How to fix external hard drive is not detected in Windows 11/10?

If a connected external hard drive is not detected in Windows, this is annoying. However, Windows should automatically detect a connected external hard drive in most cases. The plug and play feature in Windows exists for this purpose.

There can be some reasons why Windows does not detect an external hard drive connected via USB. This could be because the external hard drive is connected to a non-working or incompatible USB port. It is also possible that Windows does detect the external drive, but it does not assign a drive letter in Windows. As a result, the external drive does not appear in the My PC overview or in File Explorer.

In this article, I will go through some steps with you to solve the problem that the external drive is not detected.

How to fix the external hard drive is not detected

Make sure the drive is connected to the correct port. Check that the external is connected to a working USB port. If your external drive requires power, check that the hard drive is powered and turned on. On the device itself, check if any lights are on.

Assigning a drive letter to the external hard drive

Sometimes the hard drive is detected, but no drive letter is assigned to the attached medium in Windows. To check if the drive is indeed detected but not assigned a drive letter, do the following.

Right-click the Windows Start button. In the start menu, click Disk Management.

In Disk Management, you will see the connected hard drive (or not, go to the next step). Right-click on the external hard drive. Click on Change drive letter and paths.

Change drive letters and paths in device manager

Click Add. Then click Assign this drive letter and select a letter. Then click OK to confirm.

Assign new drive letter to external hard drive

Once you have done the above open “This PC” and check that the external drive is now detected in Windows, including the drive letter you just assigned. It is possible that if you disconnect the external drive again, you will need to rerun the above.

Enable automatic disk detection

Windows can automatically detect an attached hard drive. Here’s how to enable this feature in Windows.

In the Windows search bar type: services.msc. Open the Windows services manager.

Look for the “Virtual Disk” service.

Double-click it to open the service settings.

Change the service startup type to Manual. Next, start the Virtual Disk service by clicking the Start button. Then click Apply and click OK to confirm.

Start virtual disk service to find external hard drive

Close the service manager.

In the Windows search bar type: cmd.exe. Then, open the Command Prompt as Administrator.

In the Command Prompt window type:


Then type:

automount disable

and then

automount enable

Now reboot your computer. Check if the external hard drive is found now.

Reinstall the external hard drive

If the external hard drive is installed in Windows but does not function properly, reinstalling the external device via Device Manager may help.

Right-click on the Windows Start button. Choose Device Manager from the Start menu.

Open the disk drives menu, then select the name of your external drive and right-click on it. Click on Uninstall Device.

Uninstall unknown disk device in device manager

Now restart your computer and verify that the new driver for the external hard drive is installed. If you are using third-party software, reinstall your external hard drive drivers.

I hope this has helped you with Windows detecting your external hard drive. Thank you for reading!

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