If the External Drive isn’t Showing Up on Mac, Here’s What you Must Do

Macs are exceptional computers offering reliable services. They’re workhorses that will keep pushing forward. However, in rare instances, users might incur problems. One of the most frustrating issues encountered by users is the external drive not showing up on Mac. Before trying out the complex troubleshooting tips in this guide, you need to follow these to ensure future complications can be avoided. 

Fix External Drive

  • Ensure the USB port is cleaned and properly connected. If the USB ports are loosely connected or dirty, they can create short currents, and the external drive will not show up on your system. Your computer will have a hard time reading the data on the drive. So, you need to clean the USB port or connector if it’s dirty. If it is loose, get a new cable or fix it. 
  • Remember to always properly eject the external hard drive before unplugging it from your system. If you remove the drive without a safe ejection, the data might get corrupted. 
  • You must keep your operating system updated. If the operating system is out-of-date, it might create problems for all areas of your system’s functioning. You can install the latest macOS version by going to System Preferences > choosing Software Update. 

Assuming you are following the precautions mentioned earlier and still your system cannot recognize or read the external drive, you can try these quick fixes. 

Reformat the USB Drive 

If the USB drive isn’t functioning as expected, you can reformat it. However, if there are important data in the drive, you must not forget to take a backup of it so that you don’t lose information. Here’s how to reformat USB on Mac

  • You have to plug the device into your system and head to Applications 
  • Click on Utilities and open Disk Utility 
  • In the left sidebar, you have to choose the drive or device and click Erase
  • Give the device a name and choose your desired format
  • Click Erase to reformat the device 

The desired format is going to depend on the device you are using. For instance, when formatting an SD card, you would want to go with exFat. On the other hand, APFS is the desired format when formatting a flash drive on Mac. 

Edit the Preferences 

Editing the preferences might not be a requirement if you are not experiencing this problem for the first time. However, it would still help to check the preferences. It might be that you have accidentally turned off the settings, and they are not set to display external hard drives on the desktop. You can fix this by going to Finder. Click on the Finder button, follow Preferences > click General > click Show these items on the desktop. Ensure to tick the boxes next to Hard Disks and External Disks. 

Use Terminal 

The Terminal application is the last-resort solution for the average Mac user because it is a bit complicated. But this is the most effective way to fix the problem, and you will quickly get the hang of it by following these steps. 

  • Open the Terminal app by going to Applications > Utilities > Terminal
  • For extracting information from the system, you need to type the command diskutil list. Then, a list of your disks will appear, and you have to search for a line with /dev/disk_(external, physical)
  • You need to type another command diskutil info disk_ and provide the digital of the external disk in place of the underscore. 
  • If your device recognizes the drive, the action will reveal the information regarding your drive. You can eject it by typing diskutil eject disk_ and entering the assigned digit of your drive in place of the underscore. 
  • If the drive is not on the list, you can type in the diskutil list command and remove it from the USB port. After that, you should be able to mount the disk normally. 


If your Mac is running on Mojave or Catalina, you may encounter the Operation Not Permitted error when entering a Terminal command. Kindly note that this isn’t a software bug; it typically occurs when there’s additional System Integrity Protection. Thanks to this, the system locks down specific areas of your system and relieves them during updates. The problem can be fixed by providing full disk access to the Terminal application. First, you need to quit the Terminal app and go to the Apple menu.

Then, click System Preferences > click Security and Privacy > click Privacy. Find the option of Full Disk Access and make changes to the list of applications that have permission by clicking on the lock symbol. You may have to enter your password. Then, click the Plus button and add a new utility to the list, Terminal. Once this app is added, you have to click on the padlock to disable access to editing. 

So, there’s no need to panic when your external drive is not showing up on your Mac. Instead, follow the tips mentioned in this guide, and the problem should be solved instantly.


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