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External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac – What to do

Posted by Jamie on December 10, 2018

Macs are pretty solid computers that provide reliable service in almost any situation; they’re renown for soldier onwards in situations that would get a blue screen of death on a Windows PC. However, while rare, issues can and will happen; it’s inevitable, where technology is concerned. These issues are all the more frustrating because of their rarity, and they may need a little work to figure out. One issue I came across last week was an external hard drive not showing up on a Mac, even when all evidence said that it should have. Here’s how to fix it.

External drives are a cheap way to expand storage without having to replace the internal hard drive. Just connect it via USB or Thunderbolt and it appears in Finder. From there you can do pretty much whatever you like with it. If it doesn’t show up in Finder,though, it will surely show up in the Disk Utility within Utilities. This is a sub-folder within the Applications folder, with a crossed screwdriver and wrench on the folder icon, while Disk Utility looks like a hard drive being examined with a stethoscope. Both of them will be referenced a lot.

From there you can troubleshoot the problem and usually fix it.

If that doesn’t work, we have a couple of simple troubleshooting tips to fix an external hard drive not showing up on Mac. First we will check the basics, and from there we make sure that MacOS is set up to display external drives, can mount the drive, and that the drive has no errors on either the disk itself or its file structure.

How to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac-3

First Things First

As William Ockham once said, the simplest solution tends to be the best one. Considering that, let us check all the basics first. Get into the habit of doing this with any computer issues, as it can save time, money, and hassle in the long run. After all, no one wants to waste half a day because they didn’t realize something just wasn’t plugged in properly.

  1. Check that the cable from the hard drive to your Mac is connected properly.
  2. Check that the external hard drive has power if it needs it.
  3. Check the condition of the cable and swap it if you have a spare.
  4. Change the hard drive power cable if you have a spare.
  5. Try a different wall outlet if there is one nearby.
  6. Reboot your Mac to see if it was an open program or app stopping the drive being detected.
  7. Make sure the drive has been formatted. Some imported drives come completely empty, and while MacOS should detect and offer to format them, it doesn’t always work.
  8. Try attaching the external drive to another computer to see if it works on that one to rule out damage to the drive itself.
  9. Make sure your drive doesn’t have or use a power saving or sleep function. Turn it off if it does.
  10. Check that the drive is receiving enough power. A USB cable carries 5V and if this is the sole power source for the drive, it may not be enough. Use a USB power cable if you suspect this to be the issue.

Depending on what you find here, you can troubleshoot either the drive or your Mac.

First, make sure Finder will display drive icons. By default, it doesn’t display much and the setting to not show external disks may be enabled.

  1. Open a Finder window.
  2. Select Preferences and the General tab.
  3. Make sure the box next to External disks is checked.

If the box is checked, move on to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac.

How to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac-2

Mount the Drive in Finder

If you think the drive works fine, let us see if we can manually attach it to MacOS. For that we need to mount it. This should be done automatically when MacOS detects the drive, but it doesn’t always work.

  1. Attach the drive if it isn’t already connected.
  2. Open Utilities and Disk Utility.
  3. Make sure the disk is listed in the left window. It should be labeled External Disk.
  4. Check for a volume if the disk is present. If a volume is present but not mounted, it should be grayed out here.
  5. Highlight the volume and select Mount. The volume should shift from gray to normal to signify it has been mounted.
  6. Open Finder and navigate to the drive in Devices.

If this doesn’t work, you may need to use the Verify Disk utility to make sure everything is working as it should.

  1. Open Utilities and Disk Utility.
  2. Highlight the grayed out volume.
  3. Select First Aid in the top center.
  4. Select Run to perform disk diagnostics and fix any issues.

Running First Aid on an external disk is a useful way to make sure the format or file structure doesn’t contain any faults or issues. If there are any, First Aid will fix them and MacOS should then mount the disk without any further hassle.

Got any other ways to fix external hard drive not showing up on Mac? Tell us about it below if you do!

5 thoughts on “External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac – What to do”

Janet L Steigerwald says:
Mount the drive in Finder was the fix that worked. Thank you, thank you.
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Angie says:
My WD passport is not showing up at all – the disk utility feature only shows internal drives. I know the external drive is fine as I have recently used it to view photos on my smart tv. My Mac does recognise my pen drive, iPhone etc, so it’s not the USB port either. Any ideas?
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Ethan Finneran says:
I have the sane problem today. Did you figure it out yet? If so, would love to hear how. Thanks.
Reply
Vijay anand says:
i have the same problem too. Did you guys get a solution for that. If yes please do share.
Marta says:
My ‘mount’ button does not seem to be doing anything. and the ‘first aid’ is greyed out. What do I do now?
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James says:
“My WD passport is not showing up at all – the disk utility feature only shows internal drives. I know the external drive is fine as I have recently used it to view photos on my smart tv. My Mac does recognise my pen drive, iPhone etc, so it’s not the USB port either. Any ideas?”

I have exactly the same issue! did you find a solution? i have no idea

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Laurie says:
I followed all the steps above but but the “mount” button is greyed out. I still cannot see my hard drive on the desktop or in Finder, even though I have told Finder Preferences to display all external hard drives. Where do I go from here to have access to this external hard drive?
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Charly says:
What do you do when you complete all steps but First Aid is greyed out and cannot be clicked in the last step listed above?
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Bry says:
I’m having similar issues, I have a seagate portable 4TB plus and it doesn’t show up at all in Disk Utilities.
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