Computer Not Recognizing External Hard Drive

“Why is my computer not recognizing external hard drive?” is a common question that many Windows PC users ask. Sometimes your PC can fail or refuse to recognize the External Hard Drive you’ve inserted even after confirming a successful connection with the drive.

External Hard Drive

Typically, you should see the external hard drive in the PC’s File Explorer under the list of disks on the computer. But sometimes, when you insert or connect the external hard drive to the PC, it fails to show up, or the computer fails to recognize it.


When you connect an external hard drive on your computer, you may receive the following message stating an error:

“USB Device not recognized: One of the devices attached to this computer has malfunctioned and Windows does not recognize it.”

This message doesn’t occur to all users when the computer fails to recognize the external drive. So, why would this happen?

What to Do If Computer Does Not Recognize External Hard Drive

The first thing to do if the computer fails to recognize the external hard drive is to unplug it and plug it back. Incorrect placement of the drive could have been the cause of the problem.

If it still fails to show up, you need to identify the cause of the problem first.
To ensure the issue is not with the USB port, try all the USB ports on your computer and see if the computer still doesn’t recognize the external USB drive.

For more information on how to fix the computer not recognizing external hard drive issue, read this article.

If so, try the drive on a different computer and see if it opens. This will also help you to know if the external drive is the issue. Alternatively, use another external hard drive such as USB to check if the ports are dead or the driver is the problem.

You can also check if the external hard drive is appearing in the disk management tool. This will inform you if the problem is system-related or hard drive related.

After identifying the problem, you will need to fix it. Fixing the problem will also depend on the cause. For example, if the problem is related to Windows drivers or Windows Update, you can consider updating your PC.
Other methods to fix the problem include:

  • Scan your computer for malware or viruses
  • Update or Reinstall the device driver through device manager
device manager
  • Run the Troubleshooters
  • Create new partitions on your external drive
  • Disable USB selective suspend setting
  • Run system file checker (SFC) scan
  • Run DISM scan

Similar steps can also help to fix shutting issue on windows 10 or Vcredist x64/84 errors.

Why is Computer Not Recognizing External Hard Drive?

The problem of computer not recognizing external hard drive has several possible causes, including:

  • USB drives issues, such as USB port not working or dead
  • Partition issues on the external drive, such as unallocated disk space
  • Using the wrong file system
  • Windows driver issues
  • External drives issues, for instance, the drive itself may be dead
  • Device status not initialized
  • Windows Update issues
  • Malware or virus infection

In addition, external hard drive problems may also occur after you encountered a PC error that forced a restart. For instance, after an error like “api-ms-win-crt-runtime-l1-1-0.dll is missing,” the Operating system may fail to recognize some drives, or they may fail to load. The drives that run the external hard drives might become victims of this issue.


Computers not recognizing external hard drives is a common issue for PC users. It can be fixed, either with a simple thing such as trying the external drive on a different port or a more technical issue like running the SFC scan.

The important thing to do is try to understand the cause of the problem first and then fix it when you already know what you’re fixing.

If you suffer from any other Windows issues, in Outbyte blog you can find detailed instructions on how to fix many popular errors.

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