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

Removable harddrives, most commonly the USB sort, are pretty intuitive and helpful to yourdaily computer use. But, sometimes your PC won’t recognize one when you plug itin.

In that light,we’ll tell you all about this issue and how to fix it.

Why Would an ExternalHard Drive Not Show Up in Windows?

There can bemany reasons why a hard drive might not show up:

  1. The USB port on your PC isdead or dying.
  2. You have missing drivers onyour device.
  3. There are partition issueson your hard drive.
  4. The hard drive is using anincorrect file system.
  5. The PC is not supplyingpower.
  6. The casing lost connection.
  7. The hard drive itself isdead.

Let’s figureout how to diagnose and fix all of these possible causes for the drive notshowing up on your PC.

How to Diagnose andFix When the Hard Drive Won’t Show Up in Windows

For each ofthe reasons mentioned above, there are ways to find out if that is the exactissue.

Before anything else, check and see if the hard drive is powered on adequately. If it has an AC power adapter, as is the case with some larger drives, make sure that it is plugged in and working. Otherwise, it won’t show up.

USB Port Dead or Dying

If you believethat your USB port is dead or dying, consider one of these options:

  1. Plug the hard drive into adifferent USB port.
  2. Plug the external harddrive into another PC.

If your harddrive shows up on another the port, it’s most likely that the initial USB port isdying or won’t accept the drive for whatever reason. Sometimes this can becaused by non-matching USB versions (for example, using a USB 2.0 port).

If you’retrying to use a different device to check, consider using one with anotheroperating system. A Mac (if you have one) might recognize the hard drive ifit’s formatted for it, while Windows won’t.

Missing Drivers

To check ifyour PC has missing drivers, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start menu/search bar.
  2. Type in “Device Manager.”
  3. Open the application that shows up as a result.
  4. Locate the hard drive that you’re trying to connect.
  5. If it is on the list, right-click it, then select “Update Drivers.”
  6. Follow the steps on the Driver installation.
  7. When prompted, select the option to “Search automatically” and download drivers online. If your hard drive came with a driver CD, put it into your reader and select the “Browse my Computer” option.

Usually,external hard drives will use your PC’s preinstalled drivers by default, sothese steps are often meaningless. However, it can sometimes save you thetrouble of trying the more complicated steps first.


A morecomplicated problem occurs when the hard drive is not partitioned or set up properly.To diagnose this, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Start Menu/Search bar.
  2. Type in “Disk Management,” then open the application that shows up as a result.
  3. You should see the connected hard drive in the menu, often below your primary drives. Note that you’ll be using the visual menu below the list of drives.
  4. If the drive is offline, right-click on it and select “Online.”
  5. If the drive says “Unallocated” when you select it (under a black bar), you will need to format it.
  6. Right-click the drive, then select “New Simple Volume.”
  7. Your PC will partition and format the drive for your current operating system. Do note that this will remove any data that’s on the hard drive.
  8. Finally, if the drive is formatted but doesn’t show a letter for its path (like F:, G:, or M: for example), right-click the drive and select “Change Drive Letters and Paths.”

This shouldmake your new hard drive ready and usable on a clean slate.


If the driveappears partitioned but you still can’t access it, it’s most likely using adifferent file system. To fix that, follow these steps:

  1. Open Disk Management.
  2. Select the drive, then right-click and select “Format.”
  3. For the formatting option, choose FAT32.
  4. You can set the drive label of your choice, and you can leave the “Perform a quick format” option checked if you want to.

Reformattingyour hard drive will wipe all the stored data, so if you’ve previously used iton a Mac or a Linux, use that device to back up the files before reformatting.

What Formatting toUse

You have a fewoptions. FAT32 is the most common format for external hard drives. It’s oftenused by default on any disks you purchase.

However, ithas a few limitations. FAT32 cannot hold files larger than 4GB in size and islimited to 8TB of disk space. The second limitation is often meaningless asmost external hard drives don’t go up to that size anyway. Still, if you’reusing huge files, you might want to consider a different format.

NTFS is thedefault format for internal hard drives on Windows. It has no realisticlimitations on file and disk size. However, do note that NTFS isWindows-specific, and macOS and Linux devices won’t write on such formatteddrives. They will usually have the drive’s read-only permissions, which isoften not enough for an external hard drive.

If you want yourdrive to be cross-compatible with other operating systems and retain NTFS’sincreased file sizes, exFAT is your formatting system. Most newer devices will becompatible with exFAT, but some older ones might not.

Generallyspeaking, for the average user FAT32 is the best choice as you will rarely havefiles that are larger than its limitations. If you’re using multiple Windowsdevices to transfer very large files, then NTFS is the better option. And ifyou want cross-compatibility (to a degree), choose exFAT.

Check the PowerOptions

If you’reusing a laptop or another portable device, you can disable selective USBsuspend settings. Follow these steps:

  1. Open your Control Panel.
  2. Select Power Options.
  3. Click “Additional Power Settings.”
  4. In your current power plan, select “Change plan settings.”
  5. In the menu, click on “Change advanced power settings.”
  6. Find the option USB settings, then USB selective suspend settings.
  7. Make sure that the setting is disabled.

This option isalso available on your desktop PC, but it’s unlikely to be the culprit as yourPC will have plenty of power for it. Still, it’s a viable option before turningto the worst-case scenario.

Disk Management NotRecognizing the Drive

If the harddrive is not showing up on Disk Management, it’s possible that the casing haslost connection to the drive inside.

You can removethe actual hard drive from its casing and use it like that to check for anyissues. You can buy a different SATA to USB dock or plug the hard drivedirectly into your PC’s motherboard.

If this works,the issue is with the drive’s casing, and you can get a new one or continueusing the external hard drive as an internal one.

If thisdoesn’t work, however, then you probably have a dead hard drive. There’s notmuch you can do about that. If it’s under warranty, you can contact the manufacturerto get it replaced (although removing it from the casing usually would have voidedthe warranty).

Cloudy with aChance of Data Loss

If you’reusing many external hard drives, it might be time to switch to using the cloudto store some of that data you’re carrying around.

All it takesis a few clicks to log into one of the many cloud services on the internet. Usingthe cloud won’t be a faster solution, as your ADSL speed is probably slowerthan the read/write speed of your HDD, but it can be more secure. Hard drivescan degrade over time, and data loss can often be inevitable.

Saving yourdata online isn’t completely safe, but as long as you use a secure password(and remember it) you shouldn’t worry about it.

Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox can be invaluable when you want to store and share the files needed for collaborative projects. External hard drives can’t match their accessibility, so you should definitely check them out.

Your Hard Drive,Easy to Use

If you’vefollowed the steps and instructions above, you should have fixed your harddrive and make it show up on your PC. External hard drives are vital and easyto use if you have to move large amounts of data between different devices, soyou must have the best hard drives available.

Which of thesesolutions worked for you? What external hard drive is your favorite? Let usknow in the comment below, and have a great day.

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