Top 8 Ways to Fix External Drive Not Showing Up on Mac

Apple MacBooks house SSD storage that is fast but limited in size. Buying a MacBook with more space costs a lot. This is why most Mac users rely on external drives to store data. But what if your external drive suddenly doesn’t show up on your Mac?

Usually, the external drives such as hard drives, portable SSDs or USB drives should appear on your Mac’s desktop within a few seconds of being connected. However, if your external drive doesn’t show up on your Mac, try these fixes.

1. Check dongle and USB connection

Double check that your Mac’s USB port is working properly. If the external drive won’t connect and you have a problem, try connecting it to other laptops and see if it works. You can also try connecting your external hard drive to a different USB port.

Newer Apple MacBooks are equipped with USB Type-C ports, which require a dongle to connect to the traditional external USB-A hard drives. You can try connecting other drives or computer peripherals to see if the dongle is working or not.

You can check if your Mac’s USB port is bad by looking at the system report. Click the Apple icon in the top left, select About This Mac, and then click System Report. Then click USB under the Hardware subsection in the left pane and see if the external hard drive is recognized. If so, it should show something like this.

2 system report

2. Activate the visibility of the external hard drive

One of the reasons your Mac may not show your external drive is because of the Finder’s settings. You can enable Finder to discover the external drives by doing the following:

Step 1: Go to Finder and click Settings in the top left.

3 viewfinder 1

Step 2: Under Show these items on my desktop, make sure Hard drives and External hard drives are checked.

Step 3: Now click on the third tab, Sidebar.

3 viewfinder 2

Step 4: The Create hard drives and External hard drives options are enabled under the Show these items in the sidebar setting.

3 viewfinder 3

3. Update macOS

Try updating to the latest version of macOS and see if the problem is resolved. Sometimes the problem can be related to the Finder’s cache, and updating macOS will reset the cache and fix your connection problem. Follow these steps to update macOS.

Step 1: Go to the Apple menu and click About This Mac.

Step 2: Now click on Software Update.

4 update Mac

Step 3: Your Mac should check for an update automatically. Install the latest version available.

4. Reset your Mac’s NVRAM and SMC

Resetting NVRAM is an effective way to troubleshoot your Mac. This small memory stores your computer’s settings while the power is off. Resetting the NVRAM can be helpful in getting your Mac to recognize the external drives.

To reset NVRAM, restart your Mac. Before you hear the Mac startup sound, just hold down Option + Command + P + R on your keyboard for about 20 seconds. The action resets both the NVRAM and the PRAM.


Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) can also be useful in certain circumstances. To reset SMC, hold down Ctrl + Option + Shift on your keyboard for about 7 seconds. After 7 seconds, press and hold the power button. Now press the power button again to turn on your Mac, which would take some time.

5. Repair the external drive using Disk Utility

Sometimes the file system of the external drive can be corrupted. Disk Utility is a built-in tool from Apple to fix these things. Disk Utility First Aid will help mount the unrecognized external drive.

Step 1: Launch Disk Utility on your Mac.

Step 2: If the external drive you want to map is grayed out, click it.

Step 3: Now click on the First Aid tab at the top and hit Run.

Disk Utility

Step 4: Wait for the process to finish.

The external drive should automatically mount when it is repaired. If it doesn’t, you can try mounting the external drive in Safe Mode. If even then it doesn’t mount, you can try resetting your drive.

6. Connect the external hard drive in Safe Mode

There could be an application preventing your external drive from mounting into the system. There are such apps that hinder the Mac’s USB connectivity. If so, then you can try connecting the external drive to your Mac in Safe Mode.

Step 1: Shut down your Mac.

Step 2: Now press the Power key and now press Shift as soon as you hear the Mac startup sound.

Mac Safe Mode

Step 3: Release the Shift key as soon as you see the progress bar.

Now you will find that your Mac started up in Safe Mode. If you can see your external drive in Safe Mode, it means that the recently installed application is blocking the drive and you should uninstall this program.

7. External drive is recognized as write-protected

If you can see the external drive connected to your Mac but cannot copy any content to it, chances are the drive you are trying to write is in NTFS format. The NTFS format is proprietary to Microsoft Windows.

NTFS drives are readable under macOS, but you cannot write data to them. In order to write to an NTFS volume on your Mac, you will need to install third-party NTFS software so that you can easily write and read data on it.

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If you don’t want to install third-party software, you can format the external drive in universal formats like FAT32 or exFAT, which can be read and written by all operating systems. However, you cannot copy individual files that are larger than 4 GB.

8. Format your external drive

If none of the options work for you, the data on your external drive may be corrupted. In such cases, you can try to erase your external drive. Follow these steps to erase your external drive.

Step 1: Open Disk Utility on your Mac.

Step 2: In the sidebar, select the drive that you want to erase.

Step 3: Now select Delete in the upper area.

6 Hard drive reset

Step 4: Give your external drive a name and select the appropriate format.

Step 5: Click Delete, choose the appropriate format and let the process complete.

How to Fix External Drive Issues on Mac

If you don’t see an external hard drive on your Mac, then you can follow the solutions above. While they can be helpful, we recommend backing up important data on your external drive.

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