Can't See External Hard Drive Showing up on Mac, What to do?

By Katrina | Posted to Mac Data Recovery Tips, updated on June 1st, 2020 | User rating:

Summary: About why is external hard drive not showing up on Mac and how to fix this issue to access the external drive on Mac. To prevent unnecessary data loss, you can free download iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac in macOS Catalina/Mojave/High Sierra and get data off first.

Probably, you connect an external hard drive to Mac but it is not showing up. Don't panic! You can troubleshoot and fix the external hard drive not showing up Mac issue. Don't know where to start? We are here to help.

Take it easy and follow our guide to check the connections, macOS settings, and imperatively, the external hard drive itself. Then, the external hard drive will show up on Mac again.

First of all, let's see why hard drives not working or showing up.

Why is the External Hard Drive Not Showing up on Mac?

Most of the time, Mac not recognizing external hard drives is because of the hard drive corruption and faulty connections. But other factors can make external hard drive invisible on Mac as well.

The causes for external hard drives, USB pen drives, and SD cards not showing up on Mac vary from case to case. Namely, they are:

  • The USB cable is broken.
  • The USB port is malfunctioned.
  • The USB adapter is not working properly.
  • The external hard drive is not formatted incorrectly.
  • The hardware and software like disk driver need an update.
  • The file system of the external hard drive is corrupted.

As a result, you plug the external hard drive into your Mac but nothing happens. It looks like that Mac is not reading your external hard drive. The hard drive won't appear on the desktop or in the Finder. But this doesn't necessarily mean your Mac not recognizing the hard drive.

Guide to Fix External Hard Dive Not Showing up on Mac

Then what do you do if your external hard drive is not detected by Mac? To find and access this external hard drive on your Mac, simply follow our step-by-step guide.

1. Check the Connections of the External Hard Drive

External hard drives like Buffalo Ministation, WD, Samsung, Seagate, and Lacie are connected to Mac using USB cables and ports. But if the connection fails, your external drive won't show up on Mac.

So, if Mac not seeing your external hard drive, check if the external hard drive is properly connected by the following steps.

Step 1: Check the power connections

External hard drive requires electricity to light up, spin, and transfer data. So, if the external hard drive is lack of power, it won't show up on Mac. You can do these things to check the power supply.

  • 1. For Desktop external hard drives like Seagate Backup plus and WD Elements Desktop, make sure the external hard drive is externally connected to a power socket.
  • external hard drive not showing up due to lack of power
  • 2. For portable USB external hard drives, make sure the USB port is not wobbly, dusty, loose, or deformed. If the USB port won't work and can't supply with enough power, you can try another USB port.
  • show external hard drive on Mac with proper USB connections

If you are working on MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models, two things to notice.

  • 1. First, make sure your Mac is not in a low power mode. External hard drives can't work if there is no enough power in the USB port.
  • Show Thunderbolt external drives for Mac on MacBook Air
  • 2. Then, make sure the USB hub and USB-C adapter work if your Mac uses Thunderbolt 3 port. Though an authentic USB Type C adapter is better, it lesses problem if you connect the Thunderbolt portable hard drive for Mac directly to your Mac.

Step 2: Check the other connections

Sometimes, the external hard drive like a Seagate hard drive is not recognized by Mac. Then, you need to check the other parts of connections as well, especially when your external hard drive lights on but is not detected or showing up on Mac.

  • Check if the wire of the external hard drive is broken.
  • Try to connect it to another Mac or even a PC. Possibly, it's just an incompatible USB driver that stops your removable hard drive working.
  • Check the USB port on hard drive enclosure case. Sometimes, the external drive is not showing up due to a problematic SATA connection. So if necessary, you can ask help from specialists to open the external hard drive case and have a check.

After checking the connections, you can see if the second hard drive is detected by your Mac.

2. Check Application That's Incompatible with the External Hard Drive

Chances are that some programs are stopping your external hard drive being loaded. Those incompatible programs could be the USB security app, encryption program, or any antivirus software that you installed recently. In this case, you can try to reboot your Mac in Safe mode, which only runs essential macOS items.

  1. Step 1: Restart your Mac (some Mac computers play a startup sound).
  2. Step 2: Immediately press and hold the Shift key, and then release the Shift key when you see the progress indicator.
  3. Step 3: After the restart, reconnect your external hard drive to the Mac and see if it is recognized. If the external hard drive is recognized by macOS in Safe mode, you should start your Mac in normal mode and then uninstall the suspicious programs that you download recently.

3. Check if the Mac is Set to Show Connected External Drives

Sometimes, the external hard drive is not showing up because your Mac is not set to. If you can't see the external hard drive on Mac, you can get Finder to locate the external hard drive. To make external HDD show up on the desktop and in the Finder of macOS Catalina, Mojave, or earlier, the following steps would be helpful.

  1. Show the external hard drive on the desktop: Go to Finder > Preferences > General tab and select "External disks" to make external hard drives show on the desktop.
  2. Show external hard drive on Mac's desktop
  3. Show external hard drives in Finder: Go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and make sure the "External disks" under "Locations" is ticked. Then your external hard drive will appear in Finder.
  4. Show external hard drive in Finder

4. Access the External Hard Drive by /Volumes/ Folder

If the external hard drive is not showing up on Mac still, where else you can find the hard drive? In fact, you can try your luck by checking the /Volumes/ folder. Most of the time, Mac will show connected and mounted volumes there.

  1. Step 1: Launch Finder and click Go in the top menu bar > Go to folder.
  2. Step 2: Then type /Volume/ and hit Enter.
  3. Step 3: Then you can see the volumes folder that lists all mounted drives and disk images. If your external hard drive is listed, access the hard drive and get to your files there directly.
  4. Find external hard drive on Mac by accessing Volume folder

5. Check Whether the External HDD Can be Found in Disk Utility

To make sure whether your external hard drive is detected by macOS, you can go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility and check if Mac is picking up the external hard drive.

Note: If your external fusion drive is not showing up on Mac, you can check if it is recognized as two separate drives by macOS in Disk Utility also.

There are two possible circumstances:

Let's take a look at what we can do if the external hard drive is showing up in Disk Utility.

Step 1: Check if the external hard drive is mounted in Disk Utility

If the external hard drive can be found in Disk Utility, it means that your external hard drive is detected by your Mac. But since you can't see and open your hard drive as usual, we need to confirm more information displayed in Disk Utility.

  1. 1. Expand the View option and choose Show All Devices.
  2. 2. Find and select the external hard drive that is not showing up on your Mac.
  3. 3. Choose Mount at the top menu bar.

You may see no partition showing up in Disk Utility but the manufacturer's name like WD and Seagate. This means the partition table (A unit of data describing the partition information on the hard disk) is damaged or lost. As a result, macOS is unable to recognize the external hard drive. In this situation, you're advised to recover important data with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac first, and then reformat this hard drive.

Step 2: Check if the file system of the external hard drive is recognizable

The file system manages how and where data on a storage disk is stored, accessed and managed. So it's crucial to make sure that the file system is not corrupted and it is doing a good job.

To check the file system in Disk Utility: simply select the drive you want to check, and then the disk information, including file system and storage capacity, would be displayed at right.

You could see one of the 4 possible circumstances:

First: The file system of the external HDD is corrupted

The file system could be damaged due to improper ejection or bad sectors. As a result, the disk information is not displayed correctly. And you are unable to mount this external hard drive on Mac. To repair this corrupted external hard drive, First Aid on your Mac is a great disk repair tool to use.

  1. 1. Launch Disk Utility.
  2. 2. Choose the grayed out external hard drive from the left sidebar.
  3. 3. Click the First Aid button on the top and then choose Run to confirm this operation.
  4. Repair not recognized external hard drives in Disk Utility

If Mac is unable to recognize the external hard drive still or First Aid failed to repair the external hard drive, the file system or some core data is too corrupted to be repaired by First Aid. Here are some error reports you might receive from Disk Utility:

In this case, you have to reformat it to assign a new file system to this hard drive. However, as it was pointed out before, reformatting will clean the external hard drive and erase your data on this drive. If you don't have any backup and don't want to lose the data, you are advised to recover files from the corrupted external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is powerful in hard drive data recovery, especially when your Macintosh hard drive or external hard drive is not recognized on Mac. It helps you recover lost data from unreadable, unmountable, corrupted, and formatted drives. Except for hard drives, this data recovery software also works with USB flash drives, memory cards, SD cards, pen drives, CF cards, etc.

To recover lost data and reformat the corrupted external hard drive:

  1. 1. Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on Mac.
  2. When external hard drive is not showing up normally on Mac due to disk corruption, the data on the drive becomes a great concern. To recover and access your files on the unrecognized external hard drive, iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is a handy tool to help.
  3. 2. Scan for lost data on the external hard drive.
  4. After launching this program, check if you can see the unrecognizable/corrupted external hard drive is listed in the main interface. If you can see it, click on Scan to search for your files on this external hard drive. If not, you need to send it to data recovery lab.
  5. Recover lost data from not showing up external hard drive on Mac
  6. 3. Preview the searching results, choose files you need, and click Recover to get them back.
  7. When you can't open the external hard drive and access files normally on your Mac, you can use the Preview feature of iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to see your files. It helps to make sure that your documents, photos, music files, videos, and emails are in good condition.
  8. Access and view data in not showing up external hard drive in macOS Mojave
  9. 4. Launch Disk Utility and locate the external hard drive from the left sidebar of the window.
  10. 5. Select this unrecognizable external hard drive and click the Erase button.
  11. 6. Complete the related information (name, format, scheme), then click Erase to reformat the problematic external hard drives in Disk Utility.

Second: The external HDD is APFS formatted

If your Mac uses macOS 10.12 or earlier but external hard drive is APFS formatted, you are advised to update your macOS so that it can work with the latest file systems, software, as well as some firmware relating to USB peripherals and devices.

To update macOS, you can:

  1. 1. Right-click the Apple logo at top right, and then choose System Preferences.
  2. 2. Find and open Software Update to check for new macOS update.
  3. 3. Back up your important files and follow the wizard to update your operating system.

Third: The external hard drive is Read-only Windows NTFS formatted

Even though Mac can recognize NTFS drive, you can only read NTFS without write permission. And some times, the external hard drive will not work properly. In this case, do not force the external HDD to mount in read-write mode with "LABEL=NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse" in Terminal. Changing 'fstab' is risky and unstable.

Instead, you have two other options:

  • If you need to use this NTFS external hard drive both for Mac and PC, you can install an NTFS for Mac program to fix this issue without reformatting.
  • If the external hard drive is used only for Mac, you can back up your important files and then reformat it to a compatible file system like HFS, FAT32 or exFAT.

Fourth: The external hard drive is formatted with unrecognizable file system

Mac can't recognize non-native file systems. So, other file systems like Linux EXT3 and EXT4 would not be readable by Mac. In this case, the only solution is to reformat it to make it compatible with your Mac.

Warning: Any operation relating to "Erase" and "Format" would wipe files off your storage devices. So make sure you have a copy of the data, or you can recover files from this external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

The solutions above are prepared for external hard drive showing up in Disk Utility on Mac.

6. Check and Fix Hardware Information of the External Hard Drive

Nevertheless, what if the external hard drive is not showing up in Disk Utility at all? It should be some hardware problems that stop the external hard drive showing up on Mac. Don't worry! You can check and repair those problems with the following solutions.

Step 1: Find invisible external hard drive in System Information

If the external hard drive doesn't show up in Disk Utility, you can check if the Mac has detected and recognized its hardware information in System Information: Go to Applications > Utilities > System Information > USB, and then check the external hard drive information.

Check not showing up external drive in System Information

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

  1. 1. Click the Launchpad and find the Other folder. Find and open Activity Monitor there.
  2. 2. Type and search if there is any process named "fsck_hfs" or something similar. (If your external hard drive is exFAT formatted, then it should be "fsck_exfat".)
  3. 3. 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.

If the parameters of the external hard drive are not recognized correctly or even not recognized, you can move forward.

Step 2: Reset your Mac's NVRAM

NVRAM is helpful to retain the information while power is turned off. If you experience issues related to these settings or others, resetting NVRAM might be helpful to get your Mac to recognize the external hard drive.

  1. 1. Shut down or reboot your Mac.
  2. 2. Immediately press these four keys in a sequence: Command + Option + P + R.
  3. 3. Hold the keys for at least 20 seconds and after you hear the second chime, release the buttons.
  4. 4. After releasing the keys, your Mac will restart and hopefully your drive will show up.

Step 3: Reset the SMC on your Mac

In certain circumstances, resetting SMC can be a solution because SMC is responsible for lower-level functions like power and hardware.

Note: The method of resetting SMC is varied from models to models, so check and know how to reset the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac.

Let's take resetting SMC of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro Retina, or MacBook Pro's with an internal non-removable battery as an example:

  1. 1. Shut down your MacBook Air/MacBook Pro.
  2. 2. Connect the power adapter to the Mac.
  3. 3. After your Mac shuts down, press Shift + Control + Option on the left side of the built-in keyboard, then press the power button at the same time. Hold these keys and the power button for 10 seconds.
  4. 4. Release all keys and the power button at the same time. Then press the power button again to turn on your Mac, which would take a little time.

Step 4: 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 confirm or deny your suspicions. If the external hard drive has been physically damaged, you have to send it to local disk repair center.

  1. 1. It is advised to disconnect all the external devices except keyboard, mouse and other useful devices.
  2. 2. Reboot your Mac or you can power on your Mac if it powers off.
  3. 3. Press and hold D button on your keyboard. Hold the button until you would be asked to choose the language.
  4. 4. After selecting your language, it will display a progress bar stating Checking your mac.
  5. Check Mac using Apple Diagnostics
  6. 5. After completing the diagnostics, it will suggest you the solutions for the errors diagnosed.
  7. Check Mac using Apple Diagnostics

To sum up

It's relatively complicated to check out why is an external hard drive not showing up/recognized/detected by macOS. If you worry about data loss in this process, you can recover all important data from the external hard drive first with the assistance of iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac.

Moreover, to prevent an external hard drive not showing up issue, it's advised to properly eject or connect your external drives at any time. Besides, always backing up critical files on another drive or in the cloud would help a lot.

 

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Indiana

I didn't realise I had to pay close to $100 to retrieve my data on the iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac. If there is a free version please advise.

2020-07-05 18:57:29

Alexander reply to Indiana:

They do have a free trial version, dude. Here: https://iboysoft.com/download/ but it is with a 1GB limit. Sorry for you. My suggestion is if the data the drive really means to you, well, $100 is worth it. Or else, get a new hard drive maybe work for you.

2020-07-30 01:29:58

Kenneth

Hi Katrina, I tried all the above method but none have seem to resolve my issue. I was googling and they mentioned about using the cmd : "sudo nano /etc/fstab" then onwards to " LABEL=NAME none ntfs rw,auto,nobrowse", and now i can't see my hard disk anymore. Please help!

2020-06-14 02:21:43

Nicole reply to Kenneth:

Hi Kenneth, I feel you. I have met the same issue year ago. My geeky friend told me that "/etc/fstable" is a command to map the disk file system or something like that (sorry I can't recall the name). It's used to tell how to mount your disk. "rw" means mounting your "NTFS" disk on Mac in read-write mode. However, the "nobrowse" results in that you can't see the disk in Finder. "rw" and "nobrowse" is a catch 22. So, you can check if you can see the disk in Disk Utility or in /Volumes/ folder. And if you need read and write to NTFS drive on Mac, their product iBoysoft NTFS for Mac would help.

2020-07-10 02:34:41

Lisa

This website is extremely helpful and guides you through each step of the way in a very clear and polite way! In times of freak out, it's good to get walked through what you have to do to fix the problem, so thank you for that :)

2020-05-30 12:15:18