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How to Fix External Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 Issues



There was a time when physical media dominated everything that we did on computers. You’d find yourself rushing to a computer lab to insert a floppy disk to print your report in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By 2005 the floppy drive was dead, but CDs had taken their place as storage medium of choice. Today, advancements in transfer speeds and storage capacity has made external drives the fastest, best way to move data around. When they’re working, they provide a quick and painless way to store home movies and documents. You can back up to them or use them as temporary storage for a project you’re working on in programs like Adobe Audition or Premiere. That is, you can when they work. Sometimes you’ll find yourself staring at an External Drive Not Recognized error in Windows 10.

seagate desktop external hardrive

With the right software tools, fixing an External Drive Not Recognized issue successfully is straight forward. It all depends on how you think you might have gotten the issue to begin with. External drives can be tricky that way.

How to Fix External Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 Issues: Understanding What Happened

You want to start the process of fixing this issue by trying to understand what caused it in the first place. External drives are so convenient that we sometimes don’t appreciate what delicate devices they can be.

Some Drive Not Recognized Issues are caused by improper formatting. Windows 10 understands two kinds of formatting, NTFS and FAT. Anything outside of those and you’d get the error. You won’t run into devices that change the format of your hard drive too often, but some do. For example, Microsoft’s own Xbox One entertainment console reformats any drive that you want to store video games and apps on. When it’s done reformatting the drive, it changes it to a format that Windows 10 can’t understand.

Read: How to Fix Your Hard Drive After Using it on Xbox One

Sometimes, the issue has nothing to do with your drive’s formatting at all. The majority of external drives on sale today use mechanical drive technology. This makes them susceptible to drops and tons of abuse. If an external drive isn’t working after it took a very hard fall, the drive could be dead. The same thing goes for any drive that was being formatted and had its power cut without warning.

How to Fix External Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 Issues: Fixing with Disk Management

To fix external drive not recognized issues in Windows 10, you’ll need to use something called Disk Management. It’s one of the older parts of Windows 10, having been kept over from versions released back in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s the ultimate tool for getting a drive working again.

You won’t find Disk Management listed in your Start experience. Why this is, is up for debate, but the consensus is that Microsoft doesn’t want casual users taking advantage of the tool and ruining their PCs. The company does hide access to the tool in plain sight though. It doesn’t matter which version of Windows 10 you have, Disk Management is there.

Before you can effectively use the tool, you need to be using an account that has Administrator privileges. Because it’s so powerful, Microsoft doesn’t allow Disk Management to work on a standard user account. If this is a work PC, you’ll need to contact your company’s IT department. If it’s a home PC, you’ll need to let the person who manages your PC handle this. You also want to take this opportunity to connect the drive you’re having issues with to your PC if you haven’t already.

Take your mouse pointer and hover over the Windows button in your Taskbar to the left of the search bar. In our example, the Windows button is in the bottom-left area of your screen. Chances are it’s in the same place for you.

Select Disk Management from the pop-up menu.


Welcome to Disk Management. This tool sees every drive connected to your PC, how much of it you’re using and what formatting it has. You never want to touch Disk 0 as it’s always the drive inside your PC. Any extra drives that you connect will show up in the list in sequential order.


The trick to understanding Disk Management is to understand drive colors. Hard drives with Black bars overhead have unallocated space. This means that you can’t use that space to store anything. If your entire drive is black, it means that you need to allocate space on the drive.

Right-click on any drive that has unallocated space and select New Simple Volume to correctly format that area and begin using it for storage. If it’s not formatted at all, right-click and select Format. Note that formatting an entire drive will delete any data that’s already on it.


How to Fix External Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 Issues: Detecting the Drive with Device Manager

The Disk Management area is, of course, only useful if your drive is being detected by Windows. When that’s not happening, you could have a dead drive on your hands. To check, you’ll need to use another utility called Device Manager.

The Device Manager utility also requires that you have Administrator privileges. Go ahead and connect your external drive.

Right-click on the Windows button in your Taskbar. Now select Device Manager.


The Device Manager will automatically examine everything that’s attached to your PC and list it. If your drive isn’t seriously damaged, it’ll surface under Disk Drives like the Western Digital hard drive we used for this walkthrough. It shows up in the list as WD.


Right-click on the drive giving you issues and select, Update Driver to make sure everything is fine on the software front.


If it is not listed here, your drive has a hardware issue. Try using these same tools on a second PC to rule out the possibility of the drive being faulty. If they don’t work on those other PCs, you’ll need to get a replacement.

How to Fix External Drive Not Recognized in Windows 10 Issues: Recovering Data on a Bad Drive

If your drive is so far gone that it can’t be detected by Windows, it’s time to consider seeking the help of professionals. Both Staples and Best Buy offer drive data recovery.

If you bring your drive into a Staples store that has EasyTech support, Data Recovery costs $259.99. Online at, the company confirms that if it can’t get you your files back, there is no charge.

Best Buy offers the same service, but charges you a $50 diagnostic fee up front to explore the possibility of your data being retrievable. If it is, the service costs $200, according to the Geek Squad website.

Good luck trying to fix external drive not recognized in Windows 10 issues and problems.

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