Why is My Hard Drive Not Showing My Files?
Recovering Missing Files from an External HDD
If you’ve arrived at this guide, chances are important files have disappeared in your external hard drive. It could be an important project for work, or folder full of baby pictures, but when files disappear and you don’t know why or where they went, it’s incredibly frustrating. It isn’t always clear why they’re gone, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel
Breaking Down Your Missing File Mystery
The bad news: you just plugged in your external hard drive to print out some pictures from your vacation a few years ago. Or maybe the deadline is looming, and you need the project data from the external drive right now. Either way, you plug in the drive and look for your files, but they’re gone.
The good news: they could still be there! Don’t panic. Below you’ll find some steps to diagnose the issue, and solutions to go with each scenario. If the files stored on an External Hard Drive are not showing up, there are steps you can take to recover them – before you hire a data recovery specialist.
How to Recover Missing Files from an External Drive
The first thing you need to do is a little bit of investigation. There are several symptoms and several possible solutions. Check our list below to see which scenario most closely matches your problem and try the solution that goes with it.
Check the Connection
First, check to see if the issue is related to the physical connection or the device being recognized by Windows.
- Is the external hard drive properly connected physically connected on both ends?
- Is the name of the device and information displaying properly in Windows Explorer?
If the answer to #1 is “No,” try Solution 1. If the answer to #2 is “No,” try Solution 1 or Solution 3.
Check the device information
If the drive is properly connected, and being recognized, that are some other options to investigate.
- Right click on the drive and select “Properties.” Is the correct capacity for the external drive displaying in the drive’s information window?
- Does the drive appear to have space filled up, but no files are displaying?
If the answer to question #1 is “No,” try Solution 2. If the answer to question #2 is “Yes,” try Solution 2 or Solution 4.
Solution 1: Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?
Before you do anything else, disconnect the drive and then reconnect it:
- Open Windows File Explorer.
- Right click on the external drive and click “Eject”.
- Unplug the USB connection.
- Wait a moment to ensure that your system has registered that the drive was removed.
- Plug the drive back in. (If you have multiple USB ports, try plugging it into a different one.)
Did it work? Don’t worry if it didn’t. We’ve got more options.
Solution 2: Update Your Drivers
One likely cause of files not appearing from an External HDD is that your drivers aren’t up to date. This can happen if you plug the drive into a computer that it has never been plugged into before, or if you have run updates on your machine since the last time the drive was plugged in.
If your drivers are out of date, you have a couple of options.
Option 1: Go the manufacturers website, locate the drivers for your specific device and OS/version, and manually install the new drivers.
Option 2: Download Driver Support to manage your drivers and automatically keep them up to date.
Solution 3: Use Windows Built-in Recovery Tools
It’s possible that files on the drive or some aspect of the file system has corrupt data or an error. In this case the normal file browsing tools won’t work, but Windows includes specialized tools for fixing hard drive issues. To use these tools, you need to use Windows command line.
- Note which drive letter has been assigned to the connected external drive. In this example it’s D:
- Open the Windows menu and enter “cmd” in the search box.
- When the results appear, right-click on “Command Prompt” and select “Run as administrator”
- You may be prompted with “Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device?” If so, click “Yes”.
- In the command prompt, enter the following command (insert the correct letter for your drive):
chkdsk d: /f
- The check disk program will run and repair any corrupted data on your drive. You may be prompted to authorize any changes that need to be made.
It’s possible that some or all the files on your drive were “hidden” through a feature in Windows that allows you to set certain files to not be visible by default.
- Open the external hard drive in Windows Explorer.
- Click “View” in the top menu bar.
- Under “Show/hide” check the box for “Hidden items”
If you had any hidden files on your drive, they will now be visible.
Other Solutions for Hard Drive Not Showing Files that Exist
Hopefully, one of the solutions provided above worked, but if it didn’t you can probably still recover your files, but it might be a bit more work. If nothing above worked, the most likely problems are a virus or malware infection, or physical damage to the drive.
Run a Virus/Malware Check
If you have been experiencing other kinds of unwanted behavior like slow performance, connectivity interruptions, or pop-ups, it’s likely that you have malware or a virus on your system. Even if this isn’t the direct cause of being unable to access your files, you want to deal with this as quickly as possible.
Damaged or Corrupt Drive
It is possible that the physical drive has been damaged through a drop or from a sudden power loss while the drive was in use. If this is the case, there are commercial tools available to help you recover the files, or you can contact a data recovery professional.
Keeping Your Files Safe
Using an external hard drive to store or backup important files is a great start to keeping your files safe. You need to be careful to make sure the drive isn’t damage, and make sure that it’s not your only backup. To ensure that you never lose important data or memories, you should always keep two copies of any important files, whether that’s on an external hard drive or in the cloud. If you didn’t have that second copy before today, hopefully this guide helped you recover your important files and wake you up from the nightmare of lost files.
Download Driver Support today to keep your files safe and secure on your hard drive.