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Why is My External Drive Not Showing Up?

When your digital storage calls for increased capacity, you have choices for accommodating your storage requirements:

  • Increase storage by installing a larger internal drive
  • Add a second hard drive
  • Delete a lot of files to free up storage – perhaps unloading applications and data to flash drives
  • Buy a new computer with larger storage capabilities
  • Purchase an external drive to add capacity

The easiest and least painful route is likely the acquisition of an external drive. This option gives you a simple way to increase storage limits significantly, in the least amount of time.

Why You Should Install an External Drive

External drives have become increasingly popular for many computer owners over the past few years, for many reasons:

  • They’re more affordable – prices per TB have dropped steadily as technology improves and competition escalates
  • Reliability – along with advances in technology comes increased stability and reliability in both hardware and software elements of external drives
  • Security – it’s so easy to automate backup of your critical files from primary drives to an external drive
  • Ease of use – with plug-and-play simplicity, you have increased your storage capacity significantly, often with only a few minutes of setup required
  • Networked storage – connect your external drive to a primary computer in your home, and access software or files from any device in your home, providing a simplified method of file sharing
  • Portability – disconnect your external drive and store it in a secure location as a backup defense, or take it with you to work on projects from other computers or networks
  • Performance – external drives are available today in both traditional hard drive format as well as lighter, faster, solid state drive (SSD) models. Although SSD drives are still more expensive, they make up for that in performance and reliability (no mechanical parts)

With all the potential benefits of using an external drive in your technical arsenal, there can be challenges when introducing them into your environment:

  • External drives can fail, the same as any other electrical/mechanical device
  • Connectivity is critical in getting the best performance from your external drive. Most connect via USB port, but there are other methods, such as USB-C connections on some computers.
  • While many manufacturers provide external hard drives, they are supplied in various states of readiness. You often need to format the drive to match your operating system, although detailed instructions are typically provided for preparing the drive for use.
  • Your operating system may not initially recognize the external drive, requiring software or other downloads to get it up and running successfully

As simple as the leading producers of external drives make it to install and use their products even for the average consumer, there may be times when your external drive is not showing up. This could be a start-up issue, or it could happen after you have been using the drive successfully for a considerable period.

When your external drive is not being recognized by the computer, there are several steps you can take to diagnose the problem.

Troubleshooting Your External Drive

When your external drive is not showing up, basic steps are in order, to help determine the cause:

  • If your drive is connected via USB port, try moving the cable to a different port. USB ports can go bad, so moving the drive to a different port is a quick and easy first step to resolve the problem.
  • Don’t connect your external drive to a USB hub. These devices are very convenient for providing extra USB connections for such devices as printers, mice, and keyboards, but can play havoc with your external drive. If your external drive is not recognized, be sure it is directly plugged into its own USB port.
  • Check the cable – cables are a likely cause of many computer problems. Use a high-quality USB cable, preferably one that came with the drive, if the vendor included it.
  • Follow any directions that came with the drive regarding formatting the unit for your operating system. Many problems originate from simply not reading and following any instructions for installation and start-up.
  • Consult the vendor’s website or phone support for assistance if the unit is new. There may be new software downloads or updated instructions for using the external drive on your particular operating system.
  • Try connecting the drive to another computer. If it works with that computer, you at least know the drive itself is not the problem.

If all your hardware and installation procedures pass inspection, the problem with your external hard drive not showing up may be a software problem, either with your operating system or drive software. This may even be an issue with system drivers for your external drive.

Check Your Windows Operating System Software

It’s always a good idea to keep your Windows system current with Microsoft’s latest updates. Fortunately, the software giant has made this a relatively simple process:

Click the Windows Start button, click the “Settings” icon, and choose Update and Security:

Next click the Windows Update option, and select Check for Updates:

Windows will analyze your system for any programs, drivers, or operating system components that are outdated or missing, and suggest that you download and install the latest versions available. Windows Update will step you through the process to download and install any components that it identified as needed for your system.

That sounds great, but the problem is that the manufacturer of your hard drive may have updated drivers that have not yet been registered with Windows Update. If that’s the case with your external drive, you may have gone through this process without resolving the problem.

Update Your Drivers

Once your operating system is current, try your external drive again. If your external drive is still not showing up, you may have driver issues with the drive itself that Windows Update was unable to solve.

Your next step is to use the internet to connect with the external drive vendor’s support website. You’ll need to know the exact model of the external drive and the version of Windows running on your computer (WIN7, WIN10, 32 or 64 bit, etc.).

Most vendors provide the capability on their websites to select the drive model and operating system, and then download the driver that applies to your system. Be sure to note the name of the driver file, and where you save it when downloaded. Then follow these steps to install the driver.

In the Windows “Run” box, type “devmgmt.mcs” and press enter to start device manager:

When Device Manager starts, look for the Universal Serial Bus Controller, and click the arrow to expand the list:

The expanded list will appear. Select the USB port that your external drive is connected to, then right-click, and choose the option to “Update Driver”

Windows will ask you whether you want to search the internet for the appropriate driver, or if you want to install the driver from a known location on your computer. Since you know the name of the driver you downloaded, and where you saved it, take the option to browse your computer, then point the install to the driver file you downloaded.

Windows will tell you when the install has been successfully completed:


You’re now ready to try accessing your external drive again. Hopefully, your drive is now recognized and ready for use.

Get It Done the Easy Way

There is a much easier way to update your drivers – not only for your external drive, but for your entire system. By registering with Driver Support, you can transform driver maintenance to an automated process that increases security and keeps your system running smoothly with the latest updates that apply to your system and devices.

Where Windows Update attempts to keep your system current, that process only has access to drivers that vendors have provided and registered with the service. This may not include the drivers you need for your configuration or for your external drive.

Give DriverSupport | ONE a try today! to save time and take the frustration out of driver maintenance for every device on your system. Keep your system running at its best performance with the latest software – securely and automatically.