Why is my External Hard Drive Not Showing Up?

External hard drives are a great and easy way to back up your data. But what do you do when your PC or Mac won’t show your drive?

When you connect your external hard drive to your PC or Mac, it should appear within a few seconds as it whirs into action. On a PC, it will display in My Computer, and you will also be promoted to open the drive if you’re settings are configured this way. On a Mac, your external hard drive will appear in the Finder in the left column under Locations, or Devices on older versions of macOS; it will also appear on your Desktop. But what happens if your external hard drive is connected, but won’t show up on your PC or Mac? There are a number of steps you should take; some are the same regardless of your operating system, and some are specific to Windows/macOS.

Your first port of call, as obvious as this might sound, should be to check that your external hard drive is actually connected properly. There is also a chance that your drive may not be receiving the power it needs. While most portable external hard drives are powered simply via USB, some higher capacity models that are not designed to be carried around may require another power source. If your drive came with an adapter, check to see if it is connected properly. If your drive is connected, or doesn’t require an external power source, you should next check to see if a different USB port works; if you have another cable, try that too.

If you’re trying to use a drive between different operating systems, it’s possible it isn’t formatted correctly for the one you’re currently trying to connect too. If possible, try connecting your external hard drive to a machine running a different operating system. Windows PCs use the NTFS file format, while as of High Sierra, Macs use the new Apple File System (APFS). Prior to this version of macOS, Macs used the HFS+ file format. The exFAT and FAT32 formats can be read by both Windows and Mac computers. If you can connect your hard drive to a machine running a different operating system, but not your chosen OS, the solution is to back up any files on the computer that can recognise your drive, and then format it so it can be read by your chosen machine. If you’re using a Mac, this can be done using Disk Utility. When your data is backed up, select your disk, then the exFAT format, then click erase. Once your external hard drive has been formatted, it will now show up on your Windows PC.

If you’re trying to get a Windows-formatted external hard drive to be recognised by a Mac, this can be done using Disk Management. Found in the Control Panel or by typing “disk format” or “disk management” in Windows Search, the Disk Management tool can easily reformat an external hard drive. Again, selecting the exFAT file format will allow the external hard drive to be recognised by both Windows and Mac computers.

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