What to do when an external hard drive is not showing up on Windows 10

Is your external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10? Fear not; there's often a simple fix and we'll walk you through the process of elimination to determine where the issue lies.

Why is my USB external hard drive not showing up?

There are a few possible reasons as to why your USB external hard drive isn't showing up: 

  • USB port connection issues — the USB port, plug, or wire is damaged
  • Power supply issues — the external hard drive isn’t receiving enough power from your computer
  • Unstable or corrupt drive — the USB controllers have become unstable or corrupt
  • Incompatible or outdated drivers — you don’t have the latest driver installed for your external drive
  • Hard drive malfunction — the external drive may need repairing or replacing

External hard drive not showing up on Windows 10

Step 1: Test the drive for a connection or power issue

If your computer isn’t recognizing the drive, try a different cable as well as another USB port to rule out a faulty connection. 

If there is a light on your external drive, this can also provide a quick indication of whether the connection is working and power is being supplied. 

If the drive works in a different USB port, the issue is with your computer’s port and you will need to get this fixed. But, if the drive isn’t connecting to another working port, the issue is likely with the drive cable, which you can look to replace.

Step 2: Find the new hardware icon and reboot your computer

system tray image

If your drive is getting power but still not being recognized, then use your System Tray to look for new hardware. 

Click on the up arrow (^) at the bottom-right of your screen, and you should see the Found New Hardware icon. To get more information and options for the icons in the tray, right-click on the icon. 

If it’s not there — and this may sound cliché — reboot your computer and look for the icon again. If it now appears, than you should be able to open the drive in File Explorer and access your data.

Step 3: Run the Windows Diagnostic Tool

usb image not detected screenshot 2

Windows 10 has a nifty diagnostic tool that could help find and fix any issues found with your external drive: 

  1. Open Start, search for Command Prompt, then right-click to Run as administrator
  2. If prompted, allow access
  3. Copy and paste msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic to bring up the troubleshooter
  4. Click on Advanced, and click Apply repairs automatically for Windows to try and fix any issues found
  5. Once the scan is finished, click View detailed information for an overview 

Fingers crossed this has fixed the issue, and your external drive is now appearing in File Explorer.

Step 4: Change the drive letter in Disk Management

usb image not detected screenshot 3

When you initialize an external drive, Windows automatically assigns the drive a letter. 

Updating this preassigned letter can help reset the communication between the drive and the computer, and help Windows recognize it: 

  1. Open Disk Management by pressing the Windows key + X and select Disk Management from the list
  2. Right-click on the external drive and select Change Drive Letter
  3. From the drop-down menu, select a new letter you’d like to assign to the drive and press OK
  4. The external drive will temporarily disconnect and reconnect with the new letter applied

Step 5: Uninstall and reconnect the external hard drive in Device Manager

usb image not detected screenshot 4

This method resolves issues where the currently loaded driver is out of date or has been corrupted, resulting in the drive showing as an Unknown device: 

  1. Open Device Management by pressing the Windows key + X and selecting Device Management
  2. Expand the Disk drives branch
  3. Right-click on your hard drive and select Uninstall
  4. After the hard drive is uninstalled, unplug the USB cable
  5. Wait for 1 minute and then reconnect the USB cable
  6. The driver should automatically load
  7. Check for the USB drive in File Explorer 

Still facing issues with your external hard drive?

If you're still facing issues after following all these steps, then your external hard drive may be malfunctioning, meaning it's best to contact the manufacturer. 

Manufacturers usually have an on-demand support team that can help with technical requests and walk you through any specific issues you might see with their devices. 

In a worst-case scenario, your hard drive might need replacing, hopefully while still falling under your manufacturer's warranty.  

Crucial external SSDs, such as the X9 Pro or the X10 Pro, come with a full warranty and return policy if you face any issues with your external drive. 

©2023 Micron Technology, Inc. All rights reserved. Information, products, and/or specifications are subject to change without notice. Neither Crucial nor Micron Technology, Inc. is responsible for omissions or errors in typography or photography. Micron, the Micron logo, Crucial, and the Crucial logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Micron Technology, Inc. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.