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External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac [Solved]

fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac issue

If your external is not recognized by your Mac, try these 8 methods until you find the one that resolves the issue.

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fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac issue

There are many reasons causing external hard drive not showing up on Mac. Figuring out all methods could take you hours even days. But don’t worry. In this post, you can find the most effective methods. Try them one by one, then your external hard drive should appear again.

There are 8 methods for you to try. You may not have to try them all; just work your way down the list until you find the one that works for you.

1: Plug the external drive as slow as you can
2: Check if the cable is bad
3: Check if the USB port is working fine
4: Check the settings
5: Remount the drive via Terminal
6: Ensure the drive format is compatible with OS X
7: Run First Aid to repair the errors
8: Perform a data recovery


1: Plug the external drive as slow as you can

Normally, we plug the drive to the port as soon as we can. But in this way, it’s possible the drive could not be recognized. If your external drive is not recognized, you can disconnect the drive then plug it again as slow as you can. This easy method may do the trick for you.


2: Check if the cable is bad

A bad cable can cause external hard drive not showing up. So try a different cable in good condition, and check to see if the drive appears.

check the cable

3: Check if the USB port is working fine

When external hard drive is not working on your Mac, one of the common methods you can try is checking the USB port. If your Mac has been used for a long time, the USB port may be bad or dusty. In that case, the hard drive may be not connected successfully, or may not get enough power.

  • If your Mac has more than one USB port, plug the drive to another USB port and check to see if the hard drive appears.
  • If you plug the hard drive to the USB port directly, try connecting it via a USB hub instead and check to see if the hard drive appears.

4: Check the settings

It’s possible that your Mac doesn’t allow the hard drive to show up. If that’s the case, you need to manually configure the settings to make the hard drive to show up on the desktop or in Finder.

Below are the steps for you to ensure the external drive show up on desktop.

1) Go to Finder -> Preferences.

2) Select the General tab. Ensure the check box “External disks” is selected. (If the box is already selected, this method doesn’t apply to you. Just move on to other methods.)


5: Remount the drive via Terminal

To fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac issue, you can try disconnecting the drive and then remounting the drive via Terminal.

1) Open Terminal.

1a) Click the finder icon in the Dock.

2b) Click Applications, then double-click Utilities.

3c) Launch Terminal from Utilities.

2) Type diskutil list then press the Return key (or the enter key) on your keyboard. After that, you’ll see a list of mounted drives and their information.

Command “diskutil list” is a command you can use to check the basic information about all hard drives. You can check if the drive is really connected to your Mac using this command.

3) Find dev/disk[number] (external, physical). The number is different depending on the specific number assigned to the external hard drive by your system. In my case, the number is 1(see screenshot shown below). Remember this number which you’ll need in next step.

4) Type diskutil info disk[number], then press the Return key (or the enter key) on your keyboard. Replace the [number] with the number representing your external hard drive. In my case, I type diskutil info disk1.

The “diskutil info” command displays all the information of the external hard drive, such as the device manufacturer, the partition size and the total size.

If you can see the detailed information about the external hard drive, it indicates the drive is known by your system. Then move on to next step. If you can’t see the detailed information about the external hard drive, move on to Method 5.

5) Type diskutil eject disk[number], then press the Return key on your keyboard. After that , the drive will be ejected.

6) Type diskutil list and press the Return key (or the enter key) on your keyboard. Note you can’t see the dev/disk[number] (external, physical) this time.

7) Physically remove the external hard drive then connect it to your Mac again.

8) Check to see if the hard drive appears.


6: Ensure the drive format is compatible with OS X

If you connect a disk drive with NTFS format to your Mac, the drive won’t be recognized, as NTFS format is not officially supported by OS X. If you ever used the drive in PC running Windows, drive format is probably NTFS. So you can check if the drive is NTFS-formatted:

1) Click the search icon in the upper right corner of the desktop screen. Then Spotlight Search will open.

2) Type Disk Utility and press the Return key (or the enter key) on your keyboard. Then Disk Utility will open.

3) Select the drive in the sidebar, then select the Info tab.

4) Check if the File system is Windows (NTFS). If it shows NTFS, to make the external hard drive show up on your Mac, you need to change the drive format. If it shows other formats like ExFAT, you don’t need to change the format, then try the next method.

Follow these steps to change the format:

Warning: The data in the drive will be lost after you proceeding the following steps. So back up the data first. You can connect the drive to a PC running Windows, then save the data to that PC.

1) Open Disk Utility again.

2) Select the drive in the sidebar, then select the Erase tab.

3) Select Format to ExFAT, then click Erase. The process may take a few seconds. Please be patient until the process completes.

4) Check to see if the external drive appears.


7: Run First Aid to repair the errors

The problem can be caused by corrupted files. To fix the problem, you can run First Aid to repair the errors.

1) Open Disk Utility.

2) In the left pane, select the external drive. Then click the First Aid tab.

4) Click Run to repair the errors.

5) Check to see if your external hard drive appears.


8: Perform a data recovery

After trying above steps, if the problem still persists, it’s recommended you to have a technician guy to make a further check. If you hard drive has stored very important data, you may need to recover and back up the data first.

How to recover and back up the data

You need to use a third-party program to do a data recovery. If you’re not sure what program you can trust, you can do it with Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Pro. To recover the corrupted files, you just need a few mouse clicks:

1) Download and install Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery for Mac. If you’re prompted to enter the password to allow it to install on your Mac, enter the password.

2) Launch Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery and click Next. If you’re prompted to enter the password to allow the program to run on your Mac, enter the password.

3) Select the external drive you’d like to recover, then click Scan. Take external drive “disk” for example here:

4) Select all files and click Recover.

6) Click Browse to select a destination where you’ll save the files. Then click Save.

Hopefully the methods help you resolve the external hard drive not showing up on Mac issue. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave your comments. I’d love to hear of any ideas or suggestions.

By Camilla Mo

Camilla, a certified MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional), has almost four years technical writing experience. She is now the author of Super Easy. Before working as a writer, she was a technical support helping people to solve their computer problems. She enjoys providing solutions to computer problems and loves exploring new technologies.

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