The External Hard Drive is Not Showing up on Mac

Typically, when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac, it should appear either on your Mac Desktop or in the Finder sidebar. But sometimes, you will encounter the issue of your Mac not recognizing the connected external hard drive, even on the latest macOS versions like Sonoma or Ventura.


External hard drive recognition issues on a Mac can result from various factors, including corruption, faulty connections, incompatible formats, outdated hardware or software, USB cable problems, port malfunctions, adapter issues, and file system corruption. In this article, we'll share some quick solutions to address the problem of an external hard drive not showing up or being recognized on a Mac, and these solutions are tailored to specific scenarios.


Scenario 1: External Hard Drive is Not Showing Up on the Desktop and Finder Sidebar but in Disk Utility

If you plug in an external hard drive and it doesn't get recognized on your Mac, it might be because of how Finder is set up. You can adjust your Finder preferences to fix this external hard drive is not showing up issue.


Step 1: Navigate to Finder > Preferences > General tab, and be sure to select the "External disks" option to display external hard drives on your desktop.

Step 2: In Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, confirm that "External disks" under "Locations" is checked. This ensures that your external hard drive will be visible in a Finder window.

Step 3: Go to your Desktop or Finder and verify if your external hard drive is visible. If it's not, you can try downloading and installing iBoysoft Data Recovery on your Mac. Check if your external hard drive appears within the data recovery software.

Step 4: If your external hard drive shows up in the data recovery software, follow the provided instructions to recover your data. After completing the data recovery process, you can proceed to format your external hard drive.


If your external hard drive still doesn't appear in our recovery environment, it may be best to seek assistance from an expert for further evaluation, especially if you've exhausted all other potential solutions.


Scenario 2: The External Hard Drive does not Show Anywhere on Your Mac

External hard drives, such as B Western Digital (WD), Seagate, LaCie, Samsung, Toshiba, SanDisk, G-Technology, Buffalo, Transcend, Adata, connect to your Mac through USB cables and ports. When these connections fail, your external drive won't be recognized by macOS, whether it's Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey, or any other OS. Here's what you can do if you can't find your external hard drive on your Mac:

  1. Restart and Reconnect: Sometimes, temporary glitches or slow OS responses can prevent the drive from showing up in Finder. Restarting and reconnecting might resolve the issue.
  2. Power Check: External hard drives need power to function properly. For desktop drives like Seagate Backup Plus and WD Elements Desktop, ensure they are connected to a power socket using the provided power adapter. For portable USB drives, check that the USB ports are clean, secure, and undamaged, as loose or dirty ports can disrupt connections.
  3. Try a Different USB Cable: Faulty USB cables can obstruct a proper connection. Swap out the cable with a known working one to see if that resolves the issue.

  1. Check USB Ports: If possible, connect your external hard drive to another Mac's USB port to see if the issue persists.
  2. Test on Another Computer: If it fails to show up or work on another Mac or PC as well, it may indicate a damaged external hard drive that requires repair.
  3. Boot your Macbook in Safe Mode: If your external hard drive isn't working on your Mac, it might be due to certain programs like USB security apps, encryption software, or antivirus tools causing problems. Here's a simpler way to troubleshoot:
  1. Restart your Mac (some Macs make a startup sound).
  2. Hold down the Shift key right away.
  3. Let go of the Shift key when you see a loading bar.

Once your Mac starts in Safe Mode, try connecting your external hard drive again. If it works in Safe Mode, restart your Mac normally and uninstall any suspicious programs you've recently added, as they could be the cause of the issue.

Scenario 3: External Hard Drive Appears in Disk Utility but in the Unmounted Mode (not Mounted Fully)

To ensure your external hard drive is properly recognized on your Mac when it's not appearing in the Finder window, you can use Disk Utility, a tool that displays all internal and external hard drives detected by macOS, even if there are minor issues. Here's how to do it:

Step 1. Open Finder, then go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 2. In Disk Utility, you'll encounter one of two common scenarios:

  1. The external drive may appear in Disk Utility but be grayed out and labeled as "Not Mounted."
  2. Alternatively, the external hard drive may not appear in Disk Utility at all.


By checking Disk Utility, you can get a clearer picture of your external hard drive's status within macOS and take appropriate steps to address any issues. If your Mac detects your external hard drive in Disk Utility, it means the device is recognized. If you encounter difficulties accessing it, follow these steps:

3.1 Manually Mount the External Hard Drive in Disk Utility

Your Mac should auto-mount the external hard drive when connected, but if not, manually mount it in Disk Utility.

  1. Expand 'View' and choose 'Show All Devices.'
  2. Select the unresponsive external hard drive.
  3. Click 'Mount' in the top menu bar.
  4. Once mounted, access it via Finder. If only the manufacturer's name (e.g., WD or Seagate) appears in Disk Utility, it signals a damaged partition table. Consider running Disk Utility's First Aid to attempt repairs.

3.2 Run First Aid to Check the External Hard Drive

If the external hard drive won't mount, it may be corrupted or have directory structure issues.

  1. Open Disk Utility, then choose the grayed-out external disk in the left sidebar.
  2. Click 'First Aid' at the top and confirm by selecting 'Run.'
    1.  Reformat Your External Hard Drive

If macOS can't recognize the drive or First Aid fails, it may have severe corruption issues. You might see error messages like: “File system check exit code is 8”, “FSroot tree is invalid”, or “APFS object map is invalid”.


In such cases, reformatting is necessary to create a fresh file system. Remember to back up critical data first, as reformatting erases existing data.

If the external hard drive uses an incompatible file system (e.g., Linux EXT3 or EXT4), reformat it for Mac compatibility. You may consider using iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to recover data and then reformat the corrupted external hard drive:


  1. Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac on your computer.
  2. Scan for lost data on the external hard drive.

  1. Second, sort and preview the scanned files, select what you need, and click 'Recover.'

4. After successful recovery, open Disk Utility, locate the external hard drive, and select it.

5. Click the 'Erase' button and provide the required information (name, format, scheme). For compatibility with both Mac and Windows, choose 'Mac OS Extended (Journaled)' as the format.

6. Click 'Erase' to reformat the external hard drive in Disk Utility.


Scenario 4: Your External Hard Drive is not Showing up in Disk Utility at all

If your external hard drive doesn't show up in Mac Disk Utility, you can try different ways to fix it. These include stopping a process called "fsck" in Activity Monitor, resetting certain settings on your Mac, updating your Mac's software, and using Mac diagnostics tools.

4.1 Force Quitting fsck in Activity Monitor to Fix the Issue

If your external hard drive doesn't appear in Disk Utility, here's what you can do to troubleshoot:

Step 1. Check if your Mac has recognized the hardware information of the external drive:

Step 2. Go to Applications > Utilities > System Information > USB. Look for your external hard drive's information there.

Step 3. If you see the external drive in System Information but not in Disk Utility, it might be undergoing macOS repair. To resolve this issue, you can try the steps:

  1. Open the Mac Task Manager by going to Launchpad and finding the Other folder, then opening Activity Monitor.
  2. In Activity Monitor, search for a process named "fsck_hfs" (or "fsck_exfat" for exFAT-formatted drives).
  3. Select that process and click the X button at the upper left to force quit it.

Your external hard drive should then appear on your Mac's desktop.

4.2 Try to Reset NVRAM and SMC

However, if your external hard drive remains invisible in Mac's Disk Utility, it may be due to underlying hardware issues. You can address these problems using the following solutions:

How to Reset Your Mac's NVRAM

NVRAM serves to retain specific information when your computer is powered off. If you encounter issues related to these stored settings, resetting NVRAM can help your Mac identify the external hard drive.


Step 1. Shutdown or restart your Mac, then immediately press these four keys sequentially: Command + Option + P + R.

Step 2. Hold these keys for at least 20 seconds, and after hearing the second chime, release them.

Step 3. After releasing the keys, your Mac will restart, and with luck, your external drive will become visible.

How to Reset the SMC on Your Mac

In certain circumstances, resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) can resolve issues, as the SMC manages lower-level functions such as power and hardware. (Note: The procedure for resetting SMC varies depending on your Mac model, so ensure you know how to perform this action on your specific device.) Let's use resetting the SMC on a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro Retina, or MacBook Pro with an internal non-removable battery as an example:

Step 1. Shutdown your MacBook Air/MacBook Pro, and then connect the power adapter to your Mac.

Step 2. Once your Mac has powered down, simultaneously press Shift + Control + Option on the left side of the built-in keyboard and then press the power button. Hold these keys and the power button for 10 seconds.

Step 3. Release all keys and the power button simultaneously. Press the power button again to turn on your Mac; this may take a moment.

4.3 Update Your macOS when Necessary

If your Mac is running macOS 10.12 or an older version, and your external hard drive is formatted with APFS (Apple File System), your Mac might not recognize the drive. To fix this issue and make sure your Mac can work with the latest file systems and USB devices, you should update your macOS. To update your Mac, follow these steps:

Step 1. Right-click the Apple logo in the top right corner and select System Preferences.

Step 1.Locate and open Software Update to check for available macOS updates.

Step 3. Prior to updating your operating system, remember to back up your important files and proceed with the software update.

4.3 Consider Running Mac Diagnostics to Identify Hardware Issues

Apple Diagnostics comprises a set of diagnostic tools used by technicians to identify hardware faults in Mac devices. It can be employed to confirm or rule out suspicions related to your external hard drive. Prior to running Apple Diagnostics, disconnect all external devices except for the keyboard, mouse, and other essential peripherals. If your external hard drive has suffered physical damage, it's advisable to consult a local disk repair center. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1. Reboot your Mac or power it on if it's off. Press and hold the 'D' key on your keyboard until prompted to select your preferred language.

Step 2. Once you choose your language, you'll see a progress bar that says "Checking your Mac." This means it's running a test called Apple Diagnostics to see if there are any issues with your Mac.

Step 3. Once the test is done, it will show you some suggestions on how to fix any problems it found.


In summary, troubleshooting why an external hard drive isn't recognized by macOS can be complex. If you're concerned about data loss, use a tool like iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac to recover important files before attempting any fixes. To avoid such issues in the future, always eject external drives properly and regularly back up critical files to another drive or cloud storage. This way, you can prevent the need for recovery procedures altogether.