Steps for Troubleshooting the External Hard Disk Drive

External drives are one of the essential devices to store data or take back up. External storage devices can be in the form of USB flash drive or an External hard drive, the latter one being most popular of the two. People often select these storage sources because they are easy to run and manage. At times, these efficient modes of digital data storage might display connecting issues or are not recognized by the operating system and in such case the data stored in these devices becomes inaccessible. There could be multiple reasons for this like incorrect file system, dead USB ports, driver issues in operating system etc. The worst case could be a dead external drive.

External hard drive no longer shows up in My Computer and data can no longer be accessed

Reasons for the drive not showing up in the System

  • Data cable is defected.
  • Power to the drive may not be enough to spin up
  • The partitions may be corrupted or damaged.
  • Some hardware or software missing from the operating system.
  • The drivers have failed
  • USB controllers are unstable or corrupt
  • Port may be faulty or unplugged
  • External drive is not properly installed
  • Incorrect installation of External drive
  • Improper jumper settings on the drive
  • Damaged hard drive

Actions to take if the external drive in non-detected:

It’s always better to initiate the troubleshooting process with simple ways. Let’s discuss some of the steps you can follow in order to eliminate non-detecting external drive problem.

  1. If the external or portable drive is not recognized by your system, and your drive is connected through a surge protector, then disconnect the power adaptor and plug your external drive directly to the UPS wall. At times, surge protector decreases the required power supply due to multiple device attachments.
  2. If the connected drive is getting proper power supply, but still not spinning up at all (This can be checked by feeling the vibration on the drive), then possibly the drive or the power adapter has failed. In order to resolve this, you can either replace the power adapter or take your drive to the data recovery expert. Additionally, you can also try to replace the drive to check the port.
  3. In case the drive is spinning properly, but not recognized by your system, try to replace the data cable with a working one. At times, an old data cable can also create such issues because of broken inside wires, or loose connectors. If still you are facing the same problem, try to connect the external drive to another USB port, possibly the first one is defected.
  4. You can also restart your system and disconnect the data cable. Once your system OS is fully loaded, reconnect the data cable again and let the system initialize your externally connected drive. If it does list the drive among all the connected storage mediums, then probably your drive partitions are corrupted or damaged, you need to re-partition or reformat the drive so that your system recognize it.

Note: In case your targeted drive contain your important data, do not perform reformat before data recovery. To recover your crucial data from an inaccessible external drive you will need to perform data recovery operation on the drive, before performing reformat.

  1. In case the drive is not listed in your disk management (it could be different for every operating system), then lastly you can try to connect the drive to another system. If it won’t work, then there is definitely a fault in your external drive, but if work the possibly your system hardware or drivers are faulty. First, you need to troubleshoot your computer or operating system related issues.

The above mentioned processes should resolve most of your drive recognition issues. But is case all of them are unable to help you out then possibly your portable drive is dead.


The most important way to save your data from inaccessibility is regular backup.  Cloud storage is the latest technology to save all the digital data in logical pools. There are various cloud backup services available that provide backup solution for both Windows and Mac platforms, such as Drop box, Google Drive. And if one is not aware of Cloud Storage and is still relying on the External storage devices, which are prone to failure. One can follow the steps mentions in this blog to gain data or in worst case scenario look for data recovery experts. These are the most recommended and reliable ways to recover data from a non- detected hard drive.

Points to avoid corruption:

To avoid corrupting or losing the data from your external storage drive, always shut down or eject the drive properly before you are disconnecting the drive from computer or power surge.

How to troubleshoot non- detected hard drive on Windows:

Missing drive letter

This is one of the most common sources of non-detected external hard drive. A drive letter is actually the latter you see in front of your drive or partition, such as C:\ is the partition letter of your boot volume. Each of the storage media that you connect to your system needs a drive letter in order to access it. In case it is missing due to any reason, then the drive will not be shown.

To change the Drive letter follow the below mentioned steps:

  1. Go to Disk Management
  2. Right-click on the drive that is not displayed on ‘My Computer’ (you can recognize it by the size) and right-click on the capacity of the drive.
  3. Now, select ‘Change Drive Letter and Paths’ option from the menu.
  4. Choose ‘Change and select an available letter’ from the drop box and enter a letter that doesn’t exist on your My Computer.
  5. Click OK and close the window.
  6. Once you are done with the process, the drive should appear in My Computer with the letter you have chosen.
  7. In case the drive is listed as ‘Unknown’ or ‘Unallocated’ in Disk Management, then it means that the drive is not properly formatted according to this operating system and it might have an incompatible file system.

Remember: This process will erase the complete stored data. Therefore, it is advisable to back up your data before proceeding.

New Drive:

Most of the new hard drive are not formatted and have unallocated space on them. This case mostly happens when BIOS & ‘Device Manager’ recognizes your new drive, but still showing up anyway. To identify such issues, check your Device Manager (Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound > Device Manager) and if you found your drive here then you only need to format it.

Show Empty Drives

Windows has the tendency to hide empty drives by default. This issue usually occurs when your drive is not properly formatted. To resolve this issue go to Control Panel -> Appearance and Personalization -> Folder Options, In View tab, undo the Hide empty drive option, which is available in the Computer folder box.

How to troubleshoot non-detected hard drive on Mac Machine:

This process will work, if you are able to view your connected drive in your System Profile.

  1. First, go to Disk Utility, where the drive was seen. You will be able to view the drive icon as “2TB External drive” (here the drive size is 2TB) along with a name that you have given to the drive or provided by the machine.
  2. In case the name you have given to the drive is not showing up, then click “Verified Disk” and it will say “Invalid Index Key (and the drive name you had given) found corrupt and needs to be repaired. .. Click Repair Disk.”
  3. When you click “Repair Disk”, it might be possible that it will show you a failed message “Disk Utility Stopped Repairing…”.
  4. Try “Repair Disk” again, it might take a long time, but surely will give you positive result. After successful repair it will show you repaired file message in green.
  5. Now, disconnect the drive and reboot the MacBook and reconnect the external drive via USB, and you will be able to view the connected USB drive on desktop along with the correct assigned name!

All of the above mentioned processes work only when your external drive is in working state and properly connected to the system. But, what if the drive is not able to create a connection with your computer machine, then only way left to restore inaccessible data is to look for reliable data recovery services. Stellar Data Recovery is a reputed and a well-known name in data recovery services. We have teams of technical experts along with CLASS 100 CLEAN ROOM labs to provide you 100% guaranty of data recovery.

For more information about Hard disk issues and recovery solutions, check