Quick summary
This article will show you how to resolve the problem of an external hard drive not showing up on your Windows computer. The techniques discussed include simple solutions as well as more advanced methods that enable you to recover data from drives that cannot be accessed through Windows Explorer.
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Few things are more frustrating than plugging your external hard drive into your computer and finding that it’s not being detected by your system. The sudden realization that your data is no longer accessible can start to make you panic.

Before you spiral at the thought of your data being lost forever, know that there are many different ways you can fix the problem of your external hard drive not showing up. In this article, we’re going to cover multiple proven solutions to ensure your external hard drive becomes readable and accessible.

Reasons Why External Hard Drives Become Unreadable or Unrecognizable

While your external hard drive not showing up on Windows 10 may seem random at first, there’s a good chance that there are some underlying problems that have caused the drive to become unreadable when you plug it into your computer.

  • 💥 Faulty hardware – This could be anything from a faulty cable all the way to a busted hard drive. If there’s one hardware component that’s no longer working, it could be affecting the performance of the entire drive.
  • 🔧 Outdated or corrupted drivers – Drivers enable your operating system to communicate with your external hard drive and other devices. If the drivers are outdated, you may be missing out on important compatibility updates. Or, your existing drivers may have become corrupted, rendering them unusable.
  • 🤷‍♂️ Unsupported filesystem – If your drive is formatted with Apple’s HSF+ file system, Windows won’t detect it. Instead, it will suggest you format it with one that’s supported. This will happen to any drive that’s using a file system that’s not recognized by the host operating system.
  • Insufficient power – If you have a USB 3.0 external hard drive, be sure to connect it to a USB 3.0 port. A USB 2.0 port may not be able to supply enough power to support operation. Also, if your drive requires external power, ensure it’s plugged into a power outlet when being used.

7 Proven Methods to Fix External Hard Drives Not Showing Up or Being Recognized in Windows 10

The below methods will guide you through making your external hard drive visible and accessible on your computer. Implement each solution in the listed order of this article to ensure you don’t miss any details.

Method #1: Connect to a Different Port

More often than not, it could simply be a bad USB port. Try connecting the hard drive to another USB port. If that fails and you still can’t access external hard drive, try connecting it to another computer. Lastly, you can try using a different cable to connect the drive to your computer. Eliminating these steps first can save you countless hours of unnecessary troubleshooting if it’s a hardware-related problem.

Some external hard drives require more power to operate than a USB port can provide. If this is the case with yours, make sure it’s connected to a power outlet in addition to the USB port.

Method #2: Initialize the Drive

If you have a brand new drive, it may not be initialized and ready to be used with a Windows computer. When a drive is initialized, it erases everything on that drive. Because of this, this is only recommended if it’s a brand new drive with nothing on it, you have a backup you can recover files from or you’re comfortable trying to recover the data using data recovery software.

  1. Right-click Start and click Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the external drive that says Not Initialized and click Initialize Disk.Starting to initialize the disk.
  3. Press OK.Confirm disk initalization.
  4. Then, to use the disk, you need to format it. Right-click the unallocated space and click New Simple Volume.Create a new volume.
  5. Click Next.Skipping the opening screen.
  6. Specify how large you want the volume to be in MB. Click Next.Assigning a MB amount.
  7. Assign a drive letter. Windows will automatically assign an available one so click Next.Assigning a drive letter.
  8. Specify what you want the volume called, as well as the file system. If you want, you can leave these settings as default and click Next.Formatting the partition.
  9. Finally, click Finish. Afterwards, the drive should be usable.Complete formatting.

Method #3: Run a Troubleshooter

Windows, by default, comes with various troubleshooters that specialize in fixing specific problems. One such troubleshooter can be used to scan and resolve hardware-related issues like your USB hard drive not showing up. Before moving on, try running a scan with the troubleshooter to make sure it’s nothing that can be fixed automatically.

  1. Press Windows Key + S and search Command Prompt. Right-click the first result and click Run as administrator. If you’re prompted to allow access, click Yes.Opening Command Prompt.
  2. Run the command msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic to bring up the troubleshooter.Running the command to open the hardware troubleshooter.
  3. Click on Advanced and make sure Apply repairs automatically is ticked. Click Next. The troubleshooter will start to scan your system for potential issues.
    Initiating the scan.
  4. When the scan has finished, you can click View detailed information to see an overview of the scan.An overview of what the troubleshooter detected.

Method #4: Update or Reinstall Your Drivers

Drivers allow your external hard drive to communicate with the computer and its operating system. Without drivers, the drive won’t appear or function properly. You can update your drivers to ensure there’s no compatibility issues. If they’re already updated, try reinstalling them in-case they’ve recently become corrupted.

  1. Right-click Start and click Device Manager.Accessing the Device Manager.
  2. Expand Disk drives. Right-click your drive then click Properties
    The hard drive name may be different in your system.
    Checking the Properties of the external hard drive.
  3. Click onto the Driver tab, then click Update Driver.Checking for up-to-date drivers.
  4. Click Search automatically for drivers. This will scan the internet for compatible up-to-date drivers and automatically download and install them.Searching the internet for drivers.
  5. If this hasn’t worked for you, go back and click Uninstall Device. This will uninstall the existing drivers from your system. Unplug the drive then plug it back in again for the drivers to be reinstalled.Preparing to uninstall the existing driver.

Method #5: Disable USB Selective Suspend

USB Selective Suspend is a setting within Windows that allows it to power down individual USB ports to save power when they’re not in use. This works great for the most part but sometimes Windows gets it wrong and keeps the port powered down, even when it needs to be used. You can disable this setting entirely to eliminate this problem.

  1. Press Windows Key + S and search Control Panel. Open the top result.Opening Control Panel.
  2. Click Hardware and Sound.Navigating to the Hardware and Sound section.
  3. Click Power Options.Accessing the Power Options.
  4. Click Change plan settings on the power plan that’s currently enabled.Selecting the power plan.
  5. Click Change advanced power settings.Changing the advanced power settings.
  6. Expand the USB settings dropdown, then USB selective suspend setting. If you’re on a desktop, change the setting to Disabled. If you’re on a laptop, you can choose to disable this setting for either one or both of the On battery and Plugged in settings.
    Disabling USB Selective Suspend.
  7. When complete, click Apply and close the windows.

Method #6: Add or Change the Drive Letter

Windows assigns a drive letter to all connected storage devices. If the drive hasn’t been assigned one, this will result in it being inaccessible due to Windows not recognizing the external hard drive. This can easily be fixed by assigning a drive letter or changing the existing one.

  1. Right-click Start and click Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click on your external hard drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.Initiating the drive letter change.
  3. If you have an existing drive letter, select it then click Change. If there’s no drive letter, click Add.Selecting a drive letter.
  4. From the dropdown menu, select a drive letter and press OK, then OK again to close the dialogue windows.Specifying a drive letter.

Method #7: Format the Drive

Performing a format has been a common way of fixing various logical issues with external and internal hard drives. In fact, a new hard drive not showing up may be the result of a missing file system. It involves wiping the hard drive of its contents and basically restoring it to factory settings. If all else has failed, you can try formatting the drive to see if it becomes recognizable.

Formatting the drive will delete all of the contents on it and should only be done as a last resort. Before formatting, you should recover your data through the use of data recovery software.
  1. Right-click Start and click Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the volume of your drive and click Format.Initiating the format.
  3. Specify a name for the drive, as well as a file system. Ensure Perform a quick format is ticked. Otherwise, untick it for a full format. When ready, click OK.Finalizing the format.
  4. Confirm the format by pressing OK on the warning box that appears.Confirming the format.

How to Recover Files From an External Hard Drive That’s Not Showing Up

Believe it or not, when you delete your data, it doesn’t just disappear immediately. Instead, the information that enabled your operating system to find that data is wiped, allowing the operating system to overwrite that location with new data. This means that the data is still there for a time, albeit inaccessible.

Through the use of data recovery tools, you can scan and recover that data in just a few clicks. This works even for devices that aren’t accessible through the Windows File Explorer. As long as the external hard drive is visible in the Device Manager, you can recover data from it. For this demonstration, we’re using Disk Drill Data Recovery because of its proven reliability and added features that we’ll touch on next.

  1. Make sure the drive is plugged in. Download, install, and open Disk Drill.
  2. Select your external drive from the list and click Search for lost data.Selecting the drive and starting the scan.
  3. The scan time will vary depending on how much data there is and how large your drive is. When ready, click Review found items.Reviewing what items were found.
  4. Using the dropdown menus, find the files you want to recover and add a tick to their checkbox. When ready, click Recover.Selecting the files for recovery.
  5. Specify where you want the recovered files to go to. It’s best to choose a location that doesn’t reside on the external hard drive. Click OK when ready.Finalizing recovery.

How to Monitor Your External Hard Drive’s Health

Hard drives, because they contain moving components, are susceptible to issues over time. Because of this, hard drives come with their own way of measuring their performance and reliability. This is called S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology).

Through the Command Prompt

Windows doesn’t offer an in-depth way of checking this information natively, but you do have the option to get a basic run-down through Command Prompt.

  1. Press Windows Key + S and search Command Prompt. Right-click the first result and click Run as administrator. If you’re prompted to allow access, click Yes.Opening Command Prompt.
  2. Run the command wmic diskdrive get status.Executing the command.

If the command returns the “OK” status for your drives, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if you see “Bad”, “Unknown”, or “Caution”, you should consider performing a full health check using third-party software to do an in-depth scan of the S.M.A.R.T. data.

Through Disk Drill

As we mentioned previously, Disk Drill is a feature-rich data recovery tool. Not only can it recover data, but it can also monitor your drive’s health and alert you if there’s anything of concern. Here’s how you can do one-off checks as well as let Disk Drill handle it for you.

  1. Open Disk Drill and select the drive you want to check.Selecting the external hard drive.
  2. Click onto the S.M.A.R.T. tab. Click Check all S.M.A.R.T. attributes.Viewing detailed S.M.A.R.T. information.
  3. This will give you a run-down of your drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data. When ready, close this Window.An overview of S.M.A.R.T. data.
  4. To have Disk Drill actively monitor the drive, click on the three dots at the top-right and select Preferences.Going into the Preferences of Disk Drill.
  5. Click to the S.M.A.R.T. section on the left.Accessing the S.M.A.R.T. monitoring settings.
  6. Tick Show status in system tray and tick the drives you want to display the temperature for.Enabling active disk health monitoring.

Taking a proactive approach and actively checking the health of your external hard drive can help prevent issues that would usually result in your external hard disk not being detected.

FAQ

Conclusion

Hard drives are an invaluable component for storing and transporting our data. For that reason, anything that puts us in a position where we can’t access external hard drive can be frustrating. Luckily, using the methods outlined in this article, you can fix the issues that resulted in your computer not recognizing external hard drive.