Troubleshoot: External Hard Drive Not Showing Up On Mac

Usually, when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, it will show up on the desktop and also in the Finder under Devices. But sometimes, the drive fails to be recognized and making inaccessible to the data stored on it. If you encounter such problem, here’s how to check where the issue is and how to resolve subsequently.

In this article, we’ll show you the steps to access your data from the external hard drive connected to your Mac through Firewire or USB port. Now, let’s see how to make your external hard drive show up on your Mac:


Make sure you have set your preference to show mounted external hard drives on the desktop. To do this go to Finder then, Preferences and then General and ensure the box is tick marked against External Drives.

Drive Connections:

Check if all the cables are connected properly to the drive. If the drive isn’t getting sufficient power supply, it fails to show up and this is one of the main causes. If you have attached the drive through USB cable, make sure the drive is being delivered with enough power supply. Old Macs use a USB cable that splits into two connectors and both should be connected to your Mac so that the drive is supplied with sufficient power.

With regard to USB power cable, ensure they are not defective. Try attaching another cord with the external drive to check if that can solve the issue. Also check the USB port on your Mac as well. If there is only one USB port on your Mac, try connecting another drive to check if that works.

Connect It to Another Computer:

You can even try to connect the unrecognized external hard drive to another Mac. Or maybe to a Windows computer. The external drive might be formatted for PC and hence your Mac isn’t recognizing the drive.

Disk Utility:

Open Disk Utility to see if the drive is listed there. To do that, open Spotlight by pressing command + space bar and type disk utility and press Enter. Once the program is open, look for the external drive whether it's visible there or not.

If the drive is listed, check below the Disk Utility for its Volume. Click on it if it’s there and choose Mount. If the external drive is already mounted, you’ll see the option ‘Unmount’ instead.

If the Volume is not listed, then your Mac won’t be able to access the external drive and the option ‘Mount’ would be grayed out.

First Aid:

Last option on this list First Aid, Restore and Erase. This will detect drive for any errors and repairs it if needed. Restore lets you wipe the drive of its content and substitute that with another drive’s Volume. And finally, Erase – this will wipe the entire data from the drive and is an irreversible process. If you don’t want the data stored on the drive go-ahead the procedure.

You can try performing ‘First Aid’. To do that, click First Aid tab and then click Run. If your Mac finds any error, you’ll see the option Repair Disk.

If your Mac fails to repair the drive, it means that the drive must have been formatted from a file system, which Mac cannot recognize or the drive is really broken. If it’s the case of former, try connecting it to a PC. If its latter, follow this guide to get back data from external hard drive on Mac. If you don’t want data from the drive, you can simply erase and format it.

Troubleshoot: External Hard Drive Not Showing Up On Mac was last modified: April 24th, 2017 by John Harris

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