How to fix external drive not detected issue on Windows 10?

By ivan.diskin | December 27, 2018 |

greater than 7 minutes

External drives form an integral part of computer technology today. You can use them to transfer large files or data from one machine to another or to create a backup of your files. Windows 10 is designed to automatically recognize an external hard drive when you plug it into your computer and it normally shows up in File Explorer.

However, sometimes your computer may fail to detect the hard drive when you plug it in. If your hard drive doesn’t show up, some of the main reasons that could be causing the problem include dead USB ports, outdated or corrupted drivers, or the hard drive itself might be defective.

This is a common problem and this article shows you how to fix problems with an external drive on Windows 10.

Solution 1: Check your drive connection

Although most hard drives and USB drives don’t require a separate power source, some have a physical power switch that must be turned on for Windows 10 to detect the hard drive.

If there are no switches, the USB cable might be faulty. If you have another cable, try swapping it to see if that solves the problem. Alternatively, the USB port might be dead. In such a scenario, try to plug in the hard drive into another USB port. Also, check if the light indicator on your hard drive is flashing when you plug it in.

If you’re using a USB hub, the problem might be compatibility issues. Try connecting the drive directly into one of the available ports on your computer.

If you’ve tried the above tips and none of them worked, unplug the external hard drive and restart your PC. Reconnect the drive to check if Windows 10 recognizes it. If it fails, plug the hard drive into another computer to confirm that the drive is working. If it refuses to work, read on to try other options.

Solution 2: Run the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter

Your next step is to troubleshoot external drive not detected issue on Windows 10. The troubleshooting feature that comes with Windows 10 is helpful in solving common issues with your internet connection, Network Adapter issues, and Windows Update problems among others.

Running the troubleshooter could help you fix problems with an external drive on Windows 10 and you can do that by using the following steps:

  1. Right-click “Start,” and open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to Update & Security > Troubleshoot.
  3. Scroll down to “Hardware and Devices,” and then click “Run the troubleshooter.”
  4. Your computer will try to detect the issues causing problems and give you the results after the scan is complete.
  5. If Windows finds errors, you’ll be prompted to select a device to troubleshoot. Windows 10 will try to fix the issues and give you detailed information about the hardware or device problems.

Once Windows 10 completes the troubleshooting process, check if the problem has been solved. If it hasn’t, try the next solution.

Solution 3: Update your drivers

One of the major reasons for Windows 10 to fail to detect your hard drive is outdated or corrupted drivers. Updating the drivers could help fix the problem. There are two ways to update your drivers:

Way 1: Manual update

  1. On your keyboard, press the Windows Key + X, and select Device Manager.
  2. Find “Disk drives” and click the arrow next to it to expand it.
  3. If there’s a yellow exclamation mark on any of the listed devices, it means they might have driver issues.
  4. Right-click your drive, and select “Update driver.”
  5. Choose “Search automatically for updated driver software.”
  6. Follow the instructions to complete the process.

Way 2: Automatic update using Auslogics Driver Updater

Updating device drivers manually can be difficult since you have to know the correct version and model of the device driver. To make it easy, Auslogics Driver Updater will automatically recognize the drivers that are compatible with your system and install them for you.

The tool effectively detects driver issues affecting your external drive and gives you a detailed report on missing or broken drivers. It then allows you to update the drivers hassle-free and ensures that only the latest drivers are installed.

You don’t need to risk installing drivers only for them to develop compatibility issues. Install Auslogics Driver Updater today and let it do the hard work for you.

Solution 4: Uninstall and reinstall the device driver

You can try to remove and reinstall the hard drive driver to check if Windows 10 will recognize it.

  1. Right-click Start > Device Manager.
  2. Click “Disk drives” to expand it.
  3. Locate the problematic external hard drive and right-click on it.
  4. Click “Uninstall device,” and then select “Uninstall.”
  5. Unplug the external hard drive and restart your computer.
  6. Plug in the hard drive again and check if Windows 10 detects it.

If Windows fails to recognize the hard drive, try the next solution.

Solution 5: Create a new partition on your external hard drive

If you’re connecting your external drive to your computer for the first time, Windows 10 may fail to detect it because you’ve not created a partition for it. To fix this issue, you should partition the drive using the following steps:

  1. Press the Windows Key + X (or right-click Start), and then select Disk Management.
  2. If your hard drive is not partitioned, right-click on the hard drive and choose “New Simple Volume.”
  3. Click Next.
  4. This opens the “Specify Volume Size” window. Click “Next.”
  5. Click “Assign the following drive letter.”
  6. Select any of the available letters from the drop-down menu, and then click “Next.”
  7. Choose the “Format this volume with the following settings” option.
  8. Assign the default settings as follows:
    • File system – NTFS
    • Allocation unit size – Default
  9. Type a description for your drive under the “Volume label.”
  10. Check the box next to the “Perform a quick format” option, and then click “Next.”
  11. Click “Finish” to complete the process.

You should now be able to see a new partition created in your File Explorer. If this method doesn’t work, move on to the next solution.

Solution 6: Change your external drive letter

If you’ve partitioned the drive and you have installed the latest drivers but your computer still isn’t able to detect the hard drive, you can change the letter of the portable hard drive. It might be that your hard drive letter is already in use by another device or it could be missing a drive letter. “So, how do I change the external hard drive letter?” Use the following steps.

To resolve the drive letter conflict on Windows 10:

  1. Right-click Start, and select Disk Management.
  2. Right-click your external hard drive, and choose “Change Drive Letter and Paths.”
  3. Click the “Change” button, and select a letter from the drop-down menu next to the “Assign the following drive letter” option.
  4. Click OK, and then click “Yes.”

The external hard drive should now appear in File Explorer.

If your hard drive is missing a letter, it will not be accessible from File Explorer. To resolve drive letter missing on Windows 10:

  1. Press the Windows Key + X, and then click on Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the portable drive, and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths.”
  3. Click “Add,” and then choose “Assign the following drive letter.”
  4. Choose any of the available letters from the drop-down list, and then click OK.

These steps will assign your drive a new letter and it should now be accessible from File Explorer. If it isn’t, move to the next solution.

Solution 7: Fixing an external drive that hasn’t been initialized

This is a common problem when connecting an internal hard drive from one computer to another. The hard drive may appear as “Unknown” or “Not Initialized” in Disk Management. This problem could also happen to your external hard drive, and you can easily fix it using these steps:

  1. Open Disk Management by right-clicking the “Start” menu
  2. If your drive is shown as “Unallocated” and “Not Initialized,” right-click the drive and select “Initialize Disk.”
  3. Select the hard drive, and click on the “MBR (Master Boot Record)” option.
  4. Click OK to complete the process.

In case the disk is initialized but appears as “Unallocated,” follow the Steps in Solution 4 above to create a new volume and assign a letter to your drive.

Solution 8: Make sure your drive appears as “Online”

For your external hard drive to be accessible from File Explorer, it should appear as “Online” in Disk Management. If it appears as “Offline,” you can fix that by following these steps:

  1. Launch Disk Management by pressing the Windows Key + X.
  2. If you see your hard drive listed as Offline, right-click it and select “Online.”

These simple steps may help you fix the external drive not detected issue on Windows 10.

Solution 9: Check if the hard drive is enabled

If the external hard drive is disabled on your computer, you will not be able to access it. To make sure it’s enabled:

  1. Right-click Start > Device Manager.
  2. Click on “Disk drives” to expand it.
  3. Locate your hard drive and double-click it to open the “Properties” window.
  4. Make sure you’ve selected the “General” tab. If you see “This device is disabled” under the “Device status” option, click the “Enable Device” button.
  5. If you don’t see the option to enable your device, it means your drive is already enabled.

Solution 10: Format the external drive using a supported file system

If you’ve tried the above solutions but Windows 10 is still unable to recognize your external hard drive, it might have been partitioned or formatted with an unsupported file system. For instance, if the drive was formatted using Linux or Mac OS, which use XFS and APFS file systems respectively, then Windows won’t be able to read the hard drive.

Windows only recognizes drives using NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT file systems. If this is the case, you will have to format the drive using one of the supported file systems.

This option erases everything on your hard drive and it’s recommended that you create a backup of all the files and data by connecting the hard drive to a supported device and copying the files.

To format the hard drive with a supported file system:

  1. Launch Disk Management by pressing the Windows Key + X.
  2. Right-click the drive, and select “Format.”
  3. Assign a name for the drive under “Volume label.”
  4. Use the following default settings:
    • File system – NTFS
    • Allocation unit – Default
  5. Check the “Perform a quick format” option.
  6. Click OK to complete the process.

Your hard drive will now have a supported file system and you’ll be able to access it from File Explorer.

Remember, hard drives are very sensitive and can be broken if they fall down or due to mishandling. If you’ve tried all the solutions above and Windows 10 can’t detect the hard drive, it might be time to replace your drive with a new one.

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