Quickly Solved: External Hard Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 or 11

When encountering external hard drive not showing up or recognized in Windows 10/11 issue, don’t worry and you can refer to this post to know why it occurs and how to fix it easily and quickly.


By Bryce / Updated on April 10, 2024

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External hard drive not recognized Windows 10/11

With large capacity, an external hard drive, also called a portable hard drive, is always used to store or back up data. In most cases, an external hard drive or a second hard drive will present automatically after being connected to your computer. However, it is possible that the external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10/11 Disk Management or File Explorer. Then, you won’t be able to open it to use the files stored on it.

Why my external hard drive not recognized Windows 10?

When you link your external hard drive to your computer and it fails to appear, this occurrence can stem from a range of underlying factors.

◤ The hard drive might have been intentionally concealed on Windows 10/11, possibly due to manual settings.

◤ An unreliable or suboptimal connection could result from an inappropriate USB interface or a flawed cable.

◤ The integrity of the hard drive could be compromised or impaired, potentially owing to corruption or physical damage.

◤ Outmoded drivers associated with the hard drive might be contributing to the issue.

◤ Mismatches in the assignment of drive letters could also be a contributing element.

How to fix external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10/11

If your external hard drive  (portable hard drive) won't show in Windows 10 Explorer as well, the following steps will guide you to solve the issue and make the external drive appear. 

First of all, let's open Disk Management to see the condition of this hard drive (Press “Windows”+ “R”, type “diskmgmt.msc” and hit “Enter”, you will access the Disk Management interface). You can take according solutions if it is showing up in Windows 10 Disk Management or not appearing in Disk Management.

▐ Case 1. External hard drive not showing up in Windows 10 Explorer but in Disk Management

When the hard drive doesn't appear in Windows 10 File Explorer but in Disk Management, you can try the following 3 methods.

Solution 1. Assign a drive letter to the external hard drive

When the external has no drive letter, it will be invisible in File Explorer. At this time, you should assign a drive letter. Firstly, right click the partition that doesn’t have a drive letter and choose “Change Drive Letter and Path...” Then click on “Add”, choose a drive letter and click “OK” to give it a drive letter. After that, you can access the hard drive from File Explorer.

Change drive letter

Solution 2. Initialize external hard drive

When the external hard drive is not initialized and appears as an unallocated space or without showing disk capacity, you can initialize it as follows:

1. Right click the hard drive that needs to be initialized

2. Select “Initialize Disk” and set the disk partition style as MBR or GPT.

Initialize disk

3. Right-click the disk and choose “Create New Simple Volume”.

Create new simple volume

◤ Notice: As initialization will cause data loss, you’d better backup all the important data on the external hard drive before initializing it.

Solution 3. Rebuild MBR without data loss

It is well-known that MBR or Master Boot Record is essential to a hard drive. When it is damaged by some accidents such as virus attacks or inappropriate operation, the hard drive might display as unknown and not initialized external hard drive in Disk Management. In this case, what you should do is rebuild MBR via reliable software - AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard.

First of all, free download AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. Install and fire up it. Then you can follow the steps to rebuild MBR on the external hard drive.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7
Secure Download

1. Right-click the uninitialized disk and choose “Rebuild MBR”.

Rebuild MBR

2. Set the type of MBR based on your current operating system. Then, click “OK”.

Choose MBR Type

3. Click on “Apply” to implement this operation.


◤ Note: You can get more advanced functions, like recovering lost partitions on external hard drive, and converting system disk from MBR to GPT without data loss, if you upgrade it to a Professional version.

▐ Case 2. External Hard drive not showing up in Windows 10/11 Disk Management

If the external hard drive is not recognized by Windows 10 or 11 and doesn’t display in Disk Management, it is likely that there is something wrong with the USB port, Windows driver, and so on. To solve the external hard drive not showing up in Windows 10/11 Disk Management, you have to take specific steps based on different situations.

Solution 1. Check Windows driver via Device Manager

When Windows 10/11 Disk Management doesn’t list the external drive, you can check whether there is a driver problem on Windows via Device Manager.

1. Press “Windows”+ “R”, enter “devmgmt.msc” and hit “Enter”.

2. Click “Disk Drives”; if the external hard drive is with a yellow exclamation mark, it is problematic.

3. Right-click the problematic drive, select “Properties”, and read the message carefully.

4. To fix such an error, under the Driver table, click on “Update driver” to install updated drivers. Or you can click on “Uninstall” to uninstall the driver and restart your computer; after rebooting, the driver will be automatically reinstalled and reconfigured.

Update driver

Solution 2. Check USB port and enable USB Device in BIOS

If you can’t find out the external hard drive even in BIOS, it might be caused by disabling the interface in BIOS. Thus, you can enter BIOS to enable the USB device. Then restart your computer to see whether the problem is solved. If you still can’t see the drive in BIOS, you can check if the USB port is “OK”.

First of all, you need to unplug the external hard drive and plug it into another USB port to see if it works. If you have connected the drive via a USB hub, connect it to the computer itself. Then, if you can see the drive in Disk Management but not in This PC, you take measures narrative in the previous part.

Solution 3. Run Hardware and Devices Troubleshooter

1. Press Windows Key + I to open the Settings app.

2. Go to the Update & Security section.

Update & Security

3. Select Troubleshoot from the menu on the left and in the right pane choose Hardware and Devices. Now click Run the troubleshooter button.

Hardware and Device

4. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the troubleshooter.

Once the troubleshooting process is finished, check if the problem is still there

Further reading: What if the external hard drive shows but is unrecognized in Windows 10/11?

If the external hard drive's file system is corrupted or incompatible with Windows 10/11, it won't be accessible even it shows up in Windows 10/11 File Explorer. If you open it, you can receive an error, like "X drive is not accessible access is denied". In such a case, you can format an external hard drive to a certain file system compatible with the Windows system.

The tool mentioned above, AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard will be a nice solution. It allows you to format external hard drive like Samsung and WD external hard drives etc. to FAT32 without the limitation of 32GB in partition size, exFAT, or NTFS effortlessly. The detailed steps are as follows:

1. Run AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard. Right-click the external hard drive partition that you need to format and choose “Format Partition”.

Format Raw To NTFS

2. Choose one file system compatible with Windows system and click “OK”.

Choose File System

3. Review the operation and click “Apply” to implement it.

Apply Proceed

◤ Warning: Formatting an external hard drive partition will delete all data on it. If there is any important data, you’d better backup or transfer it somewhere before formatting.

Wrap all up

If you encounter an external hard drive not recognized Windows 10 error, don't panic, try the solutions in this guide, and you can solve the issue by yourself. AOMEI Partition Assistant is a versatile tool, if you upgrade to the Professional Edition, you can unlock more helpful functions like disk/partition cloning, recover files from SSD, move installed programs, and so on. If you work on Windows Server computers, you can try AOMEI Partition Assistant Server.

Bryce · Staff Editor
Bryce is an editor of AOMEI Technology, he covers backup & restore, hard disk & partitions management, cloud files transfer, website & database backup and so on for AOMEI. He enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. He loves traveling, Sleeping, reserching and so on. He enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. He loves traveling, Sleeping, reserching and so on. He would like to spend all time on reaserching computer problems. He is a very cute boy.