If you have an external drive that suddenly won’t mount on your Mac, this could happen for a number of reasons. It’s possible that the disk is malfunctioning, or that your computer isn’t recognizing it properly. Sometimes a simple reboot of your machine is enough to fix the issue. When an external hard drive won’t mount on a Mac, there are several approaches you can take to the problem.

Common Situations Where Your External Hard Drive Might Not Mount on a Mac

There are different situations that may cause your drive to not mount properly on a Mac. Here is an outline of problems and possible solutions.

How to Fix Your External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on a Mac

In order to fix a hard drive that won’t mount on a Mac, you should try the following steps. Not all of them will work, and sometimes you might not reach a solution in the end. Make sure to take a structured approach to this and note your results.

Fix #1: Change macOS Drive Display Settings

It’s possible that your disk drive is simply prevented from showing up in your system settings. To check if that’s the case – and fix it – follow these steps:

  1. Start Finder
  2. Go to Finder -> Preferencesfinder preferences menu on mac
  3. Click General
  4. Make sure Hard disks is checkedshow hard disk on desktop on mac

Fix #2: Remount External Disk in Disk Utility

One of the simplest fixes when a disk won’t mount on a Mac is to try remounting it through Disk Utility. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Start Disk Utility
  2. Select the disk drive if you see it in the list
  3. Click Mountmount external hard disk on mac

Fix #3: Reconnect Your Drive

This one is straightforward. Simply unplug the drive and plug it back in. If an HDD won’t mount, sometimes all it needs is a restart of the connection to get it running again.

Fix #4: Restart Your Mac

Another simple fix that works surprisingly often is to just restart your computer. Sometimes things can get stuck behind the scenes in non-obvious ways, and the only way to fix the problem is to give your Mac a reboot.

Fix #5: Use Disk Utility’s First Aid Tool

Using Disk Utility is another option for fixing a drive that won’t show up. The first step varies depending on your processor type, but it’s the same regardless if you have Mac Big Sur, Mac Monterey, Mac Catalina, or any other distribution.

  1. Restart your Mac
    1. Using an Apple processor: Keep the power button held until you see the startup options window. Click on Options, and then on Continue.
    2. Using an Intel processor: hold down Command + R until you see the utilities window
  2. Select Disk Utility and click Continue
  3. Click on View -> Show All Devices
  4. Select your hard drive from the list on the left
  5. Click First Aid
  6. Click RunClick First Aid

Fix #6: Reset your NVRAM, PRAM, SMC

Resetting your NVRAM, PRAM, and/or SMC can occasionally be useful when dealing with tricky issues that you can’t link to anything else.

  1. Shut down the computer
  2. Press the power button and keep it held down for 10 seconds
  3. Check if the problem persists. If it does, shut down the computer again
  4. Hold down the right shift, left option, and left control keys for 7 seconds, and then press and hold the power button for 7 seconds

Fix #7: Reformat Your Drive

In more extreme cases, such as a corrupted filesystem on the drive, you might need to reformat the drive entirely. Note: this will erase all data on the hard drive!

  1. Start Disk Utility
  2. Select the disk drive if you see it in the list
  3. Click Eraseerase drive using disk utility on mac

Your drive will now be erased and automatically formatted. If you need to recover your files afterwards, this can be done with a tool like Disk Drill, provided you use a separate drive for recovery.

How to Recover Data from an External Disk That Isn’t Mounting on a Mac

If your disk drive isn’t mounting at all, even with the above steps, you might still be able to recover some – or all – of the data on it. To do this, you generally have two options available: use data recovery software like Disk Drill, or send your drive to a data recovery center.

Data Recovery Software

You can use a tool like Disk Drill to recover data from your external hard drive on a Mac. This works with a Seagate external hard drive or any other model on the market. It also doesn’t require the use of the Mac Terminal, making it a beginner-friendly option. As long as your drive is showing up in Disk Utility, this approach should work.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill
    Disk Drill
    Data recovery for free
    Your Companion for Deleted Files Recovery
  2. Start Disk Drill
  3. Select your drive
  4. Select All Recovery Methodsall recovery methods using disk drill on mac
  5. Click Search for lost data and wait for the scan to finish.disk drill search for lost data on mac
  6. Go through the discovered results, select the files you want to recover, and click Recoverrecover files with disk drill on mac
  7. Make sure to recover them on a separate hard drive! Using the same drive may corrupt your data further!

Data Recovery Service

Data recovery services are professional organizations that specialize in extracting data from dead or damaged drives. They typically have access to controlled laboratory environments where the disks can be safely disassembled and accessed externally.

Using this type of service can be expensive and time-consuming. There’s also no guarantee that they will be able to recover your data. However, if your data is really valuable and you’ve already exhausted all of the above options, this may be your only chance.

Cleverfiles Data Recovery Center is one of the most popular companies on this market. You should get in touch with them as a starting point if you’re not sure where to even begin your search.

How to Protect Your External Drive on a Mac

You must always be careful with an external drive on your Mac. If you’re already at the point where you’re asking “How do I force my Mac to mount an external hard drive?”, it’s obviously too late for that. But you can still keep the following points in mind for future reference to avoid problems down the road.

  • 💾 Always backup your data on a regular basis. Ideally, keep at least two physically separate copies of the data if it’s really important to you.
  • ☁️ Use a cloud service to regularly store photos and other similar data.
  • 🛑 Don’t download suspicious apps, especially from non-approved sources – those could contain malware.
  • 💽 Keep the drive physically safe. Hard drives are sensitive to physical damage and can easily be disabled by knocking them around too much.
  • 📀 Always eject your drive from the operating system before physically unplugging it.

Conclusion

Knowing how to force an external hard drive to mount on your Mac can be useful if you run into a situation where it’s not getting recognized by the operating system. There are various approaches you can take here, and it’s a good idea to study them in detail before you actually need them, so that you’ll be better prepared if the worst happens one day.

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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.