Best Ways to Fix a not Working External Hard Drive on Mac

Is your external hard drive connected to the Mac but it doesn’t appear on the  desktop? or do you see error message pop up saying the external hard drive is not readable? No matter what specific problem you are facing with the external hard drive, it may result from the same cause such as bad connection or logic errors. Therefore, many solutions can work the same in different situations when the external hard drive is not working properly.

After reading this article, you will be able to fix your faulty external hard drive as well as keep your important data safe successfully.

How to fix a faulty external hard drive on Mac?

Set aside numerous reasons, a bad connection or an unprepared Mac may be the reason why the external hard drive doesn’t work normally. As a result, the problem can be solved by simply verifying the connection such as power supply and USB port/cable/hub/adapter or restarting the Mac one more time. 

If those basic checks can’t fix the problem, try the following approaches.

Solution 1: check the file system information of the external hard drive

File system on a drive determines how data is stored and retrieved. It must be compatible with the operating system so that the operating system can store data or retrieve data for your viewing or editing on a computer. Apple’s operating system is not compatible with all known file systems. For example, macOS 10.11 and earlier versions are incompatible with APFS file system. All NTFS-/EXT-formatted drive doesn’t work in current macOS and OS X versions.

Therefore, if your external hard drive is formatted with a file system not fully friendly to the  Mac, Mac computer can’t recognize the external hard disk 

You can check the file system information on a Windows PC. 

Disclaimer: If the file system is encrypted with a third-party app, before it is decrypted it won’t work properly on Mac either. Go ahead to decrypted the external hard drive first before opening it. 

Solution 2: Run First Aid to repair the external hard drive

If the incompatibility is not the problem, the external HDD could be corrupted in file system, partition table, root directory or other logic sections. First Aid is a small utility to check and fix minor disk errors. 

How to use First Aid:

  1. Open Disk Utility through Launchpad and Others. 
  2. Select the external hard drive in the left column and click on First Aid tool.
  3. Click on “Run” when the confirmation window pops up.

After First Aid has tried to fix the problem, you will get a message telling you if it works. If First Aid fails to repair the errors, it means that you will have to format the external HDD to make it work properly again. 

Solution 3: Erase the external hard drive to fix it

Before you proceed to operate formatting, please check if you have the latest and adequate backup of your important files on the external hard drive, because formatting will delete all files. If you are facing data loss, install a data recovery app and rescue data from the external hard drive.

How to erase a drive:

  1. Open Disk Utility through Launchpad and Others. 
  2. Select the external hard drive in the left column and click on Erase tool.
  3. Fill in name, and select Format and Scheme.
  4. Click on “Erase”.

After erasing the external hard drive, eject and replug it into the Mac to open it as usual. 

How to make the Mac show up your external hard drive?

If the problem has not solved yet and you can’t access the external hard drive because you don’t see it on desktop or in Finder, your Mac’s preferences somehow have been changed to hide external disks. 

It is easy to edit the settings:

  1. Click “Finder” on the desktop menu which is at the top of the screen. 
  2. Select “Preferences…” in the dialogue. 
  3. Tick “External Disks” under “Sidebar” and “General” tab. 

After your Mac is set up to show icon of an external disk on desktop and in the Finder, you should be able to open the drive from there. However, if the external hard drive is still invisible, find additional solutions from this authoritative article.  

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