How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10

Connecting the drive is simple

What to Know

  • Plug the external hard drive in then type This PC into the search bar and click the external hard drive. 
  • Most hard drives will work immediately.
  • If the hard drive isn't detected, check the cable, USB port, and the PC to see if there's an issue with any of these.

This article teaches you how to use an external hard drive on Windows 10 and what to do if the system doesn't recognize the hard drive. 

How Do I Use an External Hard Drive With Windows 10?

Using an external hard drive with Windows 10 is typically a very straightforward process. Here's how to do it.

  1. Plug your external hard drive into your desktop or laptop PC.

    You may need to look for where the USB port is on your system. Typically, on a desktop, these are on the front or back of the case. On a laptop, they're usually on the sides.

  2. In the Windows 10 search bar, type This PC.

    Windows 10 taskbar search bar
  3. Click This PC.

    Windows 10 search bar results displaying This PC
  4. Click the external hard drive listed. 

    Windows 10 file explorer with external hard drive highlighted

    It's usually listed next to a hard drive named Windows.

  5. Access any files on the hard drive like you would with an ordinary internal hard drive.

How Do I Find My External Hard Drive on Windows 10?

There are other ways to find your external hard drive on Windows 10. Here's another option that may be more convenient for some users. 

Either method provides the same result but one method may prove more useful for your workflow.

  1. Click the folder icon on the Windows 10 taskbar.

    Windows 10 desktop folder quick access icon
  2. Click the arrow to the left of Quick Access.

    Windows 10 file explorer with arrow next to quick access highlighted
  3. Click the external hard drive name to access it.

Why Does Windows 10 Not Recognize My External Hard Drive?

If Windows 10 won't recognize you have an external hard drive plugged in, there are numerous reasons why this might be the case. Here's a look at some of the main reasons why.

  • There's an issue with the USB connection. Try moving the external hard drive to a different USB port. The issue may have been with the USB connection.
  • Try a different USB cable. If your external hard drive has a detachable USB cable, try a different one in case the cable has failed.
  • Check the power. If your external hard drive is powered by an AC outlet (rather than just the USB port), check it's receiving power.
  • Try a different PC. Try a different PC to see if the problem lies with the PC or the hard drive. 
  • Check the hard drive is detected in Disk Management. Press Windows key + R then type diskmgmt.msc to bring up Disk Management. Check that the hard drive is listed here. 
  • The hard drive can't be read. If the hard drive is listed in Disk Management but can't be viewed, try formatting the disk. You'll lose all stored files but the hard drive should be viewable again. 
  • The hard drive has failed. In some cases, the problem may be the hard drive has failed. If you've tried all other solutions, this is likely the case.
FAQ
  • How do I access a Mac external hard drive on Windows 10?

    Install HFSExplorer for Windows and run the program, then connect your Mac drive and select File > Load file system from the device > Load. Choose a file and select Extract to save it to your PC.

  • Why does access to my external hard drive come and go on Windows 10?

    The physical connection may be unstable. Unplug the hard drive and plug it back in to your PC. If you're still having problems, try using a different USB cable.

  • How do I access an external hard drive on a network?

    Set up a mapped drive to create a shortcut to the external drive. That way, you can access it as if the drive were physically stored on your computer.

  • How do I make an internal hard drive external?

    It can be cheaper to use an internal hard drive as an external drive. Plug the new internal drive into a hard drive enclosure, then connect it to your PC using a standard USB connection.

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