How to recover data from WD hard disk which is not detecting?

Having issues accessing the files on your Western Digital (WD) external hard drive because it’s not being detected by your computer? Losing access to your important photos, documents, music and other data can be incredibly frustrating. The good news is that in many cases, you can recover data from a WD external hard disk even if it’s not detecting.

Quick Overview

Here is a quick overview of the steps involved in recovering data from a WD external hard drive that is not detecting:

  1. Try connecting the WD external hard drive to another computer to see if it detects there. This will confirm whether the issue is with the drive itself or your computer.
  2. Check for physical damage to the WD drive like broken port or damaged cable. A physically damaged drive requires professional data recovery assistance.
  3. Update or reinstall the drivers for the WD external hard drive on your computer.
  4. Change or replace the USB cable and port being used to connect the WD drive to your computer.
  5. Try using data recovery software to scan the WD drive and recover data.
  6. As a last resort, seek assistance from a professional data recovery service for retrieving data from the disk.

The specific steps to follow will depend on what is causing your WD external hard drive to not detect. The remainder of this article will provide more details on troubleshooting drive detection issues and run through the data recovery options step-by-step.

Troubleshooting the WD External Drive Detection Issue

When your WD external hard drive is not detected by your computer, there are a few key troubleshooting steps you should perform first to discern what the cause is and try fixing it yourself. This includes:

Try connecting the WD drive to another computer

Connect your WD external hard drive that is not detecting to another computer or laptop using the USB cable. See if it detects properly and you are able to access the drive and files from the other computer.

If the WD drive works fine on the other computer, then the issue is with your regular computer instead of the drive itself. You can restart your computer and try reconnecting the WD drive to see if it now detects. Also update any disk drivers, USB drivers and USB controllers in your computer’s Device Manager if it still does not detect.

However, if the WD drive fails to detect on multiple computers, then there is likely a hardware issue with the drive itself.

Check for physical damage

Carefully inspect your WD external hard drive for any signs of physical damage, like:

  • Broken or bent USB connector pins
  • Damaged USB cable
  • Visible dents, cracks or scratches on the drive casing

Physical damage can prevent the drive from functioning properly or being detected by computers. If the damage is minor, you might be able to recover data using software. But major physical damage requires data recovery services.

Update WD drive drivers

Outdated, corrupted or missing drivers for your WD external hard drive can also prevent it from detecting properly. To update its drivers, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Device Manager on your Windows PC.
  2. Expand the Disk drives category.
  3. Right-click on the connected WD drive and select Update driver.
  4. Search automatically for updated driver software online.
  5. Restart your computer once the drivers are updated.

Also reinstall the drivers via Device Manager if updating does not resolve the detection issue.

Change USB cable and port

Faulty USB cables and ports on your computer are common reasons for external drives not getting detected. Try these steps to troubleshoot connectivity issues:

  • Replace the USB cable connecting your WD drive with a new one.
  • Connect the drive into a different USB port on your computer.
  • Avoid using USB hubs and directly connect the WD drive into the USB port on your PC.
  • If possible, use a USB port on the back of your desktop instead of the front panel ports.

If the WD drive starts working after changing cable and port, it confirms the connectivity components were causing the detection issue.

Using Data Recovery Software

After trying all of the above troubleshooting steps, if your WD external hard drive still fails to detect, then data recovery software is your next best option.

Data recovery software scans the hard disk drives sectors and extracts data even if it doesn’t show up in File Explorer.

Follow these steps to recover data from the undetectable WD drive using such software:

1. Select a data recovery tool

Choose a reliable and trusted data recovery program to scan your WD external hard disk. Some popular options worth trying include:

  • Stellar Data Recovery: Works on Windows and Mac systems to recover lost files from hard drives, SSDs, flash drives, etc. Has a simple interface and provides preview of recoverable data.
  • R-Studio: Advanced data recovery utility supporting a wide range of storage devices. Has features like drive imaging, file recovery over network.
  • Disk Drill: Easy-to-use data recovery app for Windows and Mac OS. Recuperates 500+ file formats from internal and external drives.

2. Connect the WD drive

Connect your Western Digital external hard drive to your computer using the USB cable. Power on the drive if it has an external power source.

3. Scan the WD drive

Open your chosen data recovery software on your computer. Select the undetectable WD external hard drive from the list of available drives and storage devices. Start the scan on the drive.

The software will thoroughly scan the sectors of the drive and extract all recoverable data. This may take some time depending on the drive’s size and extent of data loss.

4. Preview and recover data

Once the scan completes, the data recovery software will display a list or tree-like structure of all the files and data found on the WD external hard drive.

You can preview image files like photos, documents, etc. Select the files you wish to recover and restore them to another drive on your computer.

Save the recovered data on your computer’s internal drive or another external storage device. After data recovery is complete, you can attempt to fix the WD drive issues or seek professional assistance if hardware damage is suspected.

Using Professional Data Recovery Services

For instances where your WD external hard disk has physical damage or has failed completely, then you may need to employ professional data recovery services for retrieving your data.

Data recovery experts have advanced tools, technology and skills for recovering data from drives even in the worst failure scenarios. This includes:

Repairing in Clean Room

If your WD external drive has failed mechanically, then data recovery companies can disassemble it and repair any internal component issues in an advanced class 100 clean room environment.

Bypassing Damage

In cases of read/write head damage or failed PCB controllers, data recovery technicians can employ specialized read/write technologies to recover data by bypassing the damaged components.

Parts Swaps

Donor parts from other similar working drives can be used to repair the non-detecting WD drive and create a functioning system to extract your data.

Advanced Recovery Techniques

Data recovery labs use proprietary data extraction tools and advanced techniques like imaging, on-chip data extraction, etc. for retrieving data from media even in extreme failure conditions.

However, professional data recovery can be an expensive process. Get quotes from multiple providers before selecting one. Also research the company’s experience, capabilities and customer reviews.

Tips for Avoiding Future Data Loss

To avoid dealing with lost data if your WD external hard drive fails or malfunctions in the future, follow these tips:

1. Backup the Drive

Maintain a regularly updated backup of your WD external hard drive on another storage device or the cloud. This provides you an alternate source for recovering data if the primary drive fails.

2. Handle With Care

Be careful when physically handling your WD external hard drive. Avoid dropping it, getting it wet, or exposure to magnets which can cause damage.

3. Disconnect Safely

Always use the “Safely Remove Hardware” option before unplugging your WD drive from the computer to prevent data issues.

4. Update Firmware

Keep your WD external hard drive firmware updated to the latest version for enhanced performance and compatibility.

5. Check Health

Periodically scan your WD drive using the software tools from WD like Data Lifeguard to check drive health and fix errors.


Losing access to data due to WD external hard drive not detecting can be stressful. But in most cases, you can recover data on your own using either data recovery software or professional assistance. Troubleshooting the root cause like USB port issues can also help fix the detection problem.

Additionally, having a proper backup and following drive care best practices will be helpful in preventing data loss if such a situation arises again in the future.