Typically, when an external hard drive is connected to your Mac’s USB port, it’s promptly displayed on the desktop. Apple makes these devices easy to locate, and so they are also listed in the Finder under the “Locations” section in the left-hand column. Nonetheless, there may be instances when the external hard drive won’t show up on Mac.

This can be frustrating, especially when there’s an urgent need to transfer files. Furthermore, the issue could indicate that the data on the external USB pen, hard, or flash drive is corrupted, thus preventing the desired file transfer between devices.

Data corruption is one possible reason why your Mac might not recognize an external drive, but there could be others as well. Let’s explore the various causes behind this issue and how to resolve the problem of an external hard drive not showing up.


Why is My Mac Hard Drive Not Detected?

These are the most common reasons why external hard drive is not showing up on Mac:

  • Improper Connection: Ensure the drive is correctly connected to your computer. Check whether the USB or HDMI cable used for connecting the hard drive is firmly plugged into your device.
  • Damaged Cable: The cable might be faulty or damaged, even if it’s not visibly noticeable. This can prevent the hard drive from connecting properly. Consider testing with a different cable to rule out this issue. You can purchase a new cable for a Hard Drive here>>>
  • Need for Restart: Sometimes, Mac computers can experience issues if they haven’t been restarted for a while. To resolve this, try restarting your device by holding down the power button or navigating through Apple menu to “Restart.”
  • Faulty Mac Hardware: Issues such as a malfunctioning power supply or bad USB port on your Mac could be the cause. If possible, try connecting a different external drive to your Mac. If the other drive connects without issues, the original drive could be damaged.
  • Corrupted or Broken Hard Drive: The external hard drive may be corrupted or broken, leading to connectivity issues.
  • Incompatibility with macOS: The external hard drive might not be set up to be readable on macOS, which can prevent it from being recognized.

If you face problems with your hard drive and you think it’s corrupted you might need External Hard Drive Data Recovery (Easy FREE Way).

why is my hard drive not detective

Hard Drive Won’t Show Up on Mac: How To Fix It

To resolve an issue with an external disk drive not showing up, follow these steps:

Check Connection

Before you proceed with more complex solutions, start with the basics. Ensure the drive is properly plugged into your Mac. Remember, the connection depends on a wire — either a USB cable or HDMI cable. If it’s not connected properly, the drive won’t appear on your desktop. Here are the steps:

  • Inspect the USB or HDMI cable connected to the drive and your Mac.
  • Make sure the connection is secure and not loose.

Change Cables or Ports

Assuming the drive is plugged in correctly and the connection is secure, the problem could lie with the cable itself or the USB port you’re using. Here are the steps:

  • Disconnect the existing cable from your Mac and the external hard drive.
  • Connect the external hard drive using a different cable.
  • If the problem persists, try a different USB port on your Mac.

Format Hard Drive With Disk Utility

Apple’s Disk Utility can help you identify if the drive is detected by your system. If it is, you can manually mount it. Here are the steps:

  • Open Disk Utility (either from System Preferences or via Spotlight).
  • If the external drive is visible, select it and click ‘Mount’.
  • This should make it visible on the desktop and in the Finder menu.
  • Choose the problematic drive from the panel on the left (the external hard drive), then select the ‘Erase’ option. (Refer to the image above for guidance).
  • Navigate to the ‘Format’ menu and pick any format that is compatible with Mac OS. Be aware that this will completely erase all data on the drive!
  • To initiate the formatting process, hit the ‘Erase’ button.

format hard drive

If you wonder how to format your SD card to Fat32 read: How to Format Any SD Card to FAT32 on Mac (Ultimate Guide).

And read the following article to find the steps to remove write protection form an SD card: Easily Remove Write Protection from SD Card [Windows/Mac].

Change Hard Drive Format Using Windows PC

However, if the data on the disk is too valuable to lose, you can reformat the drive using a Windows computer by following these steps:

  • Connect your external drive to a Windows computer.
  • Find the drive in the sidebar of the File Explorer.
  • Move all of the content from the drive to a separate folder on the computer for safekeeping.
  • Right-click on the drive icon and select ‘Format’ from the context menu.
  • Choose a file system that both Mac and Windows devices can read — the exFAT format is the most recent and recommended one.
  • Label your hard drive in the ‘Volume label’ field.
  • Press ‘Start’ to commence the formatting process. It should be completed in a few seconds, and then you’ll be able to use your hard drive on a Mac device.
  • Remember to restore the data back to the disk from the folder you created earlier.

Edit Finder Preferences

When you connect a drive to your Mac, it should appear in Finder under Locations. If it doesn’t, change a few things in Preferences. Here are the steps:

  • Go to Finder > Preferences.
  • In the General tab, click on ‘External disks’ to ensure it shows on the desktop.
  • Under the Sidebar tab, select which folders and devices will be shown in the Finder window’s left-hand column.


NVRAM, or non-volatile random-access memory, stores different settings, including the startup disk selection settings. Here are the steps to reset it on an Intel-based Mac:

  • Shut down or restart your Mac.
  • Switch it back on and immediately press these four keys together for at least 20 seconds: Option, Command, P, and R.
  • If your Mac starts again, release the keys when you hear the second startup chime.

Run First Aid

The built-in First Aid tool can help resolve file system problems on the external hard drive. Here are the steps to use it:

  • Open Disk Utility. You can search for it using Spotlight or via Finder > Go > Utilities.
  • Select your external hard drive, access the First Aid tab.
  • Click ‘Run’ to start running diagnostics.

disk utility

Reboot your Mac

Restarting your Mac can help clear minor software glitches that could be causing the issue. Here’s how to do it:

  • Go to the Apple menu.
  • Select ‘Restart’.
  • Alternatively, press and hold the power button and, when a dialog box appears, click ‘Restart’ or press R.


How to Prevent Your Mac from Failing to Mount an External Hard Drive

Here are some proactive steps you can take to avoid running into the issue of an external hard drive not mounting on your Mac:

1. Ensure your Disk Format is Compatible with your Operating System: The format of your disk should be suitable for your operating system. An incompatible disk format can lead to the drive not being recognized by your Mac.

2. Verify the Power Supply is Adequate: If your external hard drive requires an external power source, ensure it’s adequately powered. A weak power supply can result in your Mac failing to detect the drive.

3. Inspect the USB Cable’s Connector: Damaged or faulty USB connectors can prevent your external hard drive from being recognized. Check the connector for any signs of damage or wear.

hard drive on mac

More Preventive Measures:

In addition to these checks, consider the following preventive measures to avoid potential complications in the future:

Keep Your Mac’s Operating System Updated

Outdated operating systems can lead to issues across all functions of your Mac, including drive recognition. Regular updates enhance performance, stability, and security while minimizing the risk of file corruption.

Maintain Clean and Secure USB Connections

Dirty or loosely connected USB ports can interfere with your hard drive’s operation, causing it to not show up on your Mac or struggle with data read/write operations. Regularly clean your USB ports using compressed air and ensure that the connections are secure.

Eject External Drives Correctly

Improper ejection can lead to data corruption on your external hard drive, which might cause your Mac to fail to recognize it. Operating systems utilize write caching, meaning files aren’t immediately written to your hard drive when transferred or backed up, but are cached until all related operations are complete. Always safely eject your USB devices to protect the data on the hard drive.

If you also need to format external hard drive on Mac, read: How to Format Your External Hard Drive for Mac (Easy Way)

mac diagnostc


Hard Drive Won’t Show Up On Mac: Did You Solve The Problem?

It can be a frustrating experience when your external hard drive fails to show up on your Mac. But with the multitude of methods and tools we’ve discussed in this article, you should be well-equipped to tackle the problem head-on.

Whether it’s ensuring that your hard drive is properly connected, using a different cable, or simply restarting your Mac, remember that most of these solutions can be performed quickly and with ease. And if all else fails, tools like Disk Utility and external services can help to diagnose and solve more complex issues.

Remember to keep your Mac updated, and always safely eject your external hard drives to prevent any future issues. It’s also important to back up your data regularly to ensure your valuable information isn’t lost due to a malfunctioning drive.

We hope this guide proves useful to you and makes your journey in resolving the ‘hard drive not showing up on Mac’ issue a breeze.

And if you are in the situation when you have to erase all the sensible information from you hard drive and destroy it forever, read: Top 5 Best Hard Drive Destruction Services.




Thank you for reading this guide! I hope that it was helpful in teaching you everything you need to know about what to do when hard drive won’t show up on Mac🙂

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