External Drive Does Not Show Up on Computer

Although taking one's data storage outside of a defined space like a case makes logistical sense, it also might introduce issues that users aren't ready to see. Whether it's due to software or hardware errors, not seeing a hard drive that's supposed to be visible can become a stressful problem for backup solutions and file access. Experts offer a range of readily on-hand solutions for users who want to solve this issue themselves.

When installing a new external drive, always read the requirements carefully. These products should include a specified range of supported operating systems, such as macOS or Windows 7 and 10. For network-attached storage or NAS drives, there also are additional wireless connectivity requirements. Most PCs will come with built-in ethernet or LAN support, for example, although some slim models of notebook-style computers may exclude them. Users without the appropriate hardware may upgrade their computer's internal capabilities or use a plug-in style adapter.

As USB-based connections grow ubiquitous, USB compatibility is one of the more common issues with external drives. Users should be mindful of any differences in port versions (higher-numbered versions are faster and usually, but not always, backward compatible) or discrepancies in power distribution. Some systems provide less power to particular ports (front-facing ones, etc.). Finally, USB hubs often cause compatibility problems with more demanding devices like external drives, and experts recommend that users default to a PC's built-in ports first.

Wired external drives may have additional requirements for the type of cord. Many products will include a cable with the device, which users should have as their first option. Check to make sure that it has firm seating on both ends and re-seat it, if necessary.

Many modern devices include the assumption that the user keeps their operating system up-to-date. For example, Windows and macOS users have built-in update managers that they should use regularly, instead of scheduling updates for another day indefinitely. Official patches can improve overall compatibility with devices, newly-released ones especially.

Users who lag in driver software updates can cause needless stress from compatibility errors. Install any software that comes with a new external drive and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for update maintenance. For Windows users, a near-effortless way of checking the drivers is to open the Device Manager and search for the product under 'Disk drives' or 'Universal Serial Bus controllers' (USB). Right-click the device, choose Properties and check the new window's Drivers tab.

As a general guideline, users never should assume that a device is dead because it's not working as the product description claims. Always test an external drive – including its cord, adapters, ports, and even another computer – before assuming the worst scenario.

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