USB flash Drive not Showing up on Mac? Find a Solution Here!

By Molly | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on February 5th, 2020 |

Summary: Here are the solutions to the USB flash drives not showing up/recognized on Mac issue. Most fixes are easy-to-perform and some probably need USB flash drive data recovery to prevent data loss.

Normally when you plug in a USB flash drive to your Mac's USB port, you will see it showing up on the desktop or in Finder. Sometimes however, the USB flash drive won't be mounted correctly, you have no access to the files stored on it. In this article, we will offer you 6 solutions to fix USB flash drive not showing up on macOS Catalina/Mojave/High Sierra as the table indicates, and if necessary, recover lost data from the not mounting USB flash drive.

Now, let's dive into details.

How to fix when the USB flash drive is not showing up on Mac?

Solution 1: Check if the USB flash drive is properly plugged in.

Jump drives are directly plugged into USB ports on Mac while SD cards and NM cards need card readers before you access them through USB ports. That in-between connections, actually, could be the first cause for USB flash sticks not showing up on Mac.

Then, How can you check if the USB flash drive is recognized by Mac or not?

It's easy to confirm that your Mac has already recognized the thumb drive when it is not showing up in the Finder or the desktop. Simply click the Apple logo at the upper left of your Mac > About this Mac > System report > USB, and then all your connected USB devices will show up with detailed information as the picture below.

USB flash drive shows up on Mac

If the pen drive is disconnected or not recognized by Mac due to hardware problems, you won't see it showing up under the USB Device Tree.

USB flash drive doesn't show up on Mac

In case it's the USB port, cable, or card reader that stops your USB drives working on the Mac, you'd better try these things before you proceed with other solutions.

  • Try to re-plug the USB flash drive to Mac and see if it shows up.
  • Sometimes, the Mac just is zoning out and fails to recognize the USB flash drive, or you didn’t plug the thumb drive into the USB port in a right way at the first time. So, hopefully, the USB flash drive would show up after a second try.
  • Try a second USB port to connect this pen drive.
  • Most computers, including PC and Mac, have multiple USB ports. And some of these USB ports may be deformed, lack of power, or dusty. In this case, simply try another USB port to connect this USB flash drive to your Mac.
  • connect the USB flash drive to a second USB port.
  • Try to connect the USB flash drive directly to your computer, not via USB-C adapter or USB hub.
  • Some models of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air has only one USB 3.0 port, which causes the requirement of an additional USB adapter for more hubs. Inevitably, such transition could be unstable for power supply and data transferring, especially when you bought some cheap and low-quality adapter. Thus, try to connect the pen drive directly to the USB port on your Mac this time.
  • Do not plug the unrecognied USB flash drive into USB adapter.
  • Try another USB cable or a newer card reader.
  • Occasionally, you have used the same USB cable or SD card reader for years, which means the cable might broken or the card reader is out of date and some new features are not supported by the old card reader. As a result, the USB flash drive or the SD card is not showing up on Mac. Under this circumstance, simply get a new one and replace it.
  • Check the type of your USB flash drive by color.
  • Usually, the USB 1.0 features a white plastic color, while USB 2.0 is black, and the USB 3.0 is blue.USB 3.0 is usually a blue USB inserts. But all USB ports on Mac computers that support USB 3 don't have blue inserts. In this case, if you connect a USB 2.0 flash device to USB 3.0 slot on Mac, the speed will only reach that of the USB 2.0. As a result, the data transfer rate of the thumb drive would be lowered and the thumb drive won't work optimally.
  • different USB port colors.

Solution 2: Make sure your Mac is set to show up USB flash drive on the desktop.

Occasionally, your Mac has already recognized the USB flash drive but not shown it on the desktop. Thus, you should go to Finder > Preferences > General and make sure the "External disks" option is ticked. Then you'll see the USB flash drive showing up on Mac desktop.

Show external disk on the Desktop

Solution 3: Make sure your Mac is set to show up USB flash drive in the Finder.

Go to Finder > Preferences, select Sidebar, and under Locations make sure "External disks" option is selected again.

Show external disk in the Finder

Solution 4: Verify if it is the USB flash drive's issue.

If the USB flash drive shows up in the Finder, click on it. Can you see the contents of the USB flash drive shown up? If it merely shows the device but you can't access the files, probably the USB flash drive is the issue.

To further confirm, go to Applications > Disk Utility. If the USB flash drive isn't showing up there, you can be sure the drive is corrupted or damaged.

Solution 5: Reformat the not showing up USB flash drive and without data loss

If external drives not showing up on Mac is caused by disk corruption, then the only solution under this circumstance is to reformat the drive. However, reformatting the USB flash drive will erase all the files stored on it before assigning a new file system to your drive. In order to avoid unwanted data loss, it's necessary to recover lost data from the not showing up USB flash drive in advance.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is trustworthy and professional USB data recovery software that can recover lost data from unrecognized USB flash drives, unreadable USB flash drives, and unmountable USB flash drives. Besides data recovery from USB flash drives. It also can recover files from external hard drives, SD cards, Pen drives, CF cards, memory cards, etc. This all-in-one data recovery software works with macOS 10.15/10.14/10.13/10.12 and OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8/10.7.

Tips: If you have mistakenly erased the USB flash drive before you read this post, don't worry, iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can also help you recover lost data from formatted drives with ease.

Before you fix USB flash drive not showing up on Mac problem by reformatting, you need 4 steps to recover lost data from the corrupted USB flash drive.

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

You can't access your data when the USB flash drive is not showing up on Mac due to disk corruption. But with the assistance of iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery, you can easily access our files and get them off the drive. So simply download and launch this software on your Mac.

Step 2: Setup the data recovery software for your USB flash drive.

After making sure the USB stick is properly connected to your Mac, hopefully, the USB drive will show up when you launch this software. You can click on the gears icon at the upper left for preference setup, and then check all "Scan by" options. This will make it easier to find your lost photos, documents, Word files, videos, etc. on the USB drive.

setup before recover lost data from the USB flash drive

Step 3: Scan for lost data on the unrecognized USB flash drive.

After setting how the software scans for lost files, you can go ahead to put it into practice by selecting the not showing up USB flash drive and clicking on the "Scan" button.

select the unrecognized USB flash drive

Step 4: Check files' condition before you recover them from the unrecognized USB flash drive.

Once the searching process is finished, you can filter the scanning results and find files you want to get back. To ensure those files are in good condition in the corrupted USB stick, you can click to preview them before you finally click the "Recover" button.

Preview files before recover lost data from not showing up USB flash drive

Tips: If you are using a USB flash drive for iPhone that is compatible with both iOS and macOS, and now the USB side for Mac is not working, you can get files off the thumb drive by copying files to your iPhone and then send them to your Mac online.

After you successfully recover lost data from the unrecognized USB flash drive, you can follow these steps to reformat the USB drive without data loss.

Step 1: Go to Utilities and open Disk Utility.

Step 2: Select the not showing up USB flash drive in Disk Utility sidebar.

Step 3: Click Erase on the top.

Step 4: Finish the necessary information (name, format, and scheme) to format the USB flash drive.

After the process finished, the USB flash drive will show up on Mac correctly.

Solution 6: Ask for help from data recovery service

If the USB flash drive is not even showing up in Disk Utility, it might be damaged physically. If you don' have any important data, you can simply replace the damaged USB drive with a new one. But if you have anything important, you'd better stop using it and take it to specialists or send it to a local data recovery service for help.

Bonus tips for using USB flash drives

The USB flash drive, pen drive, jump drive, or whatever you call it, is convenient but also fragile to store data based on its special memory units and shape. Then, how can we protect it from corruption and not showing up on Mac?

You may need these tips:

  • Don't put USB flash drives in the pockets of your pants of T-shirt, especially, when it's naked. This could keep your drive away from moisture from your body and dust on your clothes. More importantly, it can avoid accident break off when you sit down or bump into something.
  • Don't unsafely eject the USB flash drive. Even though it's inevitable for portable drives to be plugged and unplugged frequently, you can make sure you eject it safely and properly every single time.
  • Create a backup of your data. Although you have been taking good care of your USB flash drive, you should know that it has a limited life span. Therefore, to avoid unexpected data loss, you'd better do a regular backup of your files.


Molly is an editor @iBoysoft who frequently shares useful tutorials about data recovery for Windows and Mac.