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How to Fix an External Hard Drive Not Showing Up

How to Fix an External Hard Drive Not Showing Up

Experiencing an external hard drive not showing up on your computer can be frustrating, especially when you rely on it for storing important files. This common issue could result from various underlying problems, such as disk errors, incorrect drive formats, or even defective hardware. Fortunately, there are several methods you can follow to troubleshoot and potentially resolve the issue with ease. In this guide, I’ll share my personal experiences and the steps I took using various techniques, including utilizing the Disk Drill App, to address the problem effectively. Before diving into the specific methods, it’s important to know that there are many online resources to help you, including a Reddit post titled External hard drive isn’t showing up, which shares additional insights and solutions contributed by other users.


Common Scenarios:

When Connecting a New External Hard Drive for the First Time 🔌

  • The computer might not recognize the new external hard drive due to compatibility issues or lack of updated drivers.

Connecting a new external hard drive for the first time can be a thrilling experience. However, it can turn frustrating quickly if your computer doesn’t recognize it. Most frequently, this problem arises due to compatibility issues or out-of-date drivers.

When the External Hard Drive Has Worked Before 🖥

  • The drive may be corrupted or damaged, or it could result from software conflicts.

If your external hard drive has previously worked and suddenly stops being recognized, this can lead to worrying thoughts. In many cases, the issue may stem from corruption or damage to the drive or potential software conflicts on your computer.

When Connecting to Different Computers 💻

  • The external hard drive may not show up on multiple computers, indicating a potential problem with the drive itself.

Testing your external hard drive on different computers is a practical way to identify if the problem lies with the drive or a specific computer. If the drive fails to show up on multiple systems, it’s likely that the issue resides with the drive itself.


Step-by-Step Guide. External Hard Drive Not Showing Up:

Method 1: Checking the Connections 🔍

  • Ensure the USB cable is properly connected to both the external hard drive and your computer.
  • Try plugging the external hard drive into a different USB port on your computer.
  • Check for any visible damage to the cable or the hard drive’s port.
  • If possible, use a different USB cable to rule out any cable issues.

Note: Always use high-quality cables to avoid connectivity issues.

Conclusion: Confirming the effectiveness of your connections can resolve many recognition problems without further troubleshooting.

Method 2: Restarting Your Computer 🔄

  • Disconnect the external hard drive from your computer.
  • Restart your computer completely by shutting it down and turning it back on.
  • Once your computer has fully restarted, reconnect the external hard drive to check if it’s now recognized.
  • Repeat the process if the drive doesn’t show up on the first attempt.

Note: A simple restart can resolve many temporary glitches that prevent the drive from being recognized.

Conclusion: Restarting your computer can eliminate most software conflicts and refresh the system’s connection settings.

Method 3: Using Disk Management Tool 🛠

  • Right-click on the Start button and select ‘Disk Management’.
  • Look for your external hard drive in the Disk Management window.
  • If the drive is listed but not assigned a drive letter, right-click it and select ‘Change Drive Letter and Paths.’
  • Follow the prompts to assign a new drive letter.
  • Check if the external hard drive is now visible in File Explorer.

Note: Ensure you don’t format or delete the existing partitions unless absolutely necessary.

Conclusion: Managing drive letters can often make invisible drives accessible again.

Method 4: Updating Drivers 🔧

  • Open the Device Manager by right-clicking the Start button and selecting it.
  • Locate ‘Disk Drives’ and find your external hard drive in the list.
  • Right-click the drive and select ‘Update driver.’
  • Choose ‘Search automatically for updated driver software’ and let Windows find and install any available updates.
  • Restart your computer and check if the drive shows up.

Note: Ensure that your internet connection is stable for searching new drivers.

Conclusion: Keeping your drivers updated can prevent recognition issues caused by outdated software.

Method 5: Changing USB Selective Suspend Settings ⚙

  • Open Control Panel and go to ‘Power Options‘.
  • Click on ‘Change plan settings’ next to your current power plan.
  • Select ‘Change advanced power settings’.
  • Expand the ‘USB settings’ and then the ‘USB selective suspend setting’.
  • Disable the settings and click Apply, then OK.

Note: Disabling USB selective suspend prevents Windows from powering down the USB ports.

Conclusion: Adjusting power settings can help maintain a stable connection to your external hard drive.

Method 6: Using the Disk Drill App 📂

  • Download and install the Disk Drill App from the official website.
  • Launch the app and select the external hard drive from the list of available disks.
  • Choose the option to run a quick scan or deep scan on the drive.
  • Follow the prompts to recover any lost partitions or files.
  • Check if the external hard drive is now recognized by your computer after the scan.

Note: Using advanced recovery tools can help resolve complex issues with your hard drive.

Conclusion: The Disk Drill App offers a comprehensive suite of tools for diagnosing and fixing external hard drive issues.

Method 7: Checking for Hardware Issues 🖨

  • Physically inspect the external hard drive for any signs of damage or wear.
  • Listen for any unusual noises, such as clicking sounds, which may indicate internal damage.
  • Test the drive on different computers to rule out hardware-specific issues.
  • If none of the above steps work, consider consulting a professional for further diagnosis.

Note: Some hardware issues might require professional repair services.

Conclusion: Identifying and addressing potential hardware issues early can save you from data loss.


Precautions and Tips:

Best Practices to Avoid External Hard Drive Issues 💡

  • Regularly back up important data to avoid loss in case of drive failure.
  • Avoid physical damage by handling your external hard drive gently and storing it in a safe location.
  • Keep your computer and drive software updated to prevent compatibility issues.
  • Use high-quality cables and ports to ensure stable connections.
  • Periodically run disk checks and maintenance software to ensure the health of your drive.

Implementing these best practices can significantly reduce the risk of encountering issues with your external hard drive and retain your peace of mind.


Additional Insights

If you’ve tried all the methods mentioned above and your external hard drive is still not showing up, it might be time to delve deeper into some more specific fixes. For instance, you should consider checking out the support website of your hard drive’s manufacturer. Many high authority companies such as Western Digital and Seagate offer extensive troubleshooting resources and customer support options.

Another potential solution could be to test your hard drive on a different operating system. If you primarily use Windows, try accessing the drive on a Mac, or vice versa. Sometimes, a drive that isn’t recognized on one platform might work perfectly on another due to differing file system formats and driver architectures.

Advanced users might also consider using command-line tools to diagnose and fix errors. For example, in Windows, you can use the ‘chkdsk’ command in Command Prompt to check the drive for file system errors and repair them if necessary. If you’re comfortable working with Linux, tools like ‘fsck’ can be invaluable for diagnosing and repairing disk errors.

Furthermore, be aware that some issues might require professional help. If your data is incredibly valuable and none of the software fixes work, consider sending your drive to a professional data recovery service. Many companies offer these services, and while they can be expensive, they are often worth the cost for critical data recovery.

Lastly, participating in forums and tech communities can also yield helpful insights. Websites like Reddit DataRecovery feature discussions where users share experiences and solutions to similar issues. Sometimes, a unique solution from another user may be exactly what you need.


In conclusion, several techniques can tackle the issue of an external hard drive not showing up. From checking connections to using robust tools like the Disk Drill App, the solutions are varied and can cater to a range of problems, whether they be hardware-related or software conflicts. If you follow these steps and still face issues, don’t hesitate to refer to specialized forums, manufacturer support, or seek professional help. Keeping your data safe should always be the priority, so ensure you’re proactive in your maintenance and handling of your external hard drive.


Several factors could be at play, including connection issues, outdated drivers, faulty ports, or file system errors. Checking each component systematically can help pinpoint the problem.

Ensure the drive is properly connected. Try unplugging and reconnecting it or using a different USB port or cable to rule out connectivity problems.

Check the Disk Management utility in your system to see if the drive is recognized there. You may need to initialize or assign a drive letter to it.

On a Windows PC, right-click the Start button and select 'Disk Management'. On a Mac, you can use 'Disk Utility' found in the Applications folder under Utilities.

Updating drivers through the Device Manager can often resolve issues. Right-click the Start button, select Device Manager, locate your drive, and update the driver automatically.

If the drive shows as unallocated, you'll need to format it. Right-click the unallocated space, select 'New Simple Volume', and follow the prompts to format the drive.

Yes, file system errors can prevent the drive from being recognized. Running a check disk utility can identify and repair common file system issues.

Open Command Prompt as an administrator, then type 'chkdsk [drive letter]: /f' and press Enter. This will check and fix file system issues on the specified drive.

The issue could lie with the drive itself. Consider reformatting it using a file system like exFAT, which is compatible with both macOS and Windows.

Using specialized data recovery software or services can help retrieve data. Refrain from formatting or writing new data to the drive to avoid data loss. For more detailed information on troubleshooting and file recovery, you may visit these resources: Seagate and Western Digital.