Understanding Portable External Hard Drives Not Detected

There are many different reasons you would need recovery from an external drive not showing up in your computer.

Some of these could be considered “user error”. There are alternatively, those times where the user’s only hope in recovering data is having a current backup.

One thing to remember is that all hard drives fail eventually. Matter fact, hard drives begin failing from the moment you power them up and start writing data to the platters.

Fact is, many BRAND NEW drives already have errors on them (SERIOUSLY)…

(failed sectors, etc), and they are recorded in a part of the drive’s microcode called the service area. This helps the drive skip those areas and function more smoothly. This process also backfires leaving many more drives, than can be counted, in an unrecognizable state.

I will discuss more about this down the page, as it’s most commonly found in Western Digital, Seagate, and Hitachi drives.

USB drives not recognized by computer


Understanding external drive not recognised messages

But, when it happens with an external storage device, it’s never a good sign.

Very rarely would it be a bad USB port, and here’s the reason why: If it was bad then it wouldn’t be able to report your portable usb drive is not showing up .

Also quite frequently users believe the drivers, or software, didn’t load correctly, or at all. This is a major myth and misconception.

The types of drivers that portable data storage devices require to connect and become recognized by the computer (Windows and Mac), are usually included in the operating system. Especially these days.

driver failed while installing external hard drive that doesnt show up

You get the “Device driver software was not successfully installed” error.

But there is no installation CD, or device driver required for WD, Seagate, Hitachi, and Toshiba external hard drives. This may vary with cloud/network/NAS ready drives, however the CD is simply for configuration of the network connections. It has nothing to do with if the drive recognized or not.

Firmware Corruption: Highly likely reason for a portable hard drive not showing up

When all else discussed above has failed you, and left you wondering let me help you out.

Remember when I was talking about the drive’s microcode that is written in the service area? GOoD

repairing firmware for unrecognized hard drive

Inside that microcode are little software packets that contain data imperative to:

  • regular function of the hard drive
  • error reporting
  • initialization data
  • hard drive data
  • bad sector rerouting
  • encryption
  • repairing the drive
  • many more details too many to list

All of these packets are written to the actual platters themselves.

Some manufacturers and drive models write copies on multiple platters, and some only on one under head 0 (or underneath the first platter on the bottom).wd passport not recognized by computer

Western Digital usually writes up to 4 copies of this data, and it is extremely helpful in recovering very damaged drives.

Their heads are usually more reliable about not crashing into the platter when they fail. Which means they are usually more recoverable.

If the heads cannot read this area(s), if there are damaged sectors, scratches on the surface, if it is corrupted, or overwritten without a backup the data will not be accessible.

If enough of the service area data is destroyed, or remains inaccessible, it becomes impossible to recover the files from the hard disk.

You are likely to experience these symptoms while the drive stays spinning, and gives this type of error on your computer without undesired noises. Otherwise it may make noises, clicking, scraping, chirping while spinning, or stop spinning.

You would receive this error on your Windows machine, other similar errors on your Mac or Linux machine.

At the end of the day it would be the hard drive inside the external device’s case, not anything else. You’re going to need professional help, and cutting edge technology.

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