How to access an external drive that's not showing up on a Mac (2023)

How to access an external drive that's not showing up on a Mac (1)

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Most of the time, when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac’s USB port, you soon see it mount on the desktop. Apple likes to ensure these are easy to find, so they also appear in the Finder in the left-hand column under Locations.

However, sometimes, an external hard drive doesn't show up. It’s annoying, especially when you need to transfer something right then. And besides, there can be a risk that data on the external USB pen, hard, or flash drive is corrupt, which means you can’t transfer what you need between devices at all.

Corrupt data can be one reason your Mac won't recognize an external drive, but there are other reasons too. Let’s take a look at why this is happening and how you can fix the external hard drive not showing up problem.

Possible reasons why your Mac does not recognize external hard drive

Let’s say you’ve encountered the problem of SSD not showing up. There could be a few reasons why SSD isn’t making an appearance (just as any other external drive), the most common being:

(Video) How to Fix External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac? [6 Methods]

  • There’s something wrong with the cable
  • There’s a power supply problem
  • Your drive has been corrupted or broken
  • The drive is not readable on macOS
  • NTFS read-only problem.

With M1 chips, thethreatis very real due to the fact that it’s impossible to boot your Mac if your internal SSD fails.

How to fix an external disk drive that won't show up on a Mac

While it’s impossible to instantly figure out why an external disk drive is not showing up, there are some working methods that will help you get things right. Let’s go through the checklist.

Check whether the drive is properly plugged in

It sounds obvious, but since the connection relies on a wire — either a USB cable or HDMI cable — if it’s not connected properly, the drive won’t appear on your desktop.

Assuming it’s plugged in correctly, not wobbly or loose, the cable could be at fault. Try connecting the same device with a different cable.

Change USB ports

A damaged USB or flash drive port on your Mac could be the reason why external drives won’t show up. If you’ve got another port, try connecting the device to that one.

Edit Finder Preferences

When you connect a drive to Mac, it should appear in Finder under Locations. What to do if external hard drive is not detected? In most cases, when Finder doesn’t see your drive, you just have to change a few things in Preferences. Let’s see how you can fix this.

  1. Go to the Finder menu > Preferences
  2. In General, click on External disks to ensure that from now on it shows on the desktop.

In the Sidebar tab, you can choose which folders and devices will be shown in the left-hand column of the Finder window.

How to access an external drive that's not showing up on a Mac (2)


NVRAM has to do with storing different settings, including the startup disk selection settings. This is why resetting NVRAM can help fix the problem with those settings.

To reset NVRAM on an Intel-based Mac:

  1. Shut down or restart your Mac
  2. Switch it back on and immediately press these four keys together for at least 20 seconds: Option, Command, P, and R. It should look as though your Mac has started again
  3. If it has, release the keys when you hear the second startup chime. Hopefully, the hard drive has shown up now.

Note that NVRAM works differently on Apple Silicon Macs and doesn’t require manual resetting. On these newer Mac models, NVRAM settings are being checked and reset automatically when necessary.

(Video) How to Fix External Drive Not Detected/Showing Up On Mac?

Check Apple’s Disk Utility

You’ll find Disk Utility within System Preferences or via Spotlight. If the external drive is visible in Disk Utility, select it and click Mount, which should make it visible on the desktop and in the Finder menu.

Change the format of your hard drive

Not every external drive is optimized for Macs. It could be that you are trying to connect something only fit to interact with Windows devices, such as NTFS. If you’ve got a PC or laptop, it’s worth connecting and seeing if you can access the files through another device.

The best way to look for an incorrectly formatted drive on Mac is to go to Apple (in the top toolbar menu) > About This Mac > Storage. See if the external drive shows up here. For more information, go to the same menu option, then select System Report.

Mac not reading external hard drive (or rather not writing to it) is normal in case you’re connecting an NTFS drive. The simple fix is to install iBoysoft NTFS for Mac, an app that unlocks read and write support for NTFS drives on Mac. If you’re dealing with some other unsupported drive format, you can try and change its format. Note that you’ll have to erase all the data on that drive first.

  1. Connect your external drive
  2. Open Disk Utility, select the drive, and click Erase
  3. Choose the right format under Format (APFS is standard for macOS) > Erase.

How to access an external drive that's not showing up on a Mac (3)

Run First Aid

The most direct reason your external hard drive is detected but can't be opened is the file system problem. If your drive is having such problems, you can try to fix them yourself with First Aid and therefore get access to your files.

First Aid tool will check the disk for errors and then attempt a repair as needed. It helps to verify and repair a range of issues related to startup HD and external drive problems. If you are able to fix the hard drive or SSD in your Mac (or any external drive) using Disk Utility you will hopefully be able to recover your files.

To run Fist Aid on an external hard drive:

  1. Open Disk Utility. You can search for it using Spotlight or via Finder > Go > Utilities
  2. Select your external hard drive, access the First Aid tab, and click Run to start running diagnostics.

Reboot your Mac

Hard disk not detected in Mac can be a macOS issue. Hopefully, some data damage can be fixed by restarting your Mac. Go to the Apple menu > Restart. Or press and hold the power button and, when a dialog box appears, click Restart or press R. Rebooting your Mac essentially clears your macOS’s memory and starts it up fresh.

How to recover data from a crashed drive

If you went through all the steps and weren’t able to fix Mac not detecting external hard drive, your drive truly is broken or formatted using a file system that the Mac cannot read — in this way you have to recover data from a damaged disk drive.

Thankfully, there is an app for that. Disk Drill is the world’s premier data recovery software for Mac. Powerful enough to retrieve long-lost, mistakenly deleted files from Macs, external hard drives, USB drives, and camera cards.

(Video) How to Show Hard Drives and USB on Mac Desktop and Finder

Here’s how to recover files with Disk Drill:

  1. Connect your drive to Mac
  2. Quit all other applications on Mac, especially those that may be trying to access the external drive (e.g. iPhoto, Words)
  3. Open Disk Drill
  4. Click on the external drive that you are trying to recover files from. If it has partitions, you will see all of them. If, however, you still don’t see any volume to the external drive then you may need to try some of the steps above again or read the Disk Drill Scanning FAQs.
  5. Scan the drive for lost files
  6. Preview the scan results and once you’ve found the files you want to recover, click Recover.

Disk Drill does have other ways to recover lost files but assuming there are no complications, this method is the most effective.

How to access an external drive that's not showing up on a Mac (4)

How to fix external drive NTFS read-only problem

External hard disk detected but not opening? As we’ve mentioned before, one common reason your Mac isn’t recognizing the hard drive is the file format. Windows uses NTFS file formats, while Macs, up until the introduction of Sierra, have used HFS+. Now, Apple has introduced the Apple File System (APFS) for newer operating systems.

If you connect an NTFS drive, your Mac will be able to read it but not edit it. This means you can’t really complete your task (move, copy, or delete any files) as long as you experience the read-only problem. There’s an easy way to fix this with iBoysoft NTFS, an app that enables full read/write support for NTFS drives on Mac.

A few more tips on getting your files back

  1. Macs and third-party apps that look after Macs, such as Disk Drill and iStat Menus come with a S.M.A.R.T. (also known as Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) status monitor. If a SMART check reports errors, then it could mean the hard drive is at risk of failing completely. Within Disk Utility and Disk Drill, there are several solutions for this: Repair Disk Permissions and Repair Disk. If neither of them works, it’s recommended to back up all of the data from the disk, erase it, then run a SMART check again. The external hard drive should show up as Verified.
  2. Partitions can get lost within hard drives, temporarily hiding all of the information contained within. Disk Drill can help to identify and restore this information.
  3. Within Disk Drill, you can restore data when a hard drive is damaged or add formatting, which is also something Disk Utility can help with.
  4. CleanMyMac, another useful app available from Setapp, can help you identify external hard drive errors and repair them. It is an essential tool worth trying when you’re having external hard drive difficulties.
  5. A trick that can help you fix hard drive not showing up on Mac is to replace it with cloud storage. You can mount cloud storage as a local drive on your Mac. By connecting Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon to your computer, you get more space for securely accessing and sharing files. For your ease, add cloud drives to Finder with CloudMounter so that you keep them close at hand. You can read detailed instructions on managing cloud storage as local drives here.

Hopefully, we’ve covered the topic so you don’t have to google “external hard drive disappear from the computer” ever again. There are lots of potential solutions for a Mac not reading/writing an external hard drive. If you’re trying to connect an NTFS drive, do it with iBoysoft NTFS for Mac. If you need to add cloud storage, CloudMounter will help you. Most importantly, you’ll never have to worry about a crashed or corrupted external drive because Disk Drill will help you recover all the data stored on it.

iBoysoft NTFS, CloudMounter, Disk Drill, and other powerful apps such as CleanMyMac X are all available via Setapp, a productivity suite that solves your tasks with apps. Give it a try for seven days free and fix all your Mac issues in one go.


How to find external hard drive on Mac?

After you’ve plugged in your external hard drive, open Finder and look for the drive under Locations. Is your Mac not recognizing external hard drive? Make sure it’s set to show up under Locations: Finder > Preferences > General > select “External disks.”

(Video) Mac or Macbook does not detect my external drive, how to fix?

Why is my external hard drive not readable on Mac?

The most common issue is your drive being formatted incorrectly. In this case, you’ll need to change the format of your drive using Disk Utility. Other reasons might include issues with power supply, faulty cable, and your drive being corrupted or broken.

What does “Corrupt Disk” mean in Disk Utility?

Hard disk not detected on Mac or not mounting properly can mean it’s been corrupted. Corrupt disk error usually shows up when your system can’t finish writing to the drive and the data stored on that drive becomes inaccessible. The best way to try and rescue your data is to use data recovery software such as Disk Drill.

What to do if my Mac shuts down when I connect a hard drive?

Sometimes, your Mac would shut down if it can’t supply the external drive with the required amount of power. It’s basically the opposite of the insufficient power supply issue. In this case, you might need to connect an extra USB hub or any other source of power. If you have an Intel-based Mac, you might also try to reset the SMC.


How do I get my Mac to read an external hard drive? ›

Double-click the USB hard drive icon to open up a Finder window and browse its contents. Click Finder > Devices to see a small icon of the external hard drive when plugged in. Click to select it and show its contents in Finder.

Why my external hard drive is detected but not showing up? ›

But in some cases, you may connect your drive to a Windows PC or another device with a USB port and find the external hard drive isn't showing up. This problem has several possible causes: partition issues on the external drive, using the wrong file system, dead USB ports, or driver issues in Windows.

When I plug in my external drive nothing happens Mac? ›

If a USB device isn't working properly, make sure it's connected to your computer correctly, is plugged into a power outlet if it has a power cord, and has any necessary software installed. Check the power, port, and cable connections: Make sure the USB device is turned on and its cables are properly connected.

What do I do if my hard drive is not detected Mac? ›

If your external hard drive is not detected, follow these steps to fix the issue:
  1. Go to Applications and open Utilities.
  2. In the Utilities folder, select Disk Utility.
  3. In the View menu at the top of your screen, select Show All Devices.
  4. Select your external drive and click Unmount.
  5. Connect your external hard disk again.

Why is my external hard drive not showing up Mac Disk Utility? ›

If your external hard drive is not visible in Disk Utility even if you have chosen the Show All Devices option in the View tab, then the drive may have undergone physical damage. You need to replace the inoperative drive with a new one.

How do I open a hard drive that doesn't show up? ›

Try a different USB port or computer
  1. Try plugging your external hard drive into a different USB port on your computer, to see if this makes a difference. ...
  2. If you're plugging your drive into a USB hub, try connecting it directly to its own USB port on your computer instead.
5 May 2022

How do I access an inaccessible hard drive? ›

Right-click on the inaccessible hard drive and select Properties. Go to the Security tab, hit Advanced, then click the Edit button. On the Owner tab, modify the ownership of the specified account.
To access a hard drive:
  1. Check disk error from Property.
  2. Turn to disk repair service.
  3. Run the CMD command...
22 Sept 2022

How do I fix an unreadable external hard drive? ›

Follow the fixes as listed here one by one to make the problematic drive work normally again:
  1. #1. Unplug and Re-plug the Corrupted/Unreadable Device.
  2. #2. Check and Repair Disk Error via CHKDSK.
  3. #3. Reinstall Disk Drivers.
  4. #4. Format Drive.
  5. #5. Recover Data.
22 Sept 2022

How do I find my USB device on Mac? ›

To confirm that the Mac OS detects your USB device, complete the following:
  1. Click the Apple icon.
  2. Click About This Mac.
  3. Click More Info or System Report.
  4. Under the appropriate heading, confirm that your USB device is listed and that there isn't an error. For example, a network card would be under Ethernet Cards.

Why is my external SSD not showing up on Mac? ›

Connection Issue: The most common reason for SSD not showing up on Mac is the connecting cables of your SSD may be loose, worn, or damaged. Connection issues can be solved very easily. USB Port issue: Another reason can be a faulty USB port. If your USB Port is not working, your SSD is not going to show up.

How do I find a USB device on my Mac? ›

If you still can't find your USB drive, go to Finder > Preferences from the menu bar at the top of the screen. Then click the Sidebar tab and make sure External disks under the Locations heading is enabled. If the Mac is able to speak to your USB drive, this should make it appear in the Finder sidebar.

Why is my WD Passport not showing up on Mac? ›

To fix WD Passport not showing up on Mac, try to install the latest WD drive unlock application, change Finder preferences settings, and repair it with Disk Utility. If necessary, you can format the WD drive on the condition that you've used a data recovery app to recover all your important files first.

Why is my Seagate hard drive not showing up Mac? ›

Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility

If the drive is not detected in Disk Utility then see the System Information/System Profiler section. If you are using macOS 10.13 or higher then click view in the upper left and select “Show All Devices” which allows you to see both the disk as well as volumes.

How do I force my Mac to Mount a hard drive? ›

Method 2: Force external hard drive to mount on Mac by Disk Utility
  1. Go to Finder > select Applications folder > find and open Utilities > click Disk Utility.
  2. Choose the external volume from sidebar > select “Mount” tab at the top center. After the mounting process finishes, your drive will show up on desktop or Finder.
21 Sept 2022

How do I force my Mac to mount a hard drive? ›

Through Disk Utility, you can manually force mount an external hard drive on your Mac. Launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities), select your drive or drive volume, and click “Mount.”

How do I find external devices on my Mac? ›

You can view icons for hard disks, external disks, CDs, DVDs, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and connected servers in the Finder sidebar or on your desktop. In the Finder on your Mac, choose Finder > Preferences. Click General, then select the items you want to see on the desktop.

Why is my WD Passport not showing up on Mac? ›

One of the leading causes that your Mac might not be showing your WD passport can be that your Mac is not formatted to display external devices on the desktop. Your Mac can be recognizing your WD passport, but it is not set to show to the icon on the screen.

How do I mount an unmounted hard drive Mac? ›

If you eject a volume, you can use Disk Utility to mount the volume so that it's available in the Finder. In the Disk Utility app on your Mac, select the volume you want to mount. Click the Mount button .

How do I manually mount a USB drive on a Mac? ›

If it is greyed out in Disk Utility, you can manually mount this USB flash drive.
  1. Step 1: Go > Utilities > Disk Utility.
  2. Step 2: Click on View option and choose "Show all devices".
  3. Step 3: Click on the name of your USB flash drive.
  4. Step 4: Select Mount in the upper menu bar.
5 Aug 2022

How do you fix a hard drive that won't mount? ›

Troubleshooting external hard drives that will not mount
  1. Relaunch the Finder. ...
  2. Change the port. ...
  3. Plug in power adaptor (if available). ...
  4. Avoid daisy-chaining. ...
  5. Try a different connection type. ...
  6. Run general maintenance. ...
  7. Drive problems.
21 Apr 2010


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