How to troubleshoot when a hard drive is not detected or recognized

It can get extremely frustrating when your external hard drive is not showing up, or being detected like it should.

There’s not much you can do to get it to show up again, without understanding what the cause is to begin with.

Is it your hard drive, or the computer?

If it is the hdd, having the proper data recovery diagnostics equipment is the only way to know why your PC is not recognizing your hard disk.

Trust me, your IT department, or computer geek, has never seen this equipment, and certainly couldn’t afford the investment it requires. This is why they have to send it out to a professional data recovery firm.

What does it mean when your hard disk is not detected by your computer?


Essentially your device is not initializing properly, and therefore your computer cannot recognize, identify, or communicate with it.

When your computer boots up, or when an external device is connected to your computer, it attempts to communicate with all the devices attached to the motherboard.

It needs to know what drivers to load, how to classify it, what file system it has, and what kind of access to allow from within the operating system.

If it’s not showing up on your computer that means it can’t read the identifying information that it should report:

  • device serial number
  • device capacity
  • device manufacturer
  • file system and partitions

Sometimes when your storage device is not being recognized, it is still detected by the computer. This is especially true with USB drives.

You may even hear a familiar sound, like when something is plugged into your computer.

The computer can recognize something is plugged into the USB port, but it can’t identify it so it reports an error like:

  • driver not loaded
  • cannot recognize usb device
  • device driver not successfully installed
  • the disk you inserted is not recognized by this computer
  • boot device not found
  • select boot device

This is across the board with external hard drives, flash drives, solid state drives, camera cards, and just about any type of storage media.

If you have important data on the drive that is not recognized by your computer, you will want to proceed cautiously. Hopefully by the time you are finished reading you will know exactly how to handle your situation safely, and effectively.

How to troubleshoot your hard drive when it’s not recognized anymore

The goal of this website is to help you understand the facts of your situation, so you will make educated decisions, instead of guessing.

Educated decisions = safe recovery

Guessing = losing your data

Without this information, and depending on the reason your hard drive is not showing up (which could require specialized data recovery equipment), you will never know how to effectively solve your problem.

We will try to educate you enough to know whether you can do it yourself, or if you need professional help to get your device to show up again. When your hard drive is not showing up like it usually does, now you can have enough ammunition to get your data back!

Does your computer look like this inside?
hard drive not showing up because of computer problems
If not, then the reason could be your hard drive!!

How to get your files off a hard disk when it’s not showing up on your computer

I know someone that gets external hard drives, SSD’s, flash drives, camera cards, internal hard disks (all kinds of storage media) from all over the United States.

He’s an engineer who specializes in recovering data from external drives that aren’t showing up anymore. They specialize in storage devices from all types of manufacturers, including the common USB WD hard drives that aren’t being recognized or detected.

With these types of symptoms, special data recovery equipment is necessary every time. There are only a handful of manufacturers of this type of data recovery technology, one of them is Deepspar. These types of machines require extensive knowledge to operate successfully.

A computer showing drives are healthy, or no drive detected might need professional attention…

These guys have helped thousands of families, businesses, memories, works of art, saved jobs, get recovered, and are very effective in recovering all kinds of storage device failures.

There are so many bogus helps, and videos about this subject. But there is no one solution that applies to every situation.There are many reasons why a drive won’t recognize or show up on a computer. (See below for example)

Different types of drive not showing up errors

As I said there are many different causes to this situation, but all the errors are pretty much all the same. For example, this is what many people search for:

From my experience and friendship with a data recovery engineer, this is what I have learned:

Hard drives that wont show up are usually due to something:

  1. very obvious and simple, or
  2. a major issue with the hard drive, USB device,  SSD, or flash drive.

How you proceed is up to you.

I’ll go over a few common issues and steps that you can try to isolate the issue, and confirm that it is a problem with your hard drive.

Now you want to be careful because if it is a problem with your hard drive, continuing to run the drive were powered up and potentially cause the drive to fail faster, or even crash.

I accept no responsibility for the outcomes, of your situation, however I will guarantee a high probability that you will learn what the right steps and choices are, when you have a disk drive not showing up kinda problem.

Basic troubleshooting guidelines you can try after a no hdd detected error

From my personal experience, most data recovery companies will try to confuse you on the phone, trying to WOW you about what will have to be done to get your data.

Some clearly take advantage of people. Most people have no idea why their computer is giving a: “Disk or USB device not Recognized” error.

By performing the following checks, you will actually understand a little bit better about your current situation, and what could be causing it.

Step #1: When it comes to data recovery and an external or even a new hard drive not showing up, the first step is to learn why the drive is not being recognized.

There’s a few ways to do this without special equipment that are simple enough for you to do on your own. You don’t have to be a computer expert to do what we call deductive reasoning.

If A = B and B = C+1 then A also = C+1…

pretty simple I know, but you would be surprised how many people make it complicated. They usually do this by guessing, or simply asking companies who don’t know what they are talking about, or who are only out for the money if they do..


  • Check Cables: usually SATA cables for internal disks or USB cables for external drives
  • Check Power Cable: both of these cables can be easily checked with another identical one. For the power cable make sure to use the proper voltage.
  • Check BIOS settings: sometimes the BIOS settings can cause a device to not be detected or recognized during installation or through regular operation. (refer to the MoBo documentation to check settings)

If it’s not any of the above then it’s the hard drive or device itself, not the computer or cables.

At this point it’s best to turn it off and read more down below about your particular device, and the possible reasons and remedies for a USB, SSD, flash, or hard drive not showing up.

For a hard drive (external, USB, or internal) not detected or recognized

  1. FIRST, we need to remove the drive from our computer, or the shell if it’s external USB hdd.
  2. CAREFULLY REMOVE external hard drives from their shell. A guitar pick works perfect and protects the drive from slips by metal tools, or objects. Do not let the drive slip out of your hand, always do this on the flat side of the hard drive resting on a table (not in your lap).
  3. TRY TO SLAVE the drive to another type of operating system, for example: using Windows 7 try it on a MAC or Linux install. If it’s MAC try it on a Windows machine. It won’t matter if you try a different version of the same operating system.
  4. LISTEN FOR NOISES coming from the drive during the power up, reading, and shutting down phases. Note what you experience.
  5. Chirps, beeps, clicks, scratching, ticks, labored whirring, knocking, or anything that is not smooth and quiet is NOT GOOD. If the data on that drive is worth more than $400.00, SHuT the device down immediately! You need special equipment and knowledge at this point. If the data is not worth that much, then you might as well move on…
  6. If it’s smooth and whirring, and your hard drive is not being detected on those three platforms, you still have a serious issue. The drive’s problem cannot be fixed without special knowledge, and very expensive data recovery machines.

If you want me to go past that point, I’ll be happy to explain the common causes of the above symptoms and drives not being detected. However without certain equipment developed by only four or five companies in the world, you will never reach that data.

Nevertheless, because I know you may think I’m exaggerating about your situation, or at least still want to know why, I will explore some advanced details with you.

At least you will be able to tell the crackpot data recovery centers from the ones that can really help you get your files back. These things go beyond the basic, where expert craftsmanship and special equipment is required.