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

Updated on Thursday, January 12, 2023

iBoysoft author Anna Yuan

Written by

Anna Yuan
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

Is Your External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac? How to Fix It!

Summary: This article explores how to fix an external hard drive that is not showing up on Mac Ventura, Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or earlier Apple OS versions. In addition, you can free download iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to recover your files from the unrecognized external disk.

fix external hard drive 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 a Finder window. Suddenly, your connected external hard drive isn't showing up on your Mac, even on your newly installed macOS 13 Ventura. Why?

Take it easy and follow our guide to understand the underlying reasons, how to verify connections, adjust macOS settings, and deal with the external hard disk itself. Then, the external hard drive should show up on your Mac again.

Table of Contents:

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Why is my external hard drive not showing up on Mac

Most of the time, a Mac won't recognize external hard drives because the external drive may be corrupted,  or possibly due to faulty connections. However, other factors can make external hard drives invisible on your 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 malfunctioned.
  • The USB adapter is not working properly.
  • The external hard disk is formatted in an incompatible manner.
  • Hardware and software such as the driver for the external need an update.
  • The file system of the external hard drive is corrupted.

As a result of any of the above, you may plug the external hard drive into your Mac but nothing happens. It appears that your Mac is not reading your external hard drive. You can't find the external drive on your Mac's desktop or in the Finder window. But none of this necessarily means that your Mac won't be able to recognize the external hard drive. Move forward.

Can't find external drive on Mac, what to do

How to fix the issue of when an external hard drive is not showing up on your Mac:

  1. Check the connections
  2. Check your Finder Preferences
  3. Boot into Mac Safe Mode
  4. Check the drive in Disk Utility

As mentioned earlier, sometimes, a hard drive not showing up on Mac is caused by an unrecognized file system. Or, it is triggered by your hidden settings. If you don't know where to start, just follow the step-by-step guide below to find and access an external hard drive on your Mac.

Fix 1: Check the connections of the external hard drive

External hard drives like the 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 in macOS Monterey or any other OS for that matter.

Therefore, if you can't find the external drive on your Mac, check to see if the external hard disk is properly connected with the following steps:

1. Restart your Mac and reconnect the external drive slowly and deliberately 

Maybe there are no problems with the USB cables and ports. A temporary bug or slow reaction of the operating system can prevent the external drive from showing up on your Mac.  Sometimes, the disk may be checked by the OS prior to mounting fully.

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

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

  • 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 with its provided power adaptor.               
    external hard drive not showing up due to lack of power
  • For portable USB external hard drives, make sure the USB ports are not wobbly, dusty, loose, or deformed since dirty or loosely connected USB ports can create a short circuit and lead to external hard drives not showing up on your Mac. If one USB port won't work and can't supply enough power, you can try a different USB port as they can individually fail.   
    show the external hard drive on Mac with proper USB connections

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

make sure your Mac is not in low-power mode. External hard drives can't work correctly if there is not enough power being supplied to the USB ports.

Show Thunderbolt external drives for Mac on MacBook Air

Next, make sure the USB hub and USB-C adapter are working if your Mac uses Thunderbolt 3 ports. Though an authentic USB Type C adapter is better, it lessens problems if you connect the Thunderbolt portable hard drive for Mac directly to your Mac.

3. Try a different USB cable

A defective USB cable will block the external drive from establishing a normal connection with your Mac. You can try another compatible cable and reconnect your external hard disk.

4. Check the USB port

Maybe the Mac's USB port is damaged and the external drive such as a Seagate hard drive is not recognized by Mac. You can try to connect the external hard drive to another Mac's USB port as a comparison test.

Also, check the USB ports on the hard drive's case. Sometimes, the external drive is not showing up due to a problematic SATA connection. If necessary, you can ask for help from specialists to open the external hard drive case and have a look.

5. Send the external drive for repair

Connect a different external hard drive to your MacBook, Mac mini, or whatever model you have. If it can show up and work on your Mac, it indicates the external hard drive that's not showing up on Mac is defective. You can send it to your local repair center in most cases for an upfront quote.

Moreover, some Mac users have said that an external hard drive can't be detected after installing macOS 12 Monterey. You can update the drivers and software in the App store but, in most cases, you will need to ask Apple for help via their official site.

Fix 2: Edit your preferences to display external drives

Sometimes, the external hard drive is not showing up because your Mac is not set up to do so. If you can't find an external drive on Mac, you can get Finder to reveal the external hard drive.

To make an external HDD show up on the desktop and in the Finder window of macOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, or earlier, the following steps will 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

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 a Finder window.    
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, and install our data recovery app on your Mac, and then check if your external hard drive is showing up within the data recovery app.

Step 4: If your external hard drive is showing up in the recovery app, follow the wizard to recover data and then format an external hard drive after the data recovery is complete.               
If your external hard drive is not showing up even within our recovery environment then send it to an expert for evaluation after exhausting any possible solutions below.

If these steps and software help you out of trouble, why don't you share them to help others?


Fix 3: Boot your Mac in Safe Mode

Chances are that some programs are preventing your external hard drive from being mounted to your Mac. Those incompatible programs could be a USB security app, encryption program, or any antivirus software that you installed recently. In this case, you can try to boot into Mac 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 disk 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 installed recently.

Fix 4: 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 still can't find the external drive on your Mac Finder window, go to Disk Utility.

Disk Utility can reveal 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 macOS Monterey is is detecting the partially mounted 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 as well.

Commonly, there are two possible scenarios within Disk Utility:

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

If the external disk 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 like usual, we need to do some remediation using Disk Utility..

1. Manually mount the external hard drive in Disk Utility

The external drive usually can be auto-mounted when it's connected to the Mac. But if the OS fails to mount it at that time, you can try to mount it manually 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 run First Aid in Disk Utility to see if it can be repaired.

2. Run First Aid to check the external hard drive

If this external hard drive is not mounting on Mac with Disk Utility's Mount action, the external drive may be corrupted or have some directory structure problems.

Regardless, you can run First Aid on it to check and then, ideally, repair the disk. This is also applicable when the external hard drive is slow on macOS Ventura.

  1. Open Disk Utility.
  2. Choose the grayed-out external disk from the left sidebar.
  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 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 other core data is too corrupt to be repaired by First Aid. Here are some error reports you might receive after running First Aid in Disk Utility:

In this case, you have to reformat it to write a fresh file system to the drive to fix the issue of when an external hard drive is not showing up on Mac Monterey.  Just remember to first recover any critical data from it as reformatting a drive does wipe all previous data off of it!

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

However, as mentioned above, reformatting will clean the external hard drive and erase all the data stored 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 a powerful tool for hard drive data recovery, sd card recovery, and USB drive recovery. It's also capable of recovering lost data from unreadable, unmountable, corrupted, and formatted drives.

To recover 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.

install data recovery app

When an external hard drive is not showing up normally on Mac due to disk corruption, all the data stored on the drive becomes of great concern. To access an external hard drive on Mac and recover your files from it, iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac is a handy and helpful tool.

Step 2: Scan for lost data on the external hard drive.

After launching the program, check if you can see the unrecognizable/corrupted external hard drive listed in the main interface. If you can see it, select it and click on Search for Lost Data to search for your files on the hard drive. If the drive doesn't appear at all within the recovery program then you will need to send it to a data recovery lab.               

scan external disk

Step 3: Sort scanned files by different parameters, preview the searching results, choose the files you need and click Recover to get them back.

When you can't open the external disk 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 confirm that your documents, photos, music files, videos, and emails are in good condition. 

preview scanned files             

Step 4: After successful recovery, open Disk Utility and locate the external hard drive from the left sidebar of the window.

Step 5: Select this unmountable external disk and click the Erase button.

Step 6: Complete the related information (name, format, scheme), if you want to make sure your drive is compatible with Windows PC and Mac, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is probably the best option. Then click Erase to reformat the problematic external hard drives in Disk Utility.

Case 2: The external hard 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. Search in Activity Monitor to see 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 X button at the upper left to force quit 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 at all, the external disk drive is damaged. You can go to a local repair center for help.

2. Reset NVRAM & SMC

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

Reset your Mac's NVRAM

NVRAM function is to retain certain information while the power is turned off on your computer. If you experience issues related to these retained settings, 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 System Management Controller (SMC) is responsible for lower-level functions like power and hardware.

 Note: The method of resetting SMC is varied on different Mac models, so check and know how to reset the SMC on your Mac.

Let's take resetting the SMC of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro Retina, or MacBook Pro 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.

3. Update software

If your Mac uses macOS 10.12 or earlier but the external hard drive is APFS (Apple File System) formatted, this could result in Mac not recognizing an external hard drive. 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 should:

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

4. 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. It is advised to disconnect all the external devices except the keyboard, mouse, and other useful devices before starting running Apple Diagnostics. If the external disk drive has been physically damaged, you have to send it to the local disk repair center.

  1. Reboot your Mac or you can power on your Mac if it powers off.
  2. Press and hold the D button on your keyboard. Hold the button until you would be asked to choose the language.
  3. After selecting your language, it will display a progress bar stating Checking your mac.               
    starting checking Mac with Apple Diagnostics
  4. After completing the diagnostics, it will give you some possible solutions for the errors diagnosed.               
    Apple Diagnostics results regarding this Mac

If you think the above information to fix the external hard drive not showing up on Mac is too much to deal with, alternatively, you can watch this video to fix the external SSD not showing up on Mac issue. Some users find this video more direct and intuitive than a dry text tutorial.

 Fix External Hard Drive Not Showing up on Mac 

Problem solved? Then share the solutions to help more people!


Final thoughts about the external hard drive not showing up on Mac

It's relatively complicated to determine why an external hard drive is not showing up, recognized, or detected by macOS. If you are worried about data loss during 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 on macOS, it's advised to properly eject your external drives on Mac every time. Finally, always backing up critical files on another drive or in the cloud can eliminate the need for recovery procedures at all.

FAQs regarding the external hard drive not showing up on 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.


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.