How to Fix it When A New Hard Drive Is Not Showing Up in Windows

Troubleshooting a hard drive not recognized by your PC

People often use external hard drives to save their most critical and important information. This way, you can keep the drive unplugged from your computer and isolated from the internet while not using it.

But what do you do when you go to plug it in and the external drive is not showing up in Windows 10? When a new hard drive is not showing up on windows, you'll need to work through troubleshooting each of these potential causes one at a time.

The troubleshooting process to identify why your new hard drive isn't showing up in Windows largely depends on the specifications of your drive. If you just purchased the drive, make sure you read the specifications to determine what type of USB cable came with it, which OS it's compatible with, and whether or not it comes preformatted for a specific operating system.

Screenshot of formatting new hard drive

Cause of New Hard Drive Not Showing Up in Windows

An issue with a new hard drive not showing up could have many causes. The most common one is that the drive isn't formatted yet. This is usually a simple fix if you follow the right steps.

However, there are numerous other issues that could cause this as well, including hardware issues with the drive, driver failures, and more. Here are some examples:

  • The hard drive is not correctly formatted, or not formatted at all.
  • The external hard drive has a hardware failure.
  • Your USB cable connecting the computer to the drive is faulty.
  • The USB port is failing, and not detecting the hard drive you've just plugged in.
  • Your current hard disk driver is outdated or corrupt.

How to Fix It When an External Hard Drive is Not Showing Up in Windows

Troubleshooting an issue with an external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10 requires a methodical approach. It's best to start from the computer and USB port side, and then work your way toward the external drive itself.

  1. Make sure the USB port is actually working. Try plugging other devices into the same USB port to ensure the port isn't malfunctioning. If you have a second external hard drive, try plugging it into the same port. If it shows up, then you know the port isn't the issue. If you find that another hard drive, your smartphone, and even a mouse and keyboard doesn't work with that USB port, then you need to troubleshoot why USB devices aren't getting recognized by Windows 10.

  2. Confirm that you're using the right USB cable for your USB port type. If the cable that came with the external hard drive is USB 3.0 and your port can only handle USB 2.0 transmission rates, you can run into problems. For most devices a USB 3.0 cable is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports, but if the device itself requires USB 3.0 data transmission speeds, it may not work plugged into that port. This is especially true if the device has a USB-C connector that requires the computer port to supply power.

    If you're considering upgrading your computer or laptop, the lack of USB 3.0 support is a good reason for it. Especially if you frequently use USB devices and want to use the latest hardware and software that takes full advantage of USB 3.0 data transmission rates.

  3. Make sure your USB cable isn't faulty. When you use a USB cable a lot, it can get bent or stretched, leading to broken internal connections or cracked wire insulation. Try swapping out the USB cable you're using with your external hard drive with another. If the drive still doesn't connect, test the original USB cable with a different compatible device. If it works, then you know your USB cable is working fine. If you do need to purchase a new USB cable, make sure you use one that's high quality and offers the best data transmission rates for the USB port you're using.

  4. Update your USB drivers. If you've made it this far then the issue could be with either your external hard drive, or your computer's ability to communicate to the drive. The software that Windows 10 uses to communicate with USB devices are USB device drivers. Make sure you've gone through the process to update your USB drivers. If your external drive is using USB 3.0, then make sure to update your USB 3.0 drivers specifically. Is your hard drive wireless? Make sure it's appropriately connecting to your Wi-Fi network.

  5. Use Disk Management to install the hard drive. In most cases, external hard drives come formatted and plug-and-play ready. This means you just plug it in and your computer will recognize the hard drive. If this isn't working, you'll need to use Disk Management to install the drive. If it's also not already formatted, you'll need to use Disk Management to format the drive.

    This is the most common cause of the problem when an external hard drive is not showing up in Windows 10. Many times, you'll see the hard drive listed as an available disk, but the status may show a status like "Unallocated", "Unformatted", or some other note that'll help you understand why the computer can't recognize it. The Disk Management utility can help you fix most of these issues. You can use it for things like partitioning a hard drive, changing a drive letter, and much more.

  6. Troubleshoot error codes. If you're lucky enough to see any error codes when you plug in your external hard drive, make sure to troubleshoot them properly. When attaching USB devices like an external hard drive, you can see common error codes like code 22 errors, code 10 errors, or code 43 errors.

  7. Has the hard drive failed? If you've come this far and the new drive is still not showing up in Windows, it could be a faulty drive. There are software tools available that can scan hard drive (if it can recognize the attached device). You can also use Windows utilities to check for and repair errors. If the hard drive is making unusual noises, that can also indicate a hardware failure in the drive itself.

  8. Buy a new hard drive. Unfortunately, there are times when even new hard drives are faulty and nothing you do will fix them. Bring it back to the store and ask for a refund. There are lots of excellent, high-capacity external hard drives to choose from that are less likely to give you these sorts of problems. Better yet, consider paying a little more for an SSD drive, whether external or internal, as they are more reliable and less prone to hardware problems when jarred or dropped short distances.

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