Fixed: External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac

Learn how to fix your harddisks not showing up on Mac using built-in tools such as the Disk Utility or the Terminal for your Mac to work optimally.

What you know: When you plug in an external drive disk utility into your Mac, you expect it to pop up and be showing up on mac in Locations in Finder — next to your remote disk and the computer itself. But sometimes you meet the "external hard drive not showing us" issue. And it's troubling. 

What you might not know: There can be many reasons for an external hard drive not reading a Mac — poor connection, faulty cable, dirty USB, or, in the worst-case scenario, corrupt hard drive data. 

Why you must fix it immediately: Data on your Mac is stored on a hard drive, whether it’s internal or external. If this external drive isn’t showing up on Mac system, some deeper issues might need to be fixed. 

Luckily, there are many things you can try before fixing the external hard drive or external disks issue. This article will teach you how to fix your harddisks or external hard drive not showing up on Mac using built-in tools such as the Disk Utility or the Terminal.

Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac Fixed


Before we start...

Fixing a problem with an external drive on Mac or other external disks can be really hard, particularly for non-tech-savvy users. If you can't follow through with the steps we've provided below, just ask for help from a real pro! But, if you're eager to fix this issue yourself, keep reading and following the solutions to fix the external hard drive not showing on Mac. 

Now, let's dive in.

Table of Contents

Why Mac does not recognize external hard drive

  • The drive isn’t properly plugged in. If the external device isn’t connected to your computer the proper way, you’ll experience connectivity issues. Make sure to check that the USB drive cable or HDMI cable used to connect the hard drive disk utility is properly plugged into your device.
  • There’s something wrong with the cable, for example, the connection cable is damaged. If the external hard disk's connection is damaged, it’s not going to allow a connection. The damage might not be visible to the eye - try using a different cable for testing.
  • Your Mac hasn’t been restarted. In some cases, Mac computers may start to experience issues due to not being restarted for an extended period of time. Try giving your device a restart by holding down the power button, or choosing Apple menuRestart.
  • Faulty mac hardware, such as a power supply problem or bad USB port. If possible, try connecting a different external drive to your Mac to check if the same issue happens. If the drive shows up with no problems, the problematic drive may be damaged.
  • Your external hard drive has been corrupted or broken
  • The external hard drive is not set to be readable on macOS

How to access external hard drive not recognized on a Mac

Below are the methods to address the internal hard drive not showing up on Mac OS.

#1. Ensure cable has sufficient power

Some hard drives require more power supply than others. Equally, different types and brands of cables provide more or less energy. Normally, a device requires up to 500 mA, which can be provided by a standard USB 1.0 or 2.0. But if your external hard disk needs a stronger power output, it may work slower than expected or even not connect at all. So, check that your USB drive cable is delivering enough power to the hard drive and, if need be, swap to a more powerful connector or to a different USB port on your Mac.  

If this doesn't work, try Other Devices for the external hard drive's Power Supply because the problem might be in your Mac’s hardware. You can try using another Mac or Windows PC and see if it only works on another Mac or PC. 

#2. Edit preferences and change settings

If this is not your first time using an external hard drive disk utility and experiencing such a problem, it is not likely to be an issue for you. But you could still check your preferences — just in case. Why?

Your Mac settings might not be set to display external drives on the desktop. So, to fix that,

  1. Go to Finder and click on the Finder button in the menu bar at the top of the screen.
  2. Follow Preferences → General → Show these items on the desktop.
    hard disks
  3. Make sure you tick the boxes next to External disks and Hard disks.
    hard disks
  4. Then go to Sidebar and check Hard disks and External disks there as well.
    hard disks

That should fix external hard drive not showing up on mac issue. If not, move to the next external hard drive not showing solution.

#3. Boot in Safe Mode

You can try booting your Mac in Safe Mode in order to fix the external hard drive disk utility not showing up on Mac. This method might allow you to do extra troubleshooting if your computer doesn’t boot up normally.

  1. Power down the computer.
  2. Press the Power button, then immediately press and hold the Shift key on your keyboard.
  3. Release the Shift key when the login screen is visible. Sign in using your details and see if the internal hard disk is visible in Safe Mode.

#4. Repair mac with Recovery Mode

If your Mac won’t boot up as it detects the startup disk is missing, try using Recovery Mode by following the steps below.

  1. Boot into Recovery Mode using the methods below, depending on the chip in your computer:
    1. Turn off your computer.
    2. Press and hold the Power button until you see that the device is booting into Recovery Mode.
    3. Click on Options, and then click on Continue.
    1. Command + R
    2. Command + Option + R
    3. Command + Shift + Option + R
    4. Apple Silicon M1 chip (2020 and later); Here are the steps to boot your Mac in Recovery mode if you’re using an Apple chip:
    5. Intel chip (more common); More common in computers or Macbooks made before 2020. Use any of the following keyboard combinations while your device is booting:
  2. Once in Recovery Mode, select Disk Utility from the macOS Utilities menu.
    Mac > first aid
  3. If visible, select the internal hard drive from the left side panel by clicking on it once. Next, click on the First Aid button to begin the repair process.

How to fix external hard drive not showing on Mac

Use the following methods to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac:

#1. Repair external hard drive with First Aid

The First Aid tool allows you to potentially fix a failed external hard drive and recover data from it. The tool is able to identify issues and attempt to fix them — this may help you save your data before it’s too late.

repair mac hard disk using terminal to troubleshoot


  1. Click on the Launchpad in your dock.
    launch pad
  2. Search for the Disk Utility application and open it once located. You can see the current icon for the application in the image above.
    Mac disk utility
  3. Select the external hard disk you’re having issues with by clicking on it in the left-side panel on the disk utility. Next, click First Aid and then click on Run. You’ll be notified if the system detects any issues with the hard disk.
  4. If the process fails to fix your external hard drive, you have two options: either try to repeat the steps and run First Aid again to attempt recovery, or save as much data as you can and attempt formatting.

#2. Use Terminal to troubleshoot

The Terminal app is a last-resort solution for average users because they tend to find it complicated. However, it’s almost always effective and isn’t actually that bad. Using the Terminal, you’re able to potentially eject the external hard drive and reconnect it properly. This can be done by entering a few commands if you carefully follow the steps:

  1. Open the Terminal from your Launchpad or by navigating to ApplicationsUtilitiesTerminal in a Finder window. You can see the current icon for the application on the image above.

    Type in the following command and press the Enter key to execute it: diskutil list
    diskultil list
  2. You’ll see a list of your hard drives. Search for a header line that says “/dev/disk* (external, physical)” with the asterisk being your disk’s identifying number. (See image above for examples of header lines.)
    mac disk utility
  3. Type in the following command, but replace the asterisk with the identifying number of your disk: diskutil info disk* 
    mac disk utility info
  4. If your system is able to recognize the drive, it’ll display further information about it. In this case, type in the following command to eject the drive. Make sure to once again replace the asterisk with the identifying number of your disk: diskutil eject disk*
  5. Check if the drive is gone from the list, then plug it out of your Mac. Try plugging it in once again to mount it with a fresh connection.

Note: If you’re running macOS Mojave or Catalina, you might come across the “Operation not permitted” error when entering a Terminal command. This is not a software bug — it occurs due to additional System Integrity Protection security measures that Apple introduced in the newer versions of the operating system. It locks down certain areas of the system and only relieves the lockdown during updates. In this case, to fix the external hard drive not showing up error, you need to grant Terminal full disk access:

  1. Quit Terminal and go to the Apple Menu → System Preferences → Security and Privacy → Privacy
  2. Scroll down the menu on the left until you see Full Disk Access
  3. To make changes to the list of apps that have the permission, click on the lock symbol in the bottom left corner of the window and enter your password when prompted;
  4. Click on the Plus button to add a new utility to the list. Look for Terminal in Applications → Utilities
  5. Once you’ve added Terminal, click on the padlock again to disable access to editing.

#3. Format external hard drive with disk utility 

After formatting the external hard drive, users have reported that it properly connects to their Mac without any issues. This happens because some hard drives aren’t formatted to be Mac-friendly, meaning that the system is unable to recognize them. Here are the steps to format your external drive:.

  1. Plug in the hard drive and ensure it’s plugged in correctly. This will establish the connection between the external drive and your Mac.
    mac disk utility
  2. Open the Disk Utility from your Launchpad or by navigating to ApplicationsUtilitiesDisk Utility in a Finder window. You can see the current icon for the application on the image above.
    mac disk utility
  3. Select the drive you’re having issues with from the left-side panel (external hard drive), then click on the Erase button. (See image above)
    Mac Disk utility
  4. Open the Format drop-down menu and select any of the Mac OS compatible formats. Keep in mind that formatting the drive will erase all of its contents!
  5. Click on the Erase button to begin the formatting process.

#4. Reset NVRAM

The nonvolatile random-access memory (NVRAM) stores the local settings of your Mac and can help solve the external hard drive issue. Sometimes, the NVRAM might experience issues or bugs which lead to your external disks not showing up in the system. Luckily, you can reset this easily by following the steps below.

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the top menu bar of your screen, then choose Restart.
  2. Hold the Command + Option + P + R keys on your keyboard simultaneously as your computer is booting up.
  3. This is going to cause your computer to restart again. When you hear the restart sound again, you can release the keys and let your Mac reboot.

Note: You don’t have to restart the computer on new generation Macs. Simply press down the keyboard combination for about 30 seconds and your NVRAM will be reset.

#5. Change hard drive format 

Macs use HFS+ or APFS format, whereas Windows computers employ NTFS. FAT32 and exFAT are recognized by both Mac and Windows PCs. You can check the formatting by going to the Apple menu at the top of the screen and following About This Mac → Storage.

If you see that your device’s format is not Mac friendly, you can change it through the following steps:

  1. Plug in the connector of your device slowly into the port of your Mac — this ensures proper initiation
  2. Go to Applications → Utilities → Disk Utility
  3. You should be able to see the external drive under the External heading in the sidebar on the left. Click on it to open the drive’s information
  4. In the menu bar at the top of the window, click on Erase and choose the format compatible with your Mac device
  5. Initiate reformatting. Bear in mind — all of your hard drive’s contents will be erased during the process

But, if you can’t sacrifice the data on the disk, you can reformat it using a Windows PC using the following steps:

  1. Connect your drive to a Windows PC
  2. Locate the drive in the sidebar in the File Explorer
  3. Copy all of the drive’s contents into a separate folder on the PC
  4. Right-click on the drive’s icon and choose Format from the drop-down menu
  5. Choose a format that’s compatible with both Mac and Windows devices — exFAT is the most modern and preferred one
  6. Name your hard drive in the Volume label window
  7. Click Start to initiate formatting. It should only take a few seconds until it’s done, and then you can use your hard drive on a Mac device
  8. Make sure to transfer the data back to the disk from the folder you’d created

How to avoid external hard drive not mounting on Mac

  • check that the disk is in the right format for your operating system,
  • check that it has a strong enough power supply
  • check that the connector of your USB cable is not damaged.

However, there are several additional things that you can do to avoid future complications, such as:

#1. Make sure the USB port is clean and properly connected. Dirty or loosely connected USB ports can create short currents, make the external hard drive not show up on Mac, and even make theexternal hard disk struggle to read data if it shows up. It’s common for a connector to get a bit wonky if you’ve used it for a while — the power contacts won’t align correctly and this can cause the hard disk not showing up issue. Avoid keeping dirty USB ports, get them cleaned by blowing compressed air into the port, or find new ones.

#2. Properly eject the external drive device - always. Removing the drive without safe ejection can corrupt data on the device, which in the future can make your Mac unable to recognize it. Any operating system employs write caching — files are not immediately written on your hard drive when you transfer it or back it up, but are cached until all the side writing and reading operations are finished. Always remove your USB safely to protect the hard drive.

#3. Keep your Mac operating system up to date. An out-of-date operating system causes problems in all your Mac's functioning areas. Updates improve stability and performance, as well as ensure your Mac’s security and minimize the risk of your files getting corrupted.

Final thoughts and Recomended Further Reading

If you need any further help with Mac, don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service team, available 24/7 to assist you. Return to us for more informative articles all related to productivity and modern-day technology!

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Hard Drive Not Showing on Mac FAQ

What do I do if my external hard drive is not detected?

If your external hard drive is not detected, follow these steps to fix the issue:

  1. Go to Applications and open Utilities
  2. In the Utilities folder, select Disk Utility
  3. In the View menu at the top of your screen, select Show All Devices
  4. Select your external drive and click Unmount
  5. Connect your external hard disk again

Why is my external hard drive not readable on Mac?

Your external hard drive is not readable on Mac because it is formatted in NTFS, HFS+, or another format not supported by macOS. A loosely connected or frayed USB cable is another possible reason the external drive is not recognized by your Mac. Change the cable to fix the issue. If your external hard drive is not readable on Mac, try plugging it in slowly. USB 2.0 connectors, which can be found on older external drives, have a design flaw making the slow connection necessary.

How do I revive a dead hard drive?

If you find your hard drive breaking down while it’s connected to your computer, it’s best to stop using it as soon as possible. To check if the problem is in the device itself, try connecting it to a different port or even a different computer. Try a different cable as well.

If these simple operations don’t work, you’ll have to open and examine the disk. Pay attention to the sounds that it makes when activated. For instance, a clicking noise indicates a malfunctioning head assembly — the part of the hard drive that reads data off its platters. The recommendation is to have it fixed by a professional most of the time. You shouldn’t attempt to repair the drive at home as there is a low chance of success and you’re likely to damage the data stored on the disk.

Why does my Mac shut down when I connect a hard drive?

Just as some hard drives are not recognized because they don’t get enough power, some of them drain too much from your Mac. In this case, the system management controller will automatically shut the laptop down to protect it. If you think that that’s the case, try connecting the disk to an external power source such as a USB hub and reset your SMC. 

If your Mac has a removable battery, use these steps to recent the SMC:

  1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect it from all sources of power, including the battery
  2. Hold the power button for 5 seconds
  3. Reconnect your Mac to the power source and put the battery back in
  4. Turn the Mac back on

If your battery is unremovable:

  1. Shut down your Mac and disconnect it from the charger
  2. Hold Shift + Control + Option + Power button for 10 seconds
  3. Release the keys and reconnect the Mac with the power source
  4. Turn the Mac back on