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Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

A few people have asked me what you should do if your Mac doesn't detect your external drive when you plug it in. The answer is, it's actually pretty straightforward. And in this short article, I'm going to show you exactly what to do.


Firstly, does the external drive actually work?

You can verify this by plugging it into another computer if you have one available. It doesn't matter if it's a PC or Mac either, you just want to make sure that it actually works. You can test this by seeing if it comes up on the desktop or going into file explorer or finder, and seeing if it pops up at all.


Enabling external disks in the finder

The next step, and what is probably going to fix your issue, is by properly formatting the drive in Mac OS.

1. Now, before we go any further, definitely do open up finder first of all.

2. And then you want to come up to finder preferences, and then you want to make sure that you are in general, and you want to make sure that external disks is ticked under these show, these items on the desktop because you want to actually have this chunk come up in the top corner when you do plug in your external drive.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

3. So we'll close that down and we're going to actually plug in our external drive at this point. Now, I am using a Samsung T5 external SSD. So I've just plugged this in now, and you can see this is actually coming up.

But when I click on it, it opens up, but there's no way for me to read or write any kind of files or data onto this disc.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

So the next thing you want to do, is you want to make sure it's actually properly formatted because Mac OS can only read and write through particular drive formats.


Formatting the drive to work in macOS

So if we open up spotlight search, and we search for disk utility, and that's just the first one there. We'll open up disk utility. And as you can see here under the internal sections, coming up with the actual hard drive of the Mac.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

And under the external section, you can see we have the Samsung T5. Now, if it doesn't come up in the top right-hand corner here, hopefully, it is coming up here. If it does not come up here at this point, what you want to do is you want to try a different cable on the hard drive if you have one available, and then you also want to restart your Mac, just to make sure it's not anything with the actual software.

Now, for most of you guys, you probably will see it here. So what you want to do is you want to click on it.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

Now, if you have previously formatted this Mac and you know that it should be working, you can try doing the first aid if the option is available to you. That's going to try and repair the disc. And it's going to try not to lose any of your data. There's no guarantees, but it's just going to try and fix any kind of bad sectors or errors on the drive. And that might be why it's not coming up on your Mac.

For 99% of you though, you're going to actually want to erase the drive and essentially reformat it.

So we're going to click the erase button and give the drive a name.

So I'm just going to take the underscore out of there. And you can see right now, it's actually a Windows NT file system format, so NTFS. And that essentially means that Windows is the only device that's going to actually be able to read this disc. So you have two options now. You can set it to Mac OS extended, or you can set it to ExFAT. Now, if you're only going to be using this drive with Mac and Mac OS only, so no Windows computers, choose Mac OS extended journal.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

This is going to give you the best compatibility and usability with your Mac. However, if you want to be able to use this particular drive on other devices, such as a TV or a Windows computer, or something else, you're going to have to change it to ExFAT. And that's essentially a universally compatible file format. So for me personally with this drive, I'm going to set it to ExFAT 'cause this is how I actually transfer stuff between my Mac and my Windows PC.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

So I'm going to click erase, and that is going to erase and reformat the Samsung T5. It's also going to change it from NTFS to ExFAT. And as you can see there, if we drop the details down, everything was successful. So we're going to click done. We're going to close down the disk utility.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?

And if we now open up the Samsung T5, you can see there that we are now able to drag and drop stuff in here. So I'm just going to transfer some test files. You can see that's transferred perfectly fine. Everything's in there, and there's absolutely no issues.

Mac Can't Detect External Drive, How to Fix?



Do I need to eject the external drive?

Now, just a quick little extra. Some people have asked me if it's necessary to click the eject button before unplugging a disk. In my opinion, it's not super necessary. It is a good habit to get into just in case anything's being read or written to the drive, just before you eject it. So my recommendation is just, yes, click the little eject button, but if you forget, it's not a big deal.

Anyway, that's it for me, guys. Hopefully, this fixed your issues. If you have any comments or questions, or you're still facing issues, do leave a comment down in the comment section below, and I'll do my best to get back to you.

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