If Windows does not recognize your external hard drive, it is usually because that no drive letter is assigned or the USB cable is defective. We show what you can do in such cases.

Windows: External hard disk is not recognized

The following are the main causes if Windows does not recognize the external hard disk.

Cause 1: No drive letter assigned

Often, Windows recognizes the hard drive, but does not display it in Windows Explorer. When Windows actually recognizes the hard disk, you hear the typical sound that is played when you connect a USB device to the PC. The reason why the disk is still not recognized: Windows has not assigned a drive letter to the disk. This is how it works anyway:

  1. Presses the key combination Windows + R.
  2. Type in diskmgmt.msc and press Enter.
  3. The Disk Management opens.
  4. Now look up in the list or in the graph below your hard drive. You usually recognize them by the storage capacity.
  5. If Windows does not display a drive letter on it, right-click on it.
  6. Selects “Change drive letters and paths …” in the context menu.
  7. In the small window you click on the bottom left on “Add …“.
  8. Leave “Assign following drive letter” above and selects behind it a drive letter that is not assigned.
  9. Confirmed with “OK“.

Close Disk Management and open Windows Explorer (Shortcut: Windows + E). Check if your external hard drive is now displayed.

Cause 2: Hard disk must be formatted

If the first solution does not work, your hard drive may need to be formatted first. Open Disk Management as in Solution 1, right-click on the external hard disk and select “Format“.

Cause 3: USB cable or hard drive defective

  • Plug the external hard drive to the PC.
  • Does the hard disk make a noise?
  • Put your hand on the hard disk.
  • Do you feel a vibration from the hard drive motor (not SSDs)?

If you answer both questions with “no”, it could be that either the connection cable to the hard disk or the hard disk itself is defective. Try another cable if possible and recheck the hard drive. Plug the hard drive to another PC to see if it works there. Some external hard drives also need their own power supply. Also check the cable.


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