How to fix external hard drive not showing up, recognized, working on Mac?

If your external hard drive has lost the data, free download iBoysoft Data Recovery to recover data now.

Updated by Tim to Mac Data Recovery Tips on April 28th, 2021

Did you know that 1 in every 10 personal computers in the USA is a Mac?

Thanks to their incredibly fast processing speed, smooth handling of graphics, and epic good looks, Apple home computers have become a standard machine for home and business users.

If you work with graphics on a daily basis you likely know how effective the graphics cards and Retina screens in Macs are. However, HD images and videos do take up a lot of space. You can always add more local storage to your machine, however, what happens when you meet the "Mac not recognizing external hard drive" issue?

Why not read on to find out how to overcome this and increase your local storage capacity.

How to fix Mac not recognizing external hard drive issue?

There are 10 solutions you can have a try until fixing "external hard drive not recognized, working, showing up on Mac" issue.

1. Check USB connections

Let's prioritize the simplest solution that could save you the most time. Whether you are experiencing external hard drive problems or problems with any peripheral device, start by looking at your cabling.

A good place to start is checking whether your external hard drive has its own power supply. Following this, look over your USB connections, USB ports and USB cables for any sign of damage.

Did this simple solution work? If you are still facing an external hard drive not showing up on Mac problem, it's time to dig a little deeper.

2. Check your preferences

If you are not able to see your external hard drive after checking the cables, do not stress, it is one of a number of common Mac problems that has a simple fix.

If by chance you can see the external hard drive in Disk Utility, but not Finder, you may just need to make a small adjustment in your preferences. Simply go to Finder -> Preferences-> General tab and select "External disks". From here on, it should appear in your list of storage devices.

Show external drive on Mac

3. Show external hard drive in Finder

If your external hard drive is not showing up in Finder but visible in Disk Utility, you might have not selected external disks to show up in the Finder. Follow these steps below to set the preference:

Go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar and make sure the "External disks" under "Locations" is checked. Then your external hard drive will appear in Finder.

Show external drive in Finder

4. Check for incompatible programs

It could be that a program or software item on your Mac is preventing you from seeing the external hard drive. Software that could create this problem could include Antivirus software and encryption programs.

To check if this is the problem, you will need to reboot your Mac and start it in "Safe" mode.

Safe mode basically means that your Mac will only boot up with basic programs running. It is a great way to check whether any software is interfering with the machine's basic functions.

To start your Mac in safe mode, start by turning off your Mac and unplug the external hard drive. Next switch it back on and hold the "Shift" key until the progress indicator displays. Your Mac will continue to boot.

When your desktop appears, re-plug the external hard-drive. Next, go to Disk Utility and Finder and check to see whether your external hard drive appears and you can access it.

If you can access it, you now know that the problem is software-related. Restart your Mac in normal mode and remove any programs you have installed recently. After removing each one, check to see whether you can access your external hard drive.

If you cannot access your external hard drive in safe mode, try one of the following suggestions instead.

5. Access the external hard drive in volumes

There are multiple ways to see storage devices that you have connected to your Mac. If your external drive is visible in Disk Utility, but not Finder, you may still be able to access it through the Volume folder.

You can find this folder by launching Finder, selecting "Go to folder" and then manually inputting the path that you find in Disk Utility, for example: Volumes/mydisk.

You will now see a list of all available drives, hopefully including your external hard drive. Try accessing it from here.

6. Mount the external hard drive

If a hard drive shows up in Disk Utility, but you still cannot access it, it may be simply that you have not mounted it successfully. This is a relatively simple process but one that is very important when using an external hard drive with a Mac.

To mount your hard drive, navigate to Disk Utility and locate the external hard drive. From here click to open the menu and select "mount".

If the issue was an unmounted hard drive, you should now be able to access the drive without a problem.

7. Use First Aid to check for errors

Knowing that connecting storage devices can be tricky, Apple has created tools for remediating external hard drive issues. One of these is the very useful First Aid utility.

Apple designed the First Aid utility to allow you to detect small errors on hard drives and provides some tools to be able to repair them. If you would like to use First Aid to detect your external hard drive and check for any signs of corruption, you can do the following:

1. Open Disk Utility
2. Navigate to your external hard drive. If the icon is dimmed or grayed out this is an indication of a problem.
3. From the top menu run First Aid on this disk.
4. After its initial run, First Aid will indicate if it has found any issues and suggest solutions. Accept the solutions.

Repair the external hard drives via First Aid

There are a number of reasons why your hard drive could appear greyed out. These could include unexpected power failure, unsafe ejection of the drive, or even the effects of a virus.

This could be the reason why you are not able to access your drive via Finder. Running First Aid could help you to identify and correct these issues. However, if a serious problem has occurred, you may need to take more serious action...

8. Data recovery software

In some cases, you will be able to see the external hard drive in Disk Utility, however, your Mac reports that 'The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer'. If First Aid is not able to identify or correct the problem, you will need to recover data on the disk and then reformat it.

Fortunately, thanks to available tools, this is not as difficult as it sounds.

Start by downloading a professional data recovery software such as iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery. This powerful tool can help you to recover data from Mac trash or unreadable, unmountable, uninitialized drives in various versions of macOS operating systems.

Here is how you use the program to recover data from an external hard drive:

Step 1: Download, install and then launch iBoysoft Data Recovery on your Mac.

Step 2: Select the external hard drive

Free Mac data recovery software - iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac

Step 3: Now initiate scanning for lost data from the corrupted external hard drive.

Scan lost data from corrupted external hard drive

Step 4: The utility will locate as many files as it can from the corrupted external hard drive. Select the files that you want to recover.

Recover lost data from corrupted external hard drive

Now that you have as much of the data from your external hard drive as is possible to retrieve, you should set about reformatting the drive.

9. Reformat the external hard drive

Reformatting the drive is not difficult and it allows you to change the formatting type on the hard drive if needed. However, always remember: Do not reformat a hard drive without recovering or saving the data on the disk.

Simply navigate to Disk Utility and select the troublesome disk. Next, choose the "Erase" option. You will be given several options regarding how thorough the formatting process should be. Select the one that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the data you have on the hard drive.

During the reformatting process, you will be given a choice of file system formats to choose from. Your operating system will recommend which one you should choose. However, you may want to research file system type options, especially if you alternate between macOS and devices with other operating systems.

After selecting your file system type, proceed to the end of the reformatting process. You now have a clean, uncorrupted drive. But what if this is not the end of your problem or you face further external hard drive errors?

10. Get professional help

If your Mac not recognizing external hard drive issue continues after these steps, this may be a hardware issue, and you will need to get professional help.

Mac not recognizing external hard drive? Now you know what to do and much more

If your machine gives a Mac not recognizing external hard drive error message, you may not know where to start. By applying the principles that we have discussed today, you can overcome this issue and continue to work with terabytes of extra space.

If you would like to learn more about getting the best out of your mac storage, we are here to help. We leverage our years of experience as data and storage technicians to offer premium services.

Would you like to learn more about data recovery options? Why not check out what we can do for you.

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