How do I make my external hard drive appear?

If you’ve connected an external hard drive to your computer but it’s not showing up, don’t panic. There are a few quick things you can try to get your external drive to appear.

Check the USB connection

The first thing to check is that the USB cable is properly plugged into both the external drive and the computer. Try unplugging both ends and reconnecting them firmly. Make sure the cable isn’t loose or damaged in any way. If you have another USB cable, try swapping the cables to see if that helps.

Double check that the external drive is turned on if it has a separate power source. Make sure the power cable is firmly plugged into the wall outlet as well as the back of the external drive.

Try a different USB port

If the drive still isn’t appearing, try plugging the USB cable into a different USB port on your computer. Some USB ports may not recognize the drive, so switching ports can force the computer to search again.

You can also try plugging the drive into a USB hub to isolate the issue. If the drive shows up while plugged into the hub, the problem is with the original USB port you were using. If it still doesn’t appear, the drive itself may be having problems.

Check for driver updates

Outdated or corrupted drivers can prevent external drives from functioning properly. Go to the website of the external drive’s manufacturer and see if there are updated drivers available. Download and install them to see if that resolves the issue.

You can also check for any driver updates for the USB ports themselves. Visit the manufacturer’s website for your computer or motherboard and search for USB drivers. Install any available updates and restart your computer.

Change drive letter

If your external drive shows up in Disk Management but not File Explorer, it could be because it doesn’t have a drive letter assigned. Here’s how to assign one:

  1. Open Disk Management (right-click the Start button and choose Disk Management)
  2. Locate the external drive in the list
  3. Right-click it and choose Change Drive Letter and Paths
  4. Click Add and assign it a new drive letter

The external drive should now appear after you restart File Explorer.

Check for errors

External hard drives can develop bad sectors or corruption that prevents them from working properly. Running the CHKDSK utility can identify and repair errors:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt
  2. Type “chkdsk X: /f” where X is the letter of your external drive
  3. Press Enter and wait for the scan to complete
  4. Type “Y” if prompted to repair any bad sectors

This will take some time but may fix any corruption issues stopping the drive from appearing.

Reset the drive

Some external drives have a reset button on them that can help get them to show up if they encounter connectivity issues. Use a pin or paperclip to press the reset button for a few seconds.

You can also try disconnecting the drive, waiting a minute, and reconnecting it. This essentially achieves the same effect as resetting it.

Check Disk Management

Disk Management is a utility built into Windows that displays all connected drives. If you don’t see your external drive listed here, your computer isn’t detecting it for some reason.

You can try uninstalling and reinstalling the USB drivers as discussed above. Just make sure you don’t accidentally uninstall drivers for your mouse or keyboard!

Enable USB debugging

If you’re connecting an Android phone or tablet to your computer via USB, you may need to enable USB debugging mode for the drive to appear. Here’s how:

  1. On your Android device, open Settings
  2. Select About Device
  3. Tap Build Number 7 times to enable Developer options
  4. Go back and open Developer options
  5. Enable USB debugging

Now reconnect your device to the computer. It should prompt you to allow USB debugging access, which will make the device show up as a drive.

Update BIOS/UEFI firmware

Outdated system firmware could prevent external drives from functioning properly after being connected. Check your motherboard manufacturer’s website for the latest BIOS or UEFI firmware update and install it.

This will require temporarily rebooting into the BIOS menu to install the update. Make sure not to interrupt the update process once started.

Try a different computer

To confirm whether the problem lies with the drive or the computer, try connecting the external hard drive to a different computer. If it shows up normally, then the issue is likely with your original computer’s USB ports, drivers, or settings.

However, if the drive fails to appear on multiple computers, the drive itself is likely faulty and may need to be replaced.

Format the drive

If all else fails, formatting the external drive may resolve connectivity issues. Be aware that formatting erases all data, so make sure to back up any important files first.

  1. Open Disk Management
  2. Right-click the drive and choose Format
  3. Select the file system (ex: NTFS or exFAT)
  4. Give the drive a name if desired
  5. Click OK to format

Once completed, the drive should appear in File Explorer with the new name.


Troubleshooting external hard drives that won’t appear requires patience, but is usually solvable with one of these steps. Try them systematically until your drive shows up properly. Formatting should only be done as a last resort if your data is backed up.

If the drive still doesn’t work after trying all of these methods, it’s likely failed or been damaged physically. You may need professional data recovery help or to replace the external hard drive entirely.

Following proper external hard drive procedures like safe ejecting and avoiding physical shocks can help prevent connectivity issues in the future. But hard drives do fail eventually, so always maintain backups of your important data.

With some troubleshooting techniques, you should be able to get your external hard drive visible again quickly. Just don’t force anything or rush, and methodically check each possible solution until the drive appears as normal.

External hard drives are convenient ways to store huge amounts of data. But like any hardware, they can encounter technical issues over time. An unresponsive external drive can be incredibly frustrating, especially if important files are inaccessible.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to troubleshoot an external hard drive that won’t appear. Here are some simple methods to try that can often get your drive working again.

Check USB connections

Loose cable connections are one of the most common reasons an external drive isn’t recognized. Unplug both ends of the USB cable and make sure they aren’t damaged. Reconnect them firmly and try a different cable if possible.

Change USB port

Switching to a different USB port on your computer forces it to re-check connections. USB hubs can isolate faulty port issues.

Update drivers

Outdated motherboard drivers or corrupted USB drivers can affect external drive connections. Update them from the manufacturer’s website.

Assign drive letter

If your drive shows in Disk Management without a letter, assign one manually to make it accessible in File Explorer.

Reset drive

Some drives have a reset button that can help kickstart the drive if it’s unresponsive. Disconnect/reconnect also essentially resets it.

Check Disk Management

This utility displays all connected drives. If your external drive isn’t listed, your PC isn’t detecting it.

Enable USB debugging

Android devices need USB debugging enabled for disk drive mode. Enable it in Settings > Developer options.

Update firmware

Old BIOS/UEFI firmware can prevent external drives working properly. Check for updates from your motherboard manufacturer.

Test on another PC

Trying your drive on another computer helps determine whether the issue is with that specific PC or the drive itself.

Format as last resort

If no solutions work, formatting the drive erases all data but can clean up corruption issues.

With some basic troubleshooting techniques, you should be able to resurrect your unrecognized external hard drive. Always start simple by checking connections and trying different cables and ports. More advanced fixes like updating firmware and formatting may be required, but try simpler approaches first.

If an external hard drive still won’t show up after trying all of these, data recovery or drive replacement is probably necessary. But following these steps methodically should solve most external drive issues and get your data accessible again.