External hard drive not recognized, working, showing up on Mac

Updated by Tim to Mac Data Recovery Tips on May 14th, 2020

Most of the time, when we connect an external hard drive to our Mac's USB port, we soon see the external hard drive appear on the desktop. However, sometimes, an external hard drive doesn't show up in Finder or disk utility. It can be annoying, especially when transferring data.

What should we do when an external hard drive is not recognized/showing up on Mac? There are several solutions to solve it:

Solution 1: Check USB connection, USB cable, USB port

If external hard drive is not recognized/showing up in Finder and disk utility, please check USB connection, USB cable, USB port and then try again.

Solution 2: Check Preferences in Finder

If the external hard drive is recognized/showing up in disk utility, but it doesn't show up in Finder, please Open Finder ->Preferences -> General tabe" Tick "External disks".

Quick tips to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac

  • Restart your Mac computer and try connecting the external hard drive again.
  • Update your Mac to the latest macOS version and try again.
  • In some cases, this issue might happen due to the unsupported file system - Windows NTFS file system. You can install NTFS for Mac to read and write to NTFS drives.

Solution 3: Access the external hard drive in /Volumes/ folder

All connected and mounted volumes will show up in the /Volumes/ folder. Launch Finder and in the menu bar, select Go > "Go to Folder…" and type the external drive path what appears under Disk Utility (Ex: /Volumes/mydisk) and hit Enter. You will be taken to a folder that shows you all mounted drives and disk images. If the external hard drive can be found here, try accessing it.

Solution 4: 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 ticked. Then your external hard drive will appear in Finder.

Show external hard drive in Finder

Solution 5: Mount the external hard drive

If the external hard drive shows up in disk utility but won't mount, the drive still won't show up in Finder. To mount it, you can open Disk Utility, highlight the external hard drive from the left sidebar, and then click the "Mount" button.

Solution 6: Run First Aid to check the external hard drive for errors

First Aid is a built-in macOS tool to check minor errors and repair them on hard disks if necessary. Here are steps to check your external hard drive for errors:

Step 1: Launch Disk Utility.

Step 2: Highlight the grayed out external hard drive.

Step 3: Select First Aid in the top center and select Run to perform hard disk diagnostics and fix any issues.

Repair the external hard drives via First Aid

Solution 7: Try data recovery software

If external hard drive is recognized/showing up in disk utility, but external hard drive is unmounted/unreadable in disk utility. In this siutation, we need to recover lost data firstly and then reformat it.

M3 Data Recovery for Mac is a professional Mac data recovery software which can recover deleted/lost files from emptied Mac trash, recover lost data from formatted, unreadable, unmountable, uninitialized drive on macOS Catalina/Mojave/High Sierra/Sierra/EI Capitan/10.9/10.8.

Tutorial to recover lost data from corrupted external hard drive:

Step 1: Download, install and then launch M3 Data Recovery for Mac on your Mac computer.

Step 2: Select the external hard drive

Free Mac data recovery software - M3 Data Recovery for Mac

Step 3: M3 Data Recovery for Mac is scanning lost data from corrupted external hard drive

Scan lost data from corrupted external hard drive

Step 4: Select the found files you expect to recover and then click Recover to recover lost data from corrupted external hard drive.

Recover lost data from corrupted external hard drive

After data recovery from the external hard drive is successfully done, it is time to format the external hard drive and make it be working again.

Solution 8: Reformat the external hard drive

If none of these solutions above can fix the issue, the last way is to reformat the external hard drive. But this operation will erase all data stored on the drive. Before that, you'd better apply a professional data recovery software to get your drive backed up.

Solution 9: Seek help from a local data recovery specialist

If external hard drive is not recognized by disk utility and any data recovery software, it means external hard drive has a hardware issue. In this situation, please send the unrecognized external hard drive to a local data recovery specialist for help.