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Most of the time, when you connect an external hard drive to your Mac’s USB port, you soon see it mount on the desktop. Apple likes to ensure these are easy to find, so they also appear in the Finder in the left-hand column under Devices, since Mac’s treat them the same way as another computer.
However, sometimes, an external hard drive doesn't show up. It’s annoying, especially when you need to transfer something right then. And besides, there can be a risk that data on the external USB pen, hard, or flash drive is corrupt, which means you can’t transfer what you need between devices at all.
Corrupt data can be one reason your Mac won't recognize an external drive, but there are other reasons too. Let’s take a look why this is happening and how you can get an external drive to appear on your Mac and get recover data to access to your documents.
How to fix an external disk drive that won't show up on a Mac
Why an external disk drive is not showing up? There could be a few reasons why a USB flash drive isn’t making an appearance.
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Start with the basics:
- Check whether the drive is properly plugged in. It sounds obvious, but since this relies on a wire - either a USB cable or HDMI cable - if it’s not connected properly then it won’t appear on your desktop.
- Faulty cable. Assuming it’s plugged in correctly, not wobbly or loose, the cable could be at fault. Try connecting the same device with a different cable.
- Damaged USB or flash drive port. It could be a hardware issue with the Mac. If you’ve got another port, try connecting the device to that one.
- Reboot your Mac. Sometimes, if a USB disk won't boot, the cause is macOS issue. Hopefully, some data damage that can be fixed by restarting. Choose the Apple menu > Restart. Or press and hold the power button and, when a dialog box appears, click the Restart or press R. Restarting your Mac essentially clears your macOS’s memory and starts it up fresh.
- Incorrectly formatted drive. Not every external drive is optimized for Macs. It could be that you are trying to connect something only fit to interact with Windows devices. If you’ve got a PC or laptop, it’s worth connecting and seeing if you can access the files through another device. The best way to look for an incorrectly formatted drive is to go to
Apple (in the top toolbar menu) > About This Mac > Storage.
See if the external drive shows up here. For more information, go to the same menu option, then select System Report.
- Mac not formatted to display external drives on the desktop. It could be that your Mac already recognizes the device, but just isn’t showing its icon on the desktop screen. Even if that is the case, the drive will still appear in the left-hand column of the Finder menu under Devices. You should be able to access your drive that way, and, in the Finder menu under Preferences > General, you can check External Drives to ensure that from now on it shows up on your desktop too.
- Reset NVRAM. To do this, shut down or restart your Mac, switch it back on and immediately press these four keys together for at least 20 seconds: Option, Command, P, and R. It should look as though your Mac has started again; if it has, release the keys when you hear the second startup chime. Hopefully, the hard drive has shown up now.
- Check Apple’s Disk Utility to see if an external drive is showing up. Disk Utility is within System Preferences, or you can find it using Spotlight. If it is visible, then click the option to Mount, which should make it visible on the desktop and in the External Drives option in the Finder menu.
Unfortunately, if none of those options has worked and the external drive still isn’t visible, then it could have crashed, or be well and truly broken. But there might still be a way you can recover the data on the external drive.
How to show connected devices in Finder
- Go to the Finder menu and select Preferences (Cmd+comma).
- From General tab tick External disks to ensure that from now on it shows on the desktop.
In the Sidebar tab you can choose which folders and devices will be shown in the left-hand column of the Finder window.
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How to add cloud storages to Finder
You can also mount cloud storage as local drive on your Mac. By connecting Google Drive, Dropbox, or Amazon to your computer, you get more space for securely accessing and sharing files. For your ease, add cloud drives to Finder with CloudMounter app, so that you keep them close at hand. You can read detailed instructions on managing cloud storage as local drives here.
Repair the failed external drives with First Aid
If your drive is having problems, you can try to fix them yourself with First Aid and therefore get access to your files. First Aid tool will check the disk for errors and then attempt a repair as needed. It helps to verify and repair a range of issues related to startup HD and external drive problems. If you are able to fix the hard drive or SSD in your Mac (or an external drive) using Disk Utility you will hopefully be able to recover your files.
To run Fist Aid on an external hard drive:
- Open Disk Utility. You can searching for it using Spotlight Search or via Finder > Application > Utility
- Check on your external hard drive, click the First Aid tab and select Run to start running diagnostics.
If First Aid successful in fixing errors, the external drive should be available to mount. If the utility unable to repair issues, your drive truly is broken or formatted using a file system that the Mac cannot read - in this way we suggest you follow the next steps to recover data from a damaged disk drive.
How to recover data from a crashed drive
Thankfully, there is an app for that. Disk Drill is the world’s premier data recovery software for Mac OS X. Powerful enough to retrieve long-lost, mistakenly deleted files from Macs, external hard drives and USB drives and camera cards.
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An easy way to recover lost files on an external hard drive
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Providing you already have Disk Drill Pro version, which you can get automatically by downloading from Setapp:
- Connect your drive to the Mac.
- Quit all other applications on the Mac, especially those that may be trying to access the external drive (e.g. iPhoto, Words)
- Launch Disk Drill.
- Click on the external drive that you are trying to recover files from. If it has partitions, you will see all of them. If, however, you still don’t see any volume to the external drive then you may need to try some of the steps above again or read the Disk Drill Scanning FAQs.
- To avoid the external drive being accessed during the recovery process, click Extras next to the drive or drive partition or file, then select Remount Volume As Read Only. A padlock will appear, protecting the drive during the process.
- Now click Rebuild (or Recover) next to the file(s) you are trying to recover. Once the scan is finished - it may take some time if the files are large - a list of files will appeal.
- Next, click Mount Found Items as Disk button on the bottom-left below the scan results.
- Disk Drill “strongly suggest saving the files to a different drive than the one you are trying to recover files from. Saving to the same drive substantially lowers your chances of recovery.”
- A drive icon will appear, which once you double click will give you the option to open the files as you would do before they were lost. Drag them to another location, such as your desktop or a folder on your Mac.
- Open the files to ensure they have been recovered properly and safely eject the external drive.
Disk Drill does have other ways to recover lost files but assuming there aren’t complications, this method is the most effective. Disk Drill Pro recovery app is available from Setapp, along with dozens of Mac apps that will make your life easier. Never have to worry about a crashed or corrupted external drive again.
A few more tips on getting your files back
- Macs and third-party apps that look after Macs, such as Disk Drill and iStat Menus come with a S.M.A.R.T. (also known as Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) status monitor. If a SMART check reports errors, then it could mean the hard drive is at risk of failing completely. Within Disk Utility and Disk Drill, there are several solutions for this: Repair Disk Permissions and Repair Disk. If neither work, it’s recommended that you backup all of the data from the disk, erase, then run a SMART check again. The external hard drive should show up as Verified.
- Partitions can get lost within hard drives, temporarily hiding all of the information contained within. Disk Drill can help to identify and restore this information.
- Within Disk Drill, you can restore data when a hard drive is damaged or add formatting, which is also something Disk Utility can help with.
- CleanMyMac, another useful app available from Setapp, can help you identify external hard drive errors and repair them. It is an essential tool worth trying when you’re having external hard drive difficulties.
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Alternative ways to recover data from an external hard drive
Reset the System Management Controller (SMC) if your Mac shuts down when you plug in an external hard drive. Then use a different port to connect the external hard drive. If you’ve got a battery that you can’t remove:
- Shut down and unplug the power adapter
- Press Shift-Control-Option and the power button at the same time. Do this for 10 seconds
- Release all keys
- Plug the power adapter back in and switch your Mac back on
For Macs with removable batteries, you need to switch them off, remove the battery, then press and hold the power button for 5 seconds. After that, put the battery back in, plug in the power adapter and switch the power on again.
What’s your file format? One reason your Mac isn’t recognizing the hard drive is the file format. Windows uses NTFS file formats, while Macs, up until the introduction of Sierra, have used HFS+. Now, Apple has introduced the Apple File System (APFS) for newer operating systems. It is possible to format a hard drive so it can be read on Mac and Windows computers, providing you format using exFAT. However, if you’re having problems accessing the files and the issue is due to formatting, you will need to connect it to a device it can be read on, and then format the files correctly for the computer you are going to use it on next.
How to make Ext2/Ext3 drives readable on Mac
The common issue is Ext2- and Ext3-formatted drives are not readable on macOS. There are two ways to access such external drives on your Mac – via Linux OS or FUSE system. The easiest would be installing Linux to a secondary drive or virtual machine.
If you go with Linux installation, dual boot your Mac with Linux on another drive and use FAT32 as a transfer intermediary. If you don’t have a drive to install Linux to, use virtual machine as an interface for it. Transferring can be done the same way – with FAT32, or via network.
Another option for reading Ext2/Ext3 disks is mounting disk with Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE). Basically, it works as an extra interface enabling file system access via specially installed modules. Here’s how to mount drives with FUSE:
- Install FUSE for macOS or MacFUSE as well as fuse-ext2 module.
- Use the following Terminal command to enable Disk Utility’s debug menu and see all partitions: defaults write com.apple.DiskUtility DUDebugMenuEnabled 1
- Attach your Ext2/Ext3 drive and locate the device name via Disk Utility.
- In your user account, create a folder to be used as a mount point.
- Use the following Terminal command to mount the drive as read-only: fuse-ext2 /dev/disk2s2 /Volumes/mountpoint
- For write support, use the command: fuse-ext2 -o force /dev/disk2s2 /Volumes/mountpoint
And that’s not the only case where Terminal helps you access external drive.
Employ the handy all-powerful Terminal, which always comes forward with solutions for difficult problems. Especially if System Information does recognize the USB or hard drive, but continues to hide it from you, disconnect the drive and try to find it using the Terminal, which you can find in Applications > Utilities.
- Once in the Terminal, type in the command diskutil list
- A list with information about volumes and drives should appear
- Look for a section labelled /dev/disk_ (external, physical)
- Make a note of the whole line after the word disk
- Now put the following command into the Terminal diskutil info disk followed by the number or digits assigned to that disk
- Now you should see detailed information about the drive, therefore confirming that your Mac can and does recognize it
- Eject using the Terminal by entering the command diskutil eject disk followed by the number or digits assigned to that disk
- Physically remove the disk from you Mac
- Plug it back in and your Mac should recognize it
Console is also reliable when it comes to solving tricky problems, although it isn’t always that easy to use. You can find Console under Applications > Utilities > Console. Console shows if an external drive or any error is detected under the Errors and Faults tab. If no errors show up, then the problem is not caused by the device.
To sum up, there are lots of potential solutions for a Mac not reading an external hard drive. If we were to pick one, Disk Drill seems to be the most well-rounded, offering plenty of customizations and power in an easy-to-use interface. Disk Drill Pro recovery app is available via Setapp, along with 150+ Mac apps that strive to make your life much much easier. At the very least, you’ll never have to worry about a crashed or corrupted external drive ever again.
Meantime, prepare for all the awesome things you can do with Setapp.Read on
Oct 26, 2020 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions
There is no doubt that getting quick access to the Mac HD directory can be quite helpful in many situations. You can easily access several folders, such as System, Users, Applications, and Library. All these folders contain data that any Mac user access on a regular basis. Sadly, macOS High Sierra may not display you the Macintosh HD folder on your desktop or Finder by default. It makes access to files difficult.
The good news is that there are some ways to show the hard drive on Mac. Here, in this post, you will get to learn that, and also, you get to know how to find the external hard drive on Mac.
Part 1. Why You Can't See Hard Drive on Mac?
Well, there are a number of reasons why you can't see the hard drive on your Mac. Here, we are going to mention the most common ones:
- Preference Issue: You may have not set preferences that make the hard drive visible on your Mac Finder or desktop.
- Connector Issue: It might be the case that you fail to connect the hard drive to your Mac USB port correctly. And maybe the cable you're using for connection is damaged or non-functional.
- Corruption of File system: It might also case that the file system of the hard drive is corrupt due to bad sectors, logical errors, etc. Sometimes, your hard drive file system damage leads to non-mounting HD in Finder.
- Hard drive failure: It might be the case that your drive is physically damaged due to component failure, head crash, or etc.
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Part 2. How to Show Hard Drive Icon on Mac Desktop?
It is the Finder's job for displaying the desktop and its icons, which include storage devices icon too. You can show or hide Mac's main hard drive from the desktop of your Mac with ease and all you need to do is to adjust some of the Finder options. If you want to keep your hard drives icon on the desktop so that you can access the data easily, then here's what you have to do to show HD on Mac.
To begin with, you need to first have the Finder option in the foreground. For this, check if there is the word 'Finder' in your Mac menu bar. If no, then all you have to do is to tap on the 'Finder' icon from the Dock of your Mac to appear it in the foreground.
Once you are able to do it, follow the below steps to show the hard drive on a Mac desktop:
- Go to the Menu bar, and then, move to 'Finder'. Next, click on the 'Preferences' option.
- Next, select the 'General' tab when the Finder preferences window appears on your Mac screen.
- After that, check the box 'Hard disks' under 'Show these items on the desktop'.
- Finally, the Mac hard drive icon should now appear on your desktop as shown in the below figure.
As you can see how much it is easy to show and hide Mac hard disks or drives on your desktop. Whenever you want quick access to the data on your Mac, all you have to do is double-click on your Mac HD drive from the desktop and you'll be navigated to the place where all of your Mac data is stored.
Part 3. How to Find External Hard Drive on Mac?
Is your Mac not detecting the external hard drive? In many cases, an external hard drive doesn't show up on your Mac. There is no doubt that it is quite frustrating, especially when you want to transfer something very important right then. Besides this, there can be a change that data present on an external hard drive is corrupt, which is one of the reasons why your Mac can't detect an external drive.
The good news is that there are some solutions that can help you to come out of this problem with ease. Let's look at them:
1. Mount the External Hard Drive on Mac
It could be the case that your Mac already detects an external hard drive, but it just not showing its icon on your desktop screen. If it is the case, then you can easily mount and access your drive again and all you have to do is to follow the below steps:
- To start with, move to the Finder menu and here, choose Preferences.
- In the Finder preferences window, choose the General tab.
- Here, you need to make sure that the 'External disks' option under 'Show these items on the desktop' is ticked.
Also, you can set your Mac to display an external hard drive in Finder. For this, go to 'Finder'>' Preferences'>' Sidebar'. Here, you need to tick the option 'External disks' under the 'Locations' menu.
This method will probably help you to show the connected external hard drive on your Mac. If it doesn't, then you can go for the next solution. And if you need to make a USB flash drive detected, the solutions might be more feasible: Fix USB not showing up on Mac.
2. Launch Disk Utility to Run First Aid
There might be a case that your external hard drive is going through some problems you are unaware of it. In this case, you can try to resolve them yourself using Disk Utility to run the First Aid tool. Afterward, you can even access your files. The tool will inspect the disk for issues and errors and then, try to repair it as required. It is quite helpful when it comes to verifying and repairing a wide range of problems related to external and HD drive.
Here is the step-by-step guide on how you can run First Aid on your external hard drive:
- To start with, launch Disk Utility. You can search for it using Spotlight Search or go to 'Finder'>' Application'>' Utility'
- After that, you need to check on an external hard drive. Next, click on the 'First Aid' tab and choose 'Run' to begin running diagnostics.
If First Aid tools become successful in fixing problems, then your external hard drive should now be available for you to mount. What if the tool fails to repair issues? Then, your drive is badly broken or maybe formatted through a file system that your Mac can't read. In this way, we recommended that you should recover data from the damaged hard drive. Check out the next section to learn how to get back and how hard disk data on Mac.
Part 4. How to Recover and Show Hard Drive Data on Mac?
Have you ever wondered what if you found that you can't access the data stored on your Mac hard drive due to sudden power failure, or virus attack? Or if the above methods fail to fix 'external hard drive not mounting Mac'. In such cases, data recovery software can help you to easily get back hard drive data on your Mac.
1. Recoverit - The Best Software to Recover Mac Files:
Whenever you experience a data loss situation, Recoverit Data Recovery Mac will help you to retrieve it. This data recovery software will come in handy even when you've never made a backup of your device. You now know how to partition Mac hard drive and un-partition it. But knowing how you can recover the lost or deleted files from the drive is also necessary.
2. How to Recover Lost Word Files on Mac:
Step 1: Select a Location
Launch the software and select the drive from where the data files are lost. If you don't know which drive to search, tap on the 'I can't find my partition' option, and hit the Start button.
Step 2: Scan the Location
Typically, the software will run an All-Around Recovery scan and search for the lost and deleted files on the entire drive.
Step 3: Preview and Recover
When the scan completes, the files will be listed on the screen. The software will sort out the files according to format to make the search easier. You can select multiple files at a time and have a preview of them.
It can be concluded that creating and removing a Mac drive partition is not that tough. You just have to careful during the process. And in case of a mishap, Recoverit is always here for your help so that you don't have to suffer from data loss situation.
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