When your external hard drive isn’t being detected by your computer, it feels as though all of your data is locked, just barely out of reach. Even after performing the typical computer restart, there’s still no visible way to access your external hard drive’s contents.
This problem can happen for a number of reasons. Before you exhaust yourself trying to get into the external hard drive, read on to find out how to recover external hard disk data when it is not detected.
Why the External Hard Drive Is Undetectable
External hard drive problems present themselves in many forms. If your external hard drive has suddenly become unreadable by your computer, here are a few common problems that could have caused this to happen:
- ❌ Improper device removal – If you don’t remove your external hard drive safely, important write processes may be interrupted that could corrupt your files, or worse, your file system.
- 💾 External hard drive corruption – Corruption to the file system of your external hard drive may result in it failing to be read by your Windows computer.
- 🔧 Outdated or corrupted drivers – Drivers are responsible for the communication between your hard drive and computer. If they’re out-of-date or corrupted, this communication may break down until resolved.
- 💥 Hardware malfunction – Physical damage to the external hard drive is often the most severe and can render the drive permanently unreadable, depending on the damage.
External hard drive troubleshooting is fairly easy once you know what the cause is. Regardless, this next section will discuss how to fix an undetected hard drive that’s visible in Disk Management, as well as how to recover data from a hard disk which is not detected.
Fixes for External Hard Drives That Are Visible in Disk Management
If your external hard drive is visible in Disk Management and it’s reflecting the correct size, you have a good chance at fixing it. The below solutions have proven effective for restoring access to external hard drives, with some even allowing you to recover an external hard drive without formatting. Be sure to attempt each of these solutions in order to avoid increasing the risk of permanent data loss.
Recover Data With Data Recovery Software
Data recovery software should be your first go-to when your hard drive is undetectable. As you’re unsure what has caused it, each action you perform could be detrimental to your data. Therefore, our first step is to create a copy of your external hard drive and recover what data you can. To do so, we’re going to use Disk Drill.
Follow these steps to back up and recover data from an external hard drive that’s not recognized:
As demonstrated, Disk Drill makes it easy to recover external hard disk data when it is not detected, so long as the hard drive is readable and accurate in Disk Management.
Repair Using CheckDisk
CheckDisk is a repair utility included with Windows that specializes in fixing various hard drive-related problems. It’s highly customizable, allowing you to add or redact parameters based on what you want to achieve.
Follow these instructions to repair your external hard drive using CheckDisk:
Change the Drive Letter
As unlikely as it sounds, changing the drive letter assigned to your external hard drive has the potential of fixing it. There’s also a chance that a drive letter wasn’t assigned. Windows uses drive letters for any attached storage to assign paths.
This method will guide you through changing the existing drive letter, or assigning a new one:
Format the External Hard Drive
Formatting involves removing the existing file system on your external hard drive and either refreshing it or replacing it with a new one. This process will delete any data that’s present and should only be done if you’ve created a backup of the data or you’re prepared to lose it.
These steps will show you how to format an external hard drive:
Fixes for External Hard Drives That Aren’t Visible at All
If your external hard drive isn’t visible in Disk Management, the damage may be more severe. In such cases, you have limited options.
Recover Data Using a Data Recovery Service
Before you move on to fixing your drive, you should first employ a data recovery service to ensure your data is safe before taking further action. They have the ability to recover files from an external hard drive that’s not detected with a higher degree of success by using industry-grade equipment in an ideal environment. Moreover, they have the expertise necessary to identify the issue and diagnose it.
These steps will show you how to recover data from an external hard drive that’s not recognized by completing a data recovery center work order:
Update the Drivers
As we mentioned earlier in the article, drivers are critical in establishing and maintaining communication between your external hard drive and your Windows computer. Without them, your external hard drive is unusable.
These steps will show you how to update your external hard drive’s drivers:
Bear in mind that these instructions are useful only if the drive is visible in Device Manager. If it’s not, then you should check your hard drive manufacturer’s website for up-to-date drivers, as they can be installed manually.
Connect With a Different Cable
Of course, it could be as simple as a faulty cable. If you’ve tried connecting your external hard drive to another computer and it’s still not working, try switching out the cable that you’re using to connect with.
Additionally, check the connection point on your external hard drive to ensure the pins aren’t bent out of place. You can also inspect it for any foreign debris, like lint or dust, as it could be preventing a stable connection.