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How To Fix An External Hard Drive That's Not Showing Up

This guide is your compass through the maze of troubleshooting, offering insight into how to fix an external hard drive that's not showing up. Whether you're a Windows aficionado or a Linux enthusiast, we'll explore proven methods to breathe life back into your external drive and restore your access to important data.

Keith Peterson
Keith Peterson
Aug 22, 20231.5K Shares44.4K Views
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  1. External Drive Not Showing Up Or Detected - 7 Ways To Fix It
  2. Which File System Should I Choose For An External Drive?
  3. People Also Ask
  4. Conclusion

In the digital age, external hard drives have become essential tools for storing our ever-expanding collection of files and data. These versatile devices allow us to carry our documents, photos, videos, and more wherever we go. However, there are times when these seemingly reliable companions encounter a frustrating hiccup – they simply don't show up when connected to our computers.

This guide is your compass through the maze of troubleshooting, offering insight into how to fix an external hard drive that's not showing up. Whether you're a Windows aficionado or a Linux enthusiast, we'll explore proven methods to breathe life back into your external drive and restore your access to important data.

External Drive Not Showing Up Or Detected - 7 Ways To Fix It

How to Fix External Hard Drive Not Showing Up

Have you ever plugged in your external hard drive and wondered where it went? No worries! We've got seven simple ways to make it show up on your computer again. Whether you're using Windows 10 or the newer Windows 11, these steps will help you through the process of getting your hard drive back. Just follow these methods one by one to troubleshoot and solve the issue.

Method 1 - Try Different USB Ports

Sometimes, the problem is as basic as a bad connection. If your hard drive isn't showing up, unplug it and try plugging it into another USB port on your computer. If that doesn't work, you could also try using it on a different computer. And if none of these steps work, consider using a different USB cable. Sometimes, these small changes can fix the problem.


Some hard drives need more power than a USB port can provide. If yours is like that, make sure it's also connected to an electrical outlet.

Method 2 - Set Up Your Drive

If you have a new hard drive or one that's not showing up, it might need a bit of setup. But don't worry, setting it up won't erase your data. It's kind of like getting a new toy ready to play with.

Here's how you do it:

  • Right-click on the "Start" button and choose "Disk Management."
  • Look for your hard drive – it might say "Not Initialized." Right-click on it and choose "Initialize Disk."
  • Click "OK" to confirm.
  • To really use the hard drive, you need to create a "New Simple Volume." Just follow the instructions to pick the size, letter, and name for the drive.
  • When you're done, click "Finish," and your hard drive should be good to go.


Only do this if your drive is new or if you have a backup of your data. If not, use special software to get your data back before setting up the drive.

Method 3 - Use The Computer's Helper

Windows has a little helper called a troubleshooter that can find and fix problems. Let it search for the issue with your hard drive.

Here's what you do:

  • Press the "Windows" key and "S" at the same time and search for "Command Prompt." Right-click the first result and choose "Run as administrator."
  • If it asks, say "Yes."
  • Type in "msdt.exe - id DeviceDiagnostic" and hit "Enter." This opens the troubleshooter.
  • Pick "Advanced" and make sure "Apply repairs automatically" is selected. Click "Next" to start.
  • When it's done, click "View detailed information" to see what it found.

Method 4 - Fix Your Drivers

Your computer talks to your hard drive using things called drivers. If these drivers are old or broken, your hard drive might not show up. Let's try to fix that.

Here's what you do:

  • Right-click on the "Start" button and choose "Device Manager."
  • Find "Disk drives" and see if your hard drive is there. Right-click on it and choose "Properties."
  • Go to the "Driver" tab and click "Update Driver."
  • Choose "Search automatically for drivers." Your computer will look online for new drivers and install them.
  • If that doesn't work, go back and click "Uninstall Device." Then unplug your hard drive and plug it in again. This should bring back the drivers.

Method 5 - Stop Your Computer From Sleeping

Sometimes, your computer gets too sleepy and turns off your USB ports, even when they're needed. Let's stop that from happening.

Here's what you do:

  • Click on the "Start" button and find "Control Panel."
  • Look for "Hardware and Sound" and click on it.
  • Find "Power Options" and click on it.
  • On the active power plan, click "Change plan settings."
  • Click "Change advanced power settings."
  • Look for "USB settings" and find "USB selective suspend setting." Turn it off if you have a desktop. If you're on a laptop, you can turn it off when it's unplugged or plugged in, or both.
  • Click "Apply" and close everything.

Method 6 - Give Your Drive A Name

Your computer gives a special name to every storage device it meets. If your hard drive doesn't have a name, it might not show up. So, let's give it a name!

Here's what you do:

  • Right-click on the "Start" button and choose "Disk Management."
  • Right-click on your hard drive and choose "Change Drive Letter and Paths."
  • If it already has a letter, click "Change." If not, click "Add."
  • Pick a letter from the list and click "OK."

Method 7 - Last Resort, Start Over

If everything else fails, you might need to start fresh. This means erasing everything on your hard drive and making it new again. But be very careful – this will delete everything!

Here's what you do:

  • Right-click on the "Start" button and choose "Disk Management."
  • Right-click on your hard drive's name and click "Format."
  • Give it a name and choose a way to format it. Pick "Quick format" if you want to keep it fast. If you want to be super careful, don't pick this and let it do a full format.
  • Click "OK" to make it happen.


Only use this if nothing else works, and get your data back with special software before starting over.

In the end, these tricks should help you find your missing external hard drive and get back to using it. If these steps don't solve the problem, you might need some extra help from a techexpert.

Which File System Should I Choose For An External Drive?

Explaining File Systems: NTFS, exFAT, FAT32, ext4 & More

When it comes to external drives, choosing the right file system is crucial. Each file system has its own strengths and limitations, and selecting the one that aligns with your needs ensures optimal performance and compatibility. Let's explore the key file systems – NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, and EXT2/3/4 – and help you make an informed decision.

What Is A File System?

Before delving into the specifics, let's grasp the concept of file systems. In essence, a file system is a framework that governs how data is organized, stored, and accessed on storage devices. It's like the virtual filing cabinet for your digital files. By organizing files into directories and subdirectories, a file system creates order and enables efficient data retrieval.

But a file system does more than just organize data.

It also ensures:

  • data security
  • controls file access
  • and manages storage space

Think of it as the blueprint that structures your storage device, allowing you to efficiently manage your files.

NTFS - The Windows Champion

NTFS (New Technology File System)is the reigning file system in the Windows ecosystem. It's optimized for performance, security, and large file support. NTFS is an excellent choice if your external drive will primarily be used with Windows devices. It offers features like encryption, disk quotas, and support for large volumes.

FAT32 - The Compatibility King

FAT32 (File Allocation Table 32), an older file system, boasts broad compatibility across various devices and operating systems. It's a universal choice if your external drive needs to work seamlessly across different platforms. However, it has limitations, such as a maximum file size of 4GB and susceptibility to fragmentation.

ExFAT - The Cross-Platform Maverick

exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table)is designed to bridge the gap between NTFS and FAT32. It's a great choice if you need cross-platform compatibility, as it's supported by Windows, macOS, and Linux. exFAT excels at handling large files, making it ideal for multimedia storage. Its absence of file size limitations and straightforward usage make it a versatile option.

EXT2/3/4: Linux's Trusted Companion

EXT (Extended File System)comes in different versions – EXT2, EXT3, and EXT4 – and is the go-to file system for Linux users. While incompatible with Windows and macOS, it offers robust performance, security features, and efficient data management within Linux environments.

Choosing The Right Format

To make an informed decision, consider your usage scenario:

  • If you're a Windows user seeking performance and advanced features, NTFSis your ally.
  • For broad compatibility across devices, especially with older hardware, FAT32is a reliable choice.
  • If cross-platform compatibility and handling large files are priorities, opt for exFAT.
  • Linux enthusiasts will find solace in the EXTfile systems, providing strong performance and security.

Which File System Is For You?

Selecting the ideal file system boils down to your specific needs and device ecosystem. Factor in the operating systems you'll be interacting with, the types of files you'll be storing, and the performance you require.

Whether you're a Windows devotee, a multi-platform user, or a Linux aficionado, there's a file system tailor-made for your external drive. By making the right choice, you ensure seamless data access and storage across all your devices.

People Also Ask

Can You Recover A Dead External Hard Drive?

Yes, in many cases, logically damaged dead external hard drives can be recovered by addressing the underlying software issue. Our guide in the next section outlines how tofix dead external hard drives effectively.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Hard Drive?

The lifespan of a hard drive typically ranges from three to five years. Research from Backblaze, an online backup company, analyzed the failure rates of 25,000 running hard drives, affirming this statistic.

How Do You Fix A Dead Hard Drive?

  • Chill it down - Seal the drive in a zip-lock bag, remove the air, and freeze it for a few hours.
  • Reconnect and test -Plug the drive back in, and if it doesn't work initially, power down, remove the drive, and gently tap it on a hard surface like a table or floor.

How Do I Know If My External Hard Drive Is Damaged?

One clear indicator of a failing external hard drive is encountering the blue screen of death upon booting up your system with the drive connected. If this error appears, it's likely a sign of the external hard drive failing.

Can An External Hard Drive Be Repaired?

Yes, if your external hard drive becomes corrupted, you can repair it using Windows repair tools. Open This PC, right-click the problematic drive, choose Properties, navigate to the Tools tab, and click Check to repair bad sectors on the external hard disk.


The world of external hard drives is a realm of convenience and security, providing a portable sanctuary for our digital lives. Yet, even the most dependable devices can occasionally falter, leaving us scratching our heads when they refuse to make an appearance on our screens. Thankfully, armed with the knowledge of how to fix an external hard drive that's not showing up, you possess the tools to navigate these digital setbacks.

From swapping USB ports to selecting the appropriate file system, these troubleshooting methods ensure that your external drive woes become a thing of the past. Whether your allegiance lies with Windows, you're an advocate for cross-platform harmony, or you march to the Linux beat, there's a solution tailored to your unique needs.

So, next time your external hard drive decides to play hide and seek, remember this guide as your companion.

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