How To Fix an External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Windows

How To Fix an External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Windows

External hard drives are often a convenient, secure method for storing or transferring large amounts of data. However, despite their utility, external devices don’t always work seamlessly. Occasionally, your computer might not detect an external drive and prevent you from accessing critical data. Secure Data Recovery, the authority in RAID, SSD, and hard drive recovery, explains why your external hard drive is not showing up and how to fix it.

Step 1: Test the External Drive on Another System

Before getting into more complicated steps for diagnosing the detection issue, it is important to ensure the current computer is not a problem. Here are a few simple steps to rule out that possibility:

  1. Start by disconnecting the external hard drive from your current system.
  2. Connect to another computer with compatible cables.
  3. Open File Explorer in Windows and see if the second system recognizes the external hard drive.

If the external hard drive shows up on the other computer, your storage device is probably fine. The issue most likely resides within the initial system. However, if the external drive is not showing up on the new computer, there could be a problem with the device.

Step 2: Check Physical Connections

Sometimes, something as simple as a faulty cable could prevent the external hard drive from appearing. To diagnose the problem:

  1. Inspect the power (if applicable) and USB cable for imperfections.
  2. Determine if the external HDD requires a data and power connection.
  3. Unplug the connectors and ensure that debris is not obstructing the ports.
  4. Use a different cable with the external device.

Switching the USB cable could resolve the issue. If not, proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Verify Power Supply

Power supply issues can also cause the external hard drive not to appear. There are a few things you can try depending on the disk, including:

  1. If the external drive comes with an adapter, plug it in. You can also try another outlet or use a different adapter, but check the wattage before doing so and ensure it matches the original.
  2. If the external drive is connected through a USB hub, disconnect the device and plug it into the computer. You can use both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0. On a desktop, connect the drive to a port on the back of the computer, as that often provides a more stable power supply.
  3. If the external HDD has an LED power indicator, check if the light is on or off. If it is flickering, that means the drive is not receiving a consistent power supply.

Assuming the external hard drive works in some situations but not all of them, the issue could stem from a defective power supply. Buying a new adapter or experimenting with various USB ports on a healthy computer could fix the issue. Otherwise, continue reading for more options.

Step 4: Use Disk Management

Disk Management is a Windows utility that can locate an external drive if it is physically connected but not recognized by your system.

  1. Enter Disk Management in the Windows search bar.
  2. Click Create and format hard disk partitions. A screenshot showing the main screen of the Disk Management system utility in Windows.
  3. Check the available drives. If the drive appears, you can see its status and whether the utility lists it as online.
  4. If it is toggled off, right-click on the drive and switch it to Online. You should be able to use the drive after that.
  5. If it still is not recognized, you might need to assign it a drive letter. Right-click on the drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths, then Add and pick a letter.

You can also check the external hard drive for errors in Disk Management. If the drive is online but has some issues, right-click it and select Properties. In the Tools tab, click Check.

Windows will tell you whether checking for errors is necessary, although you can perform a scan even if it is not recommended.

A screenshot showing the options within Disk Management for error checking.

Step 5: Update or Reinstall Drivers

Windows has built-in device drivers that often recognize external HDDs without manual updates or installations. However, these drivers can still become corrupt or outdated, causing the external device to not show up.

  1. Enter Device Manager in the Windows search bar. A screenshot showing the Device Manager menu in Windows.
  2. Navigate to Universal Serial Bus controllers, expand the section, and find the external hard drive in the list.
  3. Right-click the external HDD and select Update driver.

Note: You can also manually update and download drivers or firmware directly from the manufacturer.

If updating does not fix the issue, then uninstalling and reinstalling the driver is an option. To uninstall and reinstall a driver:

  1. Right-click the external hard drive and select Uninstall device.
  2. Once it is uninstalled, disconnect the external drive and restart the computer.
  3. Reconnect the external hard drive after the computer reboot.

At this point, Windows should automatically recognize your external drive. However, if it does not, there is another option.

Step 6: Run CHKDSK

CHKDSK is a Windows command for repairing a damaged disk.

Note: While a CHKDSK scan can check for problems and fix them, it requires interacting with the Command Prompt, which can sometimes have the opposite effect. Improper commands can lead to logical damage and data loss. Exercise caution when using Command Prompt and CHKDSK.

To run CHKDSK:

  1. Identify the drive letter of the external HDD by opening File Explorer and reviewing the devices under This PC.
  2. Enter Command Prompt in the Windows search bar.
  3. Right-click on Command Prompt and select Run as administrator. A screenshot showing the Command Prompt interface in Windows.
  4. Enter the following command: chkdsk X: /f. Replace “X” with the drive letter assigned to the external hard drive.
  5. Press Enter.

Windows will scan your drive and try to repair it. If it did not work, you can also type in chkdsk X: /r to check for bad sectors on the disk. Reading the report after the repair is over will indicate if the tool was able to fix your external hard drive.

Whether you opted to skip CHKDSK or the command did not work, you can still choose to format or partition your external hard drive.

Step 7: Format or Partition Hard Drive

In addition to improving performance or increasing security, formatting your hard drive for Windows can resolve compatibility and file system issues.

Note: Back up important data before formatting your external hard drive. Formatting will make the stored data inaccessible.

If none of these steps solve your problem, the issue could lie with the drive itself. Hardware failure could require professional assistance.

Consult the Professionals for Help

If you've exhausted all other options and your external hard drive is still not showing up, advanced repairs are needed. That means specialized equipment and knowledge most people don't need to have.

To make sure that your files are not lost forever, consult professionals who specialize in external HDD data recovery.

Expert Data Recovery Services

At Secure Data Recovery, we've resolved over 100,000 cases. We work with home users, small businesses, and large corporations, providing data recovery services for SSDs, HDDs, external drives, laptops, desktops, mobile devices, and more.

We put security first, and we guarantee that your data will never be shared once we've recovered it. Call us if you need help recovering data from your external hard drive.

Category: How to Guides
T.J. Burlee, Tech Enthusiast
Article by

T.J. Burlee is a content writer for Secure Data Recovery Services. He specializes in various topics in the data industry, including data recovery technology, storage devices, and digital forensics. Throughout his career, he has covered complex concepts and provided accessible solutions for users. Before joining Secure Data, he worked as a freelance technical writer.

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