External Hard Drives are becoming extremely common. They are ideal for work and storing important items. They are equally easy to utilize. This is because all you need to do is connect them to your Windows PC and it will show up with ease. For this reason, lots of individuals tend to store their important items on Hard-drives so that they would be able to access them later on.

This is why it can be a frustrating experience when you connect your hard-drive into your windows PC to access all the files you need only for you to find out that your external hard drive is not showing up. Lots of people must have dealt with this at some point, and it is not something anyone looks forward to experiencing.

external hard drive not showing up

So what do you do if you face an issue like this? Well, if you are here, you are in the right place as we will be taking a look at some steps you can take when your computer is not recognizing your external hard drive.

Why Is My External Hard Drive Not Showing Up?

If your external hard drive is not showing up when connected to your computer, this can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s a matter of minor corruption, which can be resolved with a quick scan. Even Chkdsk, which is built into Windows, can occasionally resolve those issues.

In more severe cases, a disk might not be recognized due to physical damage. If the disk’s controller gets damaged, this is usually not fixable without expert assistance. And if the disk plates themselves are damaged, that disk can be written off.

Recovery is sometimes possible in specialized facilities, but chances are low and the cost is typically prohibitively high for ordinary consumers.

Problem Solution
External hard drive not showing up in Windows Fix 1: Make sure the drive turns on
Fix 2: Use Disk Management to check the drive
Fix 3: Use an alternative Windows PC
Fix 4: Use Reputed Data Recovery Tools
Fix 5: Use Chkdsk
Fix 6: Reinstall drivers
Fix 7: Troubleshoot devices and hardware
Fix 8: Format the hard drive
External hard drive not showing up on Mac Read our guide for fixing external drives that don’t get recognized on your Mac
Files on external drive are missing and/or corrupted Fix 4: Use a recovery tool like Disk Drill to inspect the drive and attempt to recover missing files

Ways to Fix a Drive That Won’t Show Up in Windows:

Before you begin to learn how to repair a hard disk that is not detected, you need to find out what could have caused this issue. This issue may be due to a host of factors. Some of this may consist of:

  • Making use of the incorrect system file
  • An issue with your driver on windows
  • Damaged USB outlets
  • Damaged Hard-Drives

Fix #1: Ensure the Drive comes on

You would be surprised how easy it is to miss this obvious step. Plug in the hard drive and see if it powers on. If it does not, then there could be a problem with the Hard-Drive cable.

Try using another cord or plugging it into another system. If it comes on, then your cable is the issue. If it still doesn’t show up, move to the subsequent step.

Fix #2: Use Disk Management To Check The Drivedisk management tool to fix external hard drive win

Connect your hard-drive to your Windows PC. Then open the Disk Management. You can do this using:

Windows Key + X button. Then select disk management from the list.

With this tool, you will be able to see all the drives attached to your computer. You will be able to review sizes, see the partitions, alongside other statistics about the disk.

external drive not showing up

You would also be able to view your hard-drive in the included in the Disk Management window. Even if you are unable to find it in this Window because it has no partitions, you should be able to see it a Removable.

If the drive comes up here, you would then be able to create another Volume and Assign a Drive Letter. Here, you will be able to format it correctly or create a partition. This will ensure you will be able to get into the hard-drive using your Windows PC.

Fix #3: Use an Alternative Windows PC

Try connecting the hard-drive to another USB port on your PC. If it comes up, your issue may be a bad USB port.

external hard drive not showing up windows 10

If you the hard-drive does not still come up on Disk Management after doing all of these, you can use another computer if you have one close to you. If this does not still work, move to the next step.

Fix #4: Use Reputed Data Recovery Tools

You can make the hard drive show up by partitioning it. This would be possible using the Disk Management tool. But, if the hard drive is battling from an issue of partition loss, you would have to create a new partition. This would allow you to recover your lost data. Here, you need to do a lost partition recovery before you do anything else.

Recovering Lost or Removed Partition

The Disk Management tool cannot restore a lost or removed partition. But you can use professional software for partition recovery and get back any volume you might have lost.

Disk Drill is an industry-leading software solution that can help you restore the hard drive’s partitions to their original state. This implies you will be able to recover your folders and files in the partition simultaneously. The instant you are through with recovering lost partitions, you will be able to access them from Windows.

The solution also allows you to support a host of systems. These include:

NTFS FAT12 FAT32
Ext4 Ext4 ExFAT
FAT12 Ext3 FAT16

To use Disk Drill for recovering your data

  1. Download, Install and launch Disk Drill on your Windows or macOS.
    Disk Drill
    Data recovery for free
    Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery
  • Ensure that your external drive is plugged into your computer. Select the drive from the list of devices and click Search for Lost Data.
    selecting hard drive on disk drill
  • The scan time will vary depending on how much data there is and how large your drive is. Once the scan is complete, click Review found items.
    reviewing found items on disk drill
  • Filter through the search results, find the items you wish to recover.
    selecting files for data recovery
  • Finally, choose the recovery location. Now, click OK > Recover.
    selecting destination for saving the recovered files
  • Fix #5: Use Chkdsk

    Chkdsk – short for CheckDisk – is a command line utility built into Windows that can help troubleshoot issues with your drives. While it often gets ignored by experts, it can occasionally help you fix an external drive that’s not getting recognized.

    1. Open Start, type in Command Prompt, and click on Run as Administrator
      using cmd for data recovery
    2. Type chkdsk /f X: , where X: is the letter of the drive that’s not getting recognized.
      using chkdsk in cmd
    3. Wait until the operation is finished (the last line should read “Total duration: XX seconds”).

    Fix #6: Reinstall Drivers

    Sometimes the issue could be caused by corruption in the disk’s drivers, especially if it uses custom drivers from the manufacturer. To fix any potential driver issues, follow these steps:

    1. Open Start, type in Device Manager, and launch Device Manager from the search results.
      opening device manager windows
    2. Find your drive in the following screen. It should be under Disk Drives.
    3. Right-click the drive and select Properties.
      accessing the properties of your disk
    4. Go to the Driver tab.
    5. Click Update Driver.
      updating the disk driver from disk management
    6. Click Search Automatically for Drivers and wait for the process to finish.
      searching for drive updates
    7. If this didn’t fix your issue, go back to the screen from step 4, and select Uninstall Device.
    8. Once the disk’s drivers have been uninstalled, disconnect and reconnect it to your computer.

    Fix #7: Troubleshoot Devices and Hardware

    The hardware troubleshooter is a tool that comes in Windows 7 devices and above. If the flash drive is not showing up, you can utilize this tool in finding out if the device has errors.

    To use it you need to:

    1. Hit Windows key + R.
      run window
    2. Type in msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic and hit Enter
    3. Click Next to initiate the hardware and devices troubleshooter.
      running device diagnostics
    4. You apply the fix right away or later.
      results of the device diagnostics

    Fix #8: Format the Hard Drive

    This may be your next option if all else fails and windows doesn’t recognize your external hard drive. There is a possibility it is partitioned in a file system windows is unable to recognize.

    If the hard-drive is in a format different from FAT32 or NTFS, your Windows PC would not be unable to recognize the hard-drive.

    If you need to format a particular partition using the Disk Management Utility, launch it, right-click and pick Format.

    my computer don't recognize external hard drive

    ❗Note that formatting your device would erase everything you have on it. So its best you have a backup before you take this step.

    Tips to Protect Your External Hard Drive

    External hard drives should be treated with caution to avoid damaging them. Since most of them are based on regular hard disks (and not SSDs), they are very sensitive to physical damage.

    Even knocking the drive around a little bit can sometimes cause irreversible damage. In addition, you should always take care to disconnect the drive properly in Windows.

    • 🛍️ Take care when transporting your external drive. Keep it well protected, ideally in a soft cover that can take some damage.
    • 🪢 Avoid bending the USB cable too much when using the drive, especially around the drive’s USB port. Otherwise, you could damage the port or the internal controller it’s attached to, which is often difficult or impossible to fix.
    • ⏏️ Always disconnect the drive properly in Windows, using the Eject feature.

    Conclusion

    The processes above are sure to help you solve the case of a hard-drive not showing up on your PC. However, if you have tried everything above without any headway, then you most likely need a new hard-drive.

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    Stefan Ionescu

    A technology passionate, Stefan holds an MSc in geological engineering and currently serves clients as a freelance writer. Despite having a master's in geological engineering, Stefan's passion for writing and technology t...

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    Brett Johnson

    This article has been approved by Brett Johnson, Data Recovery Engineer at ACE Data Recovery. Brett has a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Systems and Network, 12 years of experience.