External Hard Drive Not Showing up on Mac, How to Open It?

By Katrina | Posted to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips, updated on November 22nd, 2021 | User rating:

Summary: About how to fix the external hard drive not showing up on Mac. Usually, a drive that's not showing up because it's corrupted. You can free download iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to recover your files from the corrupted drive.

external hard drive is not showing up on Mac

Usually, when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, it will show up on the desktop or at least in Finder. But this time, the connected external hard drive isn't showing up on Mac, even on your newly installed macOS 12 Monterey. Why?

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

Table of Contents:

Can't see external hard drive showing up on Mac, what to do?

Sometimes, an hard drives not working or showing up on your Mac because it's not recognized by the system. But sometimes, it is due to your hidden settings.

Don't know where to start? We are here to help. You can follow our step-by-step guide to find and access the external hard drive on your Mac.

Or, you can watch this video to fix the external HDD/SSD that isn't showing up on your Mac. It is more intuitive.

Edit your preferences to display 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 Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or earlier, the following steps would be helpful.

  • Step 1: Go to Finder > Preferences > General tab and select "External disks" to make external hard drives show on the desktop.
  • Show external hard drive on Mac's desktop
  • Step 2: Go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and make sure the "External disks" under "Locations" is ticked. Then your external hard drive will appear in Finder.
  • Show external hard drive in Finder
  • Step 3: Go to Desktop/Finder and check if your external hard drive is showing up. If not, download, install iBoysoft Data Recovery on your Mac and then check if your external hard drive is showing up in iBoysoft Data Recovery.
  • Step 4: If your external hard drive is showing up in iBoysoft Data Recovery, follow the wizard to recover data and then format external hard drive.
    If your external hard drive is not showing up in iBoysoft Data Recovery either, send it to an expert for reparation.

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 be recognized by your Mac.

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

1. Restart Mac and replug the external drive in slowly

Perhaps, there are no problems with the USB cables and ports. The temporary bug or slow reaction of the operating system can prevent the external drive from being detected by your Mac.

You can unplug the external drive and wait a moment. Then, restart your Mac and slowly replug the external drive into your Mac to check if it shows up in your Finder this time. If still not, try the next solution.

2. Ensure the drive cable has sufficient power

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.
  2. external hard drive not showing up due to lack of power
  3. 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.

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

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.

3. Change a USB cable

The broken USB cable will block the external drive from establishing connections with your Mac. You can try to change a compatile cable and replug your external hard drive.

4. Check the USB port

Maybe the USB port on your Mac is damaged. So, the external hard drive like a Seagate hard drive is not recognized by Mac. You can try to connect the external hard drive to another Mac USB port.

Besides, check the USB port on the 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.

5. Send the external drive for repair

Connect another external hard drive to your MacBook, Mac mini, or so. If it can show up and work on your Mac, it indicates the external hard drive that’s not showing up on Mac is already damaged. You can send it to a local repair center.

Moreover, some Mac users said that the external hard drive can't be detected after installing macOS 12 Monterey. You can update the drivers in App store. But in most cases, you need to ask Apple's developer for help from their official site.

Boot your Mac in Safe Mode

Chances are that some programs are stopping your external hard drive being loaded on Mac. 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. Restart your Mac (some Mac computers play a startup sound).
  • 2. Immediately press and hold the Shift key, and then release the Shift key when you see the progress indicator.
  • 3. After the restart, reconnect your external hard drive to the Mac and see if it is detected.
  • 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.

Check if the external drive is showing up in Disk Utility

If you've tried the above ways to check and fix the connection issues but the external drive still doesn't appear in Finder, go to Disk Utility.

Disk Utility can show up all the macOS-detected internal and external hard drives on your Mac, even if it has some minor problems. You can open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility to check if Mac is picking up the external 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.

Commonly, there are two possible circumstances:

  1. The external drive is showing up in Disk Utility but is greyed out (labels Not Mounted).
  2. The external hard drive doesn't show up in Disk Utility.

Case 1: The external drive shows up in Disk Utility but not mounted

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 do some fixes in Disk Utility.

1. Manually mount the external hard drive in Disk Utility

The external drive ususally can be auto-mounted when it's connected to the Mac. But if the OS fail to mount it at that time, you can try to mount it by hand in Disk Utility.

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

After the drive is mounted, you can go to Finder to access it. Sometimes, you may see no partition showing up in Disk Utility but only the manufacturer's name like WD and Seagate appears.

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.

2. Run First Aid to check the external hard drive

If you are even unable to mount this external hard drive on Mac with Disk Utility's Mount feature, the external drive may be corrupted or have some directory structure problems.

Whatever, you can run First Aid to check and repair the external hard drive.

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

3. Reformat of your external hard drive

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:

  1. file system check exit code is 8
  2. fsroot tree is invalid
  3. APFS object map is invalid

In this case, you have to reformat it to assign a new file system to this drive.

Besides, if the external hard drive is formatted with unrecognizable file system, like Linux EXT3 and EXT4, the only solution is to reformat it to make it compatible with your Mac.

However, as it mentioned before, reformatting will clean the external hard drive and erase all data on it. If you don't have any backup and fear losing the data, recover files from the corrupted external hard drive with iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac first.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery 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:

  • Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on Mac, and then restart the computer.
  • 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.
  • Step 2: Scan for lost data on the external hard drive.
  • 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.
  • Recover lost data from not showing up external hard drive on Mac
  • Step 3: Preview the searching results, choose files you need, and click Recover to get them back.
  • 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.
  • Access and view data in not showing up external hard drive in macOS Mojave
  • Step 4: Launch Disk Utility and locate the external hard drive from the left sidebar of the window.
  • Step 5: Select this unrecognizable external hard drive and click the Erase button.
  • Step 6: Complete the related information (name, format, scheme), then click Erase to reformat the problematic external hard drives in Disk Utility.

Case 2: The external drive not showing up in Disk Utility

1. Force quit fsck in Activity Monitor

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 in the Mac Task Manager - Activity Monitor.

  • 1. Click the Launchpad and find the Other folder. Find and open Activity Monitor there.
  • 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. 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, the external hard drive is damaged. You can go to a local repair center for some help.

2. Reset NVRAM & SMC

Nevertheless, what if the external hard drive is not showing up in Mac's 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.

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

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. Shut down your MacBook Air/MacBook Pro.
  • 2. Connect the power adapter to the Mac.
  • 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. 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.

4. Update software

If your Mac uses macOS 10.12 or earlier but external hard drive is APFS formatted, the external drive can't be recognized by your Mac. You are advised to update your macOS. Then, your Mac can work with the latest file systems, software, and some firmware relating to USB peripherals and devices.

To update macOS, you can:

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

5. Run Mac diagnostics to detect hardware issues

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

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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.

To sum up

It's relatively complicated to check out why is an external hard drive not showing up, recognized, or 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.

FAQs about external hard drive not showing up on Mac

1. How do I get my hard drive to show up on my Mac?

First, you need to open Finder. Move to the top menu bar and click Finder > Preferences. Then, tick on the External disks option under the General tab on the Finder Preferences window.

2. What do I do when my external hard drive is not detected?

In the first place, you should check the connections, including the external hard drive, USB cable, and ports. Then, try to replug the external drive and restart your Mac, update the disk driver, check the disk format, reformat the external drive, or apply for a repair.

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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


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


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