Top 8 Ways to Fix External Disk Not Appearing on Mac

Apple MacBooks have SSD storage, which is fast but limited in size. Buying a MacBook with more space is very costly. This is why most Mac users rely on external drives to store data. However, what if your external drive suddenly doesn’t show up on your Mac?

Usually, external drives such as hard drives, portable SSDs, or USB drives should appear on your Mac’s desktop within seconds of connecting. But if you can’t get your external drive to show up on your Mac, try these fixes.

1. Check Dongle and USB Connection

Double check if your Mac’s USB port is working properly. If the external drive won’t connect and shows a problem, try plugging it into other laptops and see if it works. You can also try plugging your external hard drive into another USB port.

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Newer Apple MacBooks come with USB Type-C ports, which require a dongle to connect to traditional USB-A external hard drives. You can try plugging in other drives or computer peripherals to check if the dongle is working.

You can check if your Mac’s USB port is faulty by going to System Report. Click the Apple icon in the top left and select About This Mac, then click System Report. Then, in the left window pane, under the hardware subsection, click on USB and check if it detects the external hard drive. If so, it should show something like this.

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2. Enable External Disk Visibility

One of the reasons your Mac isn’t displaying your external drive is in Finder’s settings. You can make Finder detect external drives by following these steps:

Stage 1: Go to Finder and click Preferences in the top left.

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Step 2: Under Show these items on desktop, make sure the Hard disks and External disks options are enabled.

Stage 3: Now click on the third tab, Sidebar.

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Step 4: Under Show these items in the sidebar setting, the Make hard disks and external disks options are enabled.

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3. Update macOS

Try updating to the latest version of macOS and see if the issue is resolved. Sometimes the problem can be related to Finder’s cache and updating macOS will reset the cache and may fix your connection issue. Follow the steps below to update macOS.

Stage 1: Go to the Apple menu and click About This Mac.

Step 2: Now click on Software Update.

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Stage 3: Your Mac should automatically check for updates. Install the latest version available.

4. Reset your Mac’s NVRAM and SMC

Resetting NVRAM is an effective way to troubleshoot your Mac. This small storage saves your computer’s settings when the power is off. Resetting the NVRAM can help your Mac recognize external drives.

Restart your Mac to reset the NVRAM. Just hold down the Option + Command + P + R keys on your keyboard for about 20 seconds before you hear the Mac startup sound. The action will reset both NVRAM and PRAM.


In certain situations, it may also be useful to reset the System Management Controller (SMC). Press and hold the Control + Option + Shift keys on your keyboard for about 7 seconds to reset the SMC. Press and hold the Power button after 7 seconds. Now press the Power button again to turn on your Mac, this will take some time.

5. Repair External Drive Using Disk Utility

Sometimes the file system of the external drive can be damaged. Disk Utility is a built-in tool provided by Apple to fix this kind of thing. Disk Utility’s First Aid feature helps mount unrecognized external drive.

Stage 1: Launch Disk Utility on your Mac.

Step 2: If the external drive you want to connect to is listed in gray, click on it.

Stage 3: Now, click the First Aid tab from the top pane and click Run.

disk utility

Step 4: Wait for the process to complete.

If repaired the external drive should be mounted automatically. If not, you can try plugging the external drive in Safe Mode. If it doesn’t get stuck even then, you can try resetting your driver.

6. Insert External Drive in Safe Mode

There may be an application preventing your external drive from connecting to the system. There are such applications that are blocking the USB connection of the Mac and in this case, you can try to plug the external drive into your Mac in Safe Mode.

Stage 1: Shut down your Mac.

Step 2: Press the power button and now press the Shift key right after you hear the Mac startup sound.

Mac safe mode

Stage 3: Release the Shift key as soon as you see the progress indicator.

You will now notice that your Mac starts in Safe Mode. If you can see your external drive in Safe Mode, it means that the app you recently installed is blocking the drive and you should uninstall this program.

7. External Drive Detected as Read Only

If you can see the external drive connected to your Mac but cannot copy the content, the drive you are trying to write to is most likely in NTFS format. The NTFS format belongs to Microsoft Windows.

NTFS drives can be read on macOS, but you cannot write data to them. To write to an NTFS disk on your Mac, you need to install third-party NTFS software to easily write and read data.

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If you do not want to install third-party software, you can format the external drive in universal formats that can be read and written by all operating systems, such as FAT32 or exFAT. However, you cannot copy individual files larger than 4GB.

8. Format Your External Drive

If none of the options work for you, the data on your external drive may be corrupt. In such cases, you can try to wipe your external drive. Follow the steps below to erase your external drive.

Stage 1: Open Disk Utility on your Mac.

Step 2: Select the driver you want to delete from the sidebar.

Stage 3: Now select Delete from the top pane.

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Step 4: Give your external drive a name and choose the appropriate format.

Step 5: Click on Delete, select the relevant Format and let the process finish.

Troubleshooting External Drives on Mac

If no external disk is showing on your Mac, you can follow the solutions mentioned above. While they may be helpful, we recommend backing up important data to your external drive.

Next: Having issues with AirDrop not working on Mac? Read the post below to learn how to fix the problem.

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