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Fix External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac | 7 Proven ways

This article talks about the various troubleshooting methods to fix the issue of External Hard drives not showing up on Mac. Try and follow the 7 proven ways given to resolve the issue effectively and make the external hard drive mountable on Mac. As a quick way, you can also download the Remo Recover Mac tool to recover data from internal and external storage devices.

External hard drives are not only renowned for their data storing capability but also for their portability function. Whenever you connect your external hard drive to the USB port of your Mac computer, it shows up not only on the desktop but also in the Finder menu on the left-hand side under Locations or Devices.

Due to various reasons which are mentioned below, you might find your external hard drive not showing up on Mac. If you have saved all your crucial backup on the external drive, MacBook not recognizing the external hard drive can lead to a data loss scenario.

In this article find out:

  1. Why is your external hard drive not showing up on Mac?
  2. How do I get my external hard drive to show up on my Mac?

Why is my external hard drive not showing up on Mac?

The reasons might the from the ones listed below:

  • External hard drive corruption.
  • Physical damage to the external hard drive.
  • Faulty USB connector.
  • Problem with Mac USB ports.
  • Hidden external drive.
  • Improper formatting on the external hard drive.
  • Recent macOS Big Sur or Catalina update issue.

How do I get my external hard drive to show up on my Mac?

Try these easy troubleshooting methods to make your hard drive show up on Mac.

1. Connect the External Hard drive Properly

The foremost thing to do is to check if the external hard disk is properly connected or not.

Once, it is confirmed that the hard drive is properly connected to your device, then the system should easily recognize the external hard drive and the data saved on it.  

If your Mac does not recognize an external hard drive due to any hardware issues, you can plugin the unrecognized hard drive into a different USB port of your system.

It might look like child's play but inserting an external hard disk to another or healthy USB port can help you understand whether the issue is pertaining to the hard drive failure or USB cable.

2. Fix Issues with the USB cable

Your external hard drive not showing up on Mac can be due to the USB cable or HDMI cable connecting the external hard drive to your MacBook Pro or Air. 

  • Accessing data from an external hard drive on Mac is dependent on the USB cable. Mac won’t recognize the external hard drive when the USB cable is not properly connected to your device.
  • When your USB cable is damaged, fixing it becomes a priority to access your external hard disk on Mac. Thus, make use of a different USB cable to connect the external hard drive to a Mac computer.

Quick Note: If your MacBook is having USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports, then use USB-C to USB adapter to connect the external hard drive to your Mac.

3. Reset Mac Computer

Resetting a Mac machine can reboot a few system settings to their default and ensure any issue with respect to it is resolved. This can also help you fix the external hard drive not booting issue due to Mac operating system. To Restart your Mac;

Go to the Apple menu and click Restart. (or) Press and hold the power key until a dialog box displays and hit the Restart or press the R key.

4. Change Preference Settings

One of the reasons why the external hard drive does not show up on Mac is due to Preference settings. Mac won’t show up external hard disk on the desktop if you have not allowed your Mac to access the external hard disk in the "Preference Setting". To allow your Mac to show up on the external hard drive, edit the preference setting using the below steps;

  • Open a Finder window.
  • Go to Preference and select General.
    change preference settings
  • Under “Show these items on the desktop”, check the External disks option.
    Show Preference Settings to access external hard drive on desktop

In most cases, this method will resolve your issue of an external hard drive not showing up on the Mac desktop or Finder menu. 

5. Use different Mac or Windows PC

If you still find your system couldn't recognize the hard drive then, try connecting the hard disk to a different system, sometimes there might be a problem with your Mac system itself.

Connect your external hard drive to a different system to find out whether it is mounting on it or not. If the external HDD is mounting on the new or different system, then the problem is with your old Mac system. In case, if the external hard drive not showing up on both Mac devices, then connect it to a Windows computer.

Quick Note: If your external hard drive is accessible on Windows 10 but not on Mac, then the external hard disk is formatted for Windows computers and not for Mac systems. Check out this article on how to make an external hard disk compatible with Mac.

6. Use Disk Utility

Once you find out that the Mac device is not responsible for the external hard drive not showing up issue. Follow the below steps to run the first aid utility to fix external hard drive corruption. 

  • Navigate to Go > Utilities > Applications > Disk Utility
    Disk Utility to access external hard drive not showing up
  • If your external hard drive appears in the Disk Utility, right-click on the drive and select Mount. This will make your external hard drive option available on the desktop and in the Finder menu. Thus, you can access all your files present on the external hard drive.
    Mount external hard drive to access it

    (Note: If the Mac has already mounted your external hard drive (volume) then, the option Unmount will be displayed.)
  • If the drive is not accessible then, the Mount option will be greyed out.
    unrecognized external hard drive on Mac is not mountable
    (Note: To repair your inaccessible or not showing external hard drive Run First Aid.)
  • Now, choose the First Aid option and click Run.
    Using First Aid to repair external hard drive not showing up on Mac
  • After running the First Aid, if the Disk Utility detects any issues or errors on the external hard drive then, click Repair Disk.

Using this method, you can easily repair minor corruption and access an unrecognized hard drive on Mac. In case, if the first aid utility fails to repair the external hard drive or SSD, this indicates the following 2 reasons;

A) Your external drive is severely corrupt or broken:

If First Aid Disk Utility fails to repair the drive, it could be due to the RAW or broken drive. Mac does not recognize the hard drive when the file system registry that holds the data on the drive gets broken or damaged.

B) The external hard drive file system is not compatible with Mac:

A hard drive or USB is formatted using a file system that your Mac cannot read. For example; if an external hard drive is formatted using the NTFS file system then, a Mac computer cannot read or write the drive. In the same way, if the hard drive or USB is formatted with the HFS+ file system then, Windows operating system cannot support it.

ExFAT and FAT32 are the two most common file systems that can be easily supported by both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Now, the last thing to do to fix the external hard drive is to format it using compatible Mac file systems like exFAT, FAT32, HFS+, or APFS.

7. Format unrecognized External hard drive

Formatting the external HDD on Mac leads to a data loss scenario. Before you format your external hard drive to exFAT, Mac OS Extended (Journaled), FAT, or APFS file system, it is suggested to recover data from it using Remo Recover Mac

review on Remo Recover Mac

Remo Recover (Mac/ Windows) is designed with advanced scanning algorithms to effortlessly recover files from corrupt, unrecognized, formatted, or inaccessible hard drive. This tool is compatible with all the versions of Windows and Mac including the latest Windows 10 or macOS Monterey.

 free-download-for-mac   free-download-for-win

How to format a hard drive that is not showing up on Mac:

  1. Navigate to Disk Utility
  2. Select the external hard drive not showing up on Mac and click the Erase option
    select corrupt external hard drive that needs to be formatted
  3. Now, give a new name to your external hard drive (optional) 
  4. Click the Format button to choose the format type you want to perform on it. (Select exFAT if you want to make sure it's compatible with PC and Mac, otherwise, Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is probably the best option)
    formatting corrupt external hard drive on Mac
  5. Click on the Erase option and wait until the Disk utility function removes all the files present on the external hard disk and then reformat it with the selected file system.


In most cases, editing the Preference setting to show the external hard drive on the desktop fixes the issue. However, if you couldn't fix the issue with the above-given ways then the external hard drive seems corrupt. You must repair it using the First Aid Utility or format it with compatible Mac file systems like exFAT or APFS.

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John Harris

Senior Editor, Content Analyst and a fan of exceptional customer service. John develops and publishes instructional and informational content regarding partition management, Windows hot-fixes, data management and computer troubleshooting.

As a tenured data recovery specialist, John shares exceptional insights and blog posts about data loss and data recovery across any storage device. With 8+ years’ experience in writing for Data Recovery for both Mac OS and Windows OS computers, he is an avid learner who always wants to polish and simplify the data recovery process. John passes his free time playing Chess and reading Science Fiction novels.

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