Apple Tips and Tricks

Problem Solved – External Drives Not Showing Up on Mac 

Problem Solved - External Drives Not Showing Up on Mac 

External drives include all portable disks that can be removed from the computer without interrupting the computer’s operations, such as external hard drives, SD cards, pen drives, memory sticks, and CF cards. 

The internal storage of a personal computer is limited. Moreover, if the internal hard disk is too full, it often results in the computer or the installed apps not working properly. Therefore, it is always the best practice to save many personal files onto a removable disk or cloud service instead of taking up the storage of a computer. 

However, the problem is that your external drives could be failing and cause data loss. One of the common signs is nothing happens after you connect an external drive to the computer. It doesn’t show up on the desktop, in the Finder or even not in Disk Utility. 

What can you do? 

This article will walk you through the solutions and help you regain the access to your important files on the external drive. 

How to repair an external hard drive that doesn’t show up on Mac

By default, the Mac computer will show up all detected drives on the desktop, in the Finder or in Disk Utility, unless the external hard disk can’t be recognized by the Mac or the default settings have been changed.

As a result, the solutions will focus on how to make the Mac computer recognize the external HDD and edit the Mac settings. 

Solution 1: Change the USB cable/port/adapter/computer

Have you connected the external hard drive to the Apple machine correctly and firmly? If you have but the external hard disk is still unseen, try to use another USB port/cable/adapter or even another computer (a PC or a Mac) to know if the device can be recognized. Most times, a bad connection can cause an external hard drive not showing up on Mac.

Solution 2: Fix the external hard drive in Disk Utility

There are three ways you can fix the faulty external hard drive in Disk Utility. 

1. Mount. If the external hard drive looks grey in the left column of the Disk Utility, it won’t be seen on the desktop and in the Finder. You can click on “Mount” to forcibly mount the disk.

2. First Aid. First Aid can check and fix minor errors on a disk. Select the external hard drive, and then click on “First Aid” and “Run”.

3. Erase. Erasing the external hard drive will delete all save files on it, so think twice before you use the option. Erasing the external hard drive not only can fix the logical problems but also assign a compatible file system. Sometimes, an external hard drive formatted with a Mac-incompatible file system such as Windows NTFS or Linux EXT file system will make the external hard drive unrecognizable on Mac.

Solution 3: Edit the Mac preferences

It is very possible that your external hard drive is working well but the Mac settings are hiding the external hard drive from your direct access. To make the external HDD show up on Mac again. You need to edit the preferences.

  1. Click on the “Finder” at the top menu bar.
  2. Select “Preferences…”.
  3. Check “External disks” under both Sidebar and General categories. 

How to keep your data safe?

Most solutions aforementioned won’t hurt your data, but if you choose to erase your disk to fix the drive, the stored files will be deleted. In this circumstance, if you don’t have a copy of the important files, a data recovery tool is what you need then. 


In addition to external hard drives, this article is helpful in all external disks not showing up on Mac problems. For instance, SD card is not seen on Mac after it is inserted. By simply verifying the connection, fixing the disk in Disk Utility or changing the preferences settings, you will have a workable external disk again.