External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac – What to Do

Macs are pretty solid computers that provide reliable service in almost any situation. They’re typically workhorses, pushing onward in situations that would get a blue screen of death on a Windows PC. However, while rare, issues can and will happen; it’s inevitable where technology is concerned.

These issues are all the more frustrating because of their rarity, and they may need a little work to figure out. One of the more frustrating issues you can come across is an external hard drive not showing up on a Mac. Even when you’ve completed all basic troubleshooting tips, it may not appear. In this article, we’ll explain how to get your external hard drive to appear.

How to Connect Your External Hard Drive to a Mac

Let’s first ensure that you’ve properly connected your external hard drive and walk through some basic setup steps. The steps may vary depending on your software version, so if we’ve missed a step, check out Apple’s article here. We’re using Catalina and Sierra, but the instructions are all fairly similar.

External drives are a cheap way to expand storage without having to replace the internal hard drive. Here’s how to connect one.

  1. All you need to do is connect the external hard drive to your Mac or MacBook. You can use the Thunderbolt, USB, or even the USB-C port, depending on the model you’re using. MacBook with an external HDD
  2. From here, Finder should open, showing your external drive. If it doesn’t show up in Finder, though, it will surely show up in the Disk Utility within Utilities.
  3. This is a sub-folder within the Applications folder, with a crossed screwdriver and wrench on the folder icon, while Disk Utility looks like a hard drive being examined with a stethoscope. Both of them will be referenced a lot.
    Mac Utilities Folder icon Disk Utility icon
  4. If you have trouble finding it, simply open Finder (the icon that looks like a blue and grey face) and click on Applications on the left-hand side. Then, use the Search bar in the upper right-hand corner and search for Disk Utility.
    MacOS Finder

From there, you can troubleshoot the problem and usually fix it.

If your external drive still doesn’t appear, we have a couple of simple troubleshooting tips to fix an external hard drive not showing up on Mac. First, we will check the basics, and from there, we make sure that macOS is set up to display external drives, can mount the drive, and that the drive has no errors on either the disk itself or its file structure.

Troubleshooting an External Drive with a Mac

Let us check all the basics first. Get into the habit of doing this with any computer issues, as it can save time, money, and hassle in the long run. After all, no one wants to waste half a day because they didn’t realize something just wasn’t plugged in properly.

  • Check that the cable from the hard drive to your Mac is connected properly.
  • Check that the external hard drive has power if it needs it.
  • Check the condition of the cable and swap it if you have a spare.
  • Change the hard drive power cable if you have a spare.
  • Try a different wall outlet if there is one nearby.
  • Reboot your Mac to see if it was an open program or app stopping the drive from being detected.
  • Make sure the drive has been formatted. Some imported drives come completely empty, and while macOS should detect and offer to format them, it doesn’t always work.
  • Try attaching the external drive to another computer to see if it works on that one to rule out damage to the drive itself.
  • Make sure your drive doesn’t have or use a power-saving or sleep function. Turn it off if it does.
  • Check that the drive is receiving enough power. A USB cable carries 5V, and if this is the sole power source for the drive, it may not be enough. Use a USB power cable if you suspect this to be the issue.

Depending on what you find here, you can troubleshoot either the drive or your Mac.

First, make sure Finder will display drive icons. By default, it doesn’t display much, and the setting to not show external disks may be enabled.

  1. Open a Finder window. At the top left of the screen, select Finder > Preferences… > General, and make sure the box next to External disks is checked.
How to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac-2

If the box is checked, move on to fix the external hard drive not showing up on Mac.

Mount the External Drive in Finder

If you think the drive works fine, let us see if we can manually attach it to macOS. For that, we need to mount it. This should be done automatically when macOS detects the drive, but it doesn’t always work.

  1. Attach the drive if it isn’t already connected.
  2. Then, open Utilities > Disk Utility and make sure the disk is listed in the left window. It should be labeled External Disk.
  3. Check for a volume if the disk is present. If a volume is present but not mounted, it should be grayed out here.
  4. Highlight the volume and select Mount. The volume should shift from gray to normal to signify it has been mounted.
  5. Open Finder and navigate to the drive in Devices.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to use the Verify Disk utility to make sure everything is working as it should.

  1. Open Utilities and Disk Utility, highlight the grayed-out volume, and select First Aid in the top center.
    Disk Utility
  2. Select Run to perform disk diagnostics and fix any issues. Disk Utility - First Aid

Running First Aid on an external disk is a useful way to make sure the format or file structure doesn’t contain any faults or issues. If there are any, First Aid will fix them, and macOS should then mount the disk without any further hassle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Macs, as easy as the interface seems to be, can be quite complicated for an OS. That’s why we’ve included some more information you may need to know here.

My Disk Utility says ‘Corrupt Disk,’ what does that mean?

If you see your external hard drive but receive the ‘Corrupt Disk’ error, solutions are plentiful. Your first issue may be that the external hard drive isn’t formatted properly to work with your Mac. You can reformat the external drive using Disk Utility.

1. Simply follow the instructions above to access the drive and click on Erase (yes, you need to erase the drive to reformat it).

2. Click on the dropdown for format and select ExFat, and click Erase. Now your external hard drive should appear properly.

I don’t want to erase my external hard drive to fix it. Is there a solution to this?

As we’ve discussed, sometimes, you simply need to erase and reformat your hard drive to get it working properly. If you’ve navigated through the steps above and have yet to get your external hard drive working together, you should transfer the content of that drive to another device (such as a Windows PC) if possible.

This way, you can off-load any important files, then use your Mac to reformat the hard drive and get it working properly.

External Drive Detected

It’s usually something simple that’s causing your Mac to not detect the external drive that’s been plugged into it. Start with checking the cable and the settings for detecting external drives. If that doesn’t work, check Disk Utility or try plugging the drive into another computer.

Got any other ways to fix the external hard drive not showing up on Mac? Tell us about it below if you do!

2 thoughts on “External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac – What to Do”

Adnan says:
Thank you, first aid worked with me.

I was about having bad time if it didn’t work.

Thanks again

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