in the left panel in the scanning results.

Step 5: Preview the searching results, choose files we need, and click "Recover" to get them back. iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery allows you to preview all file types that your Mac supports.

Recover data from corrupted external hard drive with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

Step 6: Have a check to ensure we have got all lost data back.


When an external hard drive is not detected/showing up in Disk Utility on Mac, most people would think this drive is dying. But indeed, you can find this hard drive some else parts of your Mac, and then verify and repair this external hard drive.

If your external hard drive is corrupted and won't show up in Disk Utility, the most important thing is to recover your important data from this drive to avoid further data loss. You can try a professional data recovery program like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery when your hard drive is corrupted due to virus attack, file system corruption, power failure, accidental deletion, reformatting and so on.

Hope you have solved the external hard drive not showing up in Mac Disk Utility issue successfully.


Juno is a technical expert @iBoysoft. She has over 5-year experience in data recovery/repair technology. She loves to write data recovery tips and tutorials.

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