External Drive Not Showing Up – Mac

Your Mac not recognizing an external hard drive can be cause for panic. But try to remain calm — it’s unlikely that anything has happened to your files. All of your data will still be on the hard drive, it just that, for whatever reason, you can’t access it.

Fortunately, there are ways and means of getting the hard drive back up and running. Let’s get into some of them right now.

External Drive not Showing UP: The Potential Causes

If you’ve plugged in a flash drive or USB drive and it’s not showing up on your Mac at all, it could be down to a faulty cable or USB port. Before you try any system troubleshooting tips, start with the basics.

  • Check the USB connector — does it look damaged or misshapen in any way?
  • Check that the drive is probably plugged in.
  • Check the cable — is it frayed or are there any wires exposed?
  • Try a different USB cable — even cables with no visible defects can fail.
  • If the external hard drive is plugged into a wall outlet, try a different outlet.
  • Try the drive in another Mac — if it works there, the problem is with the USB ports on your Mac.
  • Test the hard drive on a PC — it could be formatted for PCs and not readable on Macs.
  • Reboot your Mac — a simple on and off is sometimes all it takes.
  • Reboot USB drives by shutting down your system and restarting it, holding Command+Option+P+R as you do. When you hear a sound and see the screen flash, release the keys and let your Mac boot up as usual.

If you’ve carried out visually inspections, tested your hard drive with different cables and power outlets, and tried different systems with no luck, it’s time to put your Mac to work.

Fix Error #1: Check Your Settings

One of the most common reasons for Mac not recognizing external hard drives is due to the system not being set up to display hard drives on the desktop. There’s a simple fix for this:

  1. Open a Finder window.
  2. Go to Preferences  > General.
  3. Check that the External disks option is enabled.

If your Mac is not recognizing a USB or external hard drive after this, you’ll have to try mounting it manually.

Fix Error #2: Run Disk Utility and Mount an external drive

If Mac isn’t automatically recognizing your external hard drive, it’s time to force it to. Connect your hard drive and follow these instructions:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Disk Utility.
  2. Check that the external disk is listed in the left sidebar.
  3. Highlight your hard drive and select Mount. It should now appear under devices in the Finder.

If the hard drive still isn’t playing ball, the next step is First Aid.

Fix Error #3: Run First Aid

Mac’s built-in First Aid tool is designed to verify and repair a range of issues related to corrupted files and apps, startup issues, and, crucially, external hard drive problems.

If your issue has to do with wanting to know how to open a flash drive on Mac that’s displaying but not allowing you access to files, First Aid might be able to help.

  1. Go to System Preferences > Disk Utility.
  2. Highlight your external hard drive and click on First Aid.
  3. Select Run to start running diagnostics and prompt Mac to automatically fix any issues.

If First Aid is successful in repairing any faults, your hard drive should be available to mount.

NOTE: If you still cannot find it in the finder, it might not be getting enough power. Single USB ports can provide only 5 V. In that case, make use of USB cable having one USB connection for the external HD and two for Mac. This will supply the power required by the external hard drive.

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