How to fix fatal errors on external hard drives for good

by Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Madalina Dinita
Madalina has been a Windows fan ever since she got her hands on her first Windows XP computer. She is interested in all things technology, especially emerging technologies... read more
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  • Receiving an external hard drive fatal error can be a big problem, but there are solutions for everything.
  • You can fix a fatal device hardware error by rebooting everything, i.e. your PC and your external hard drive.
  • Another solution is to rescan the hard drive and run more disk tests to get rid of the fatal errors.
  • Also, you can scan the hard drive for errors by running two special commands that you can discover below. So read on!
Fix fatal errors on external hard drives for good

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The external hard disk is one of the most sensitive computing accessories mainly because it usually stores crucial backup information.

And so, we rarely wish to experience problems with it, not least the dreaded fatal error external hard drive error.

Well, the good news is that this error is not necessarily a death sentence- as most people think, and it’s always possible to not only restore the data but also fully recover the hard drive.

So, what triggers this issue, and how can one fix the fatal error external hard drive problem? Keep reading to discover more!

What triggers fatal errors on external HDDs?

The hitch has a number of triggers:

  1. The hard disk may no longer be recognized by the disk management utility in windows may be because of an invalid partition table.
  2. For many external hard drives, an incompatible/malfunctioning USB cable will, on occasion, introduce this error.
  3. Major performance problems as a result of factors such as bad sectors or corrupted files can also give rise to the snag.
  4. Mechanical damage suffered after an accidental fall or from mishandling
  5. Firmware and malware mishaps.

How can I fix the fatal errors on external HDD?

  1. Restart everything
  2. Swap the USB ports
  3. Check the Device Manager for hard drive issues
  4. Use another USB external hard drive
  5. Change the USB cable
  6. Try a different PC
  7. Rescan the disk
  8. Ensure that the drive is receiving power
  9. Scan the hard drive for errors
  10. Run further disk tests

1. Restart everything

  1. Shut down the PC.
  2. Turn off the external hard disk (the types that use a separate power cord).
  3. Turn your PC back on.
  4. Switch the hard disk back on.

It may sound simplistic but restarting the entire systems does help in some instances. The annoying message may go.

2. Swap the USB ports

Sometimes USB hard disks receive insufficient power from some USB ports, or have functional issues with certain ports. USB hubs are particularly susceptible to this.

Furthermore, sometimes the ports on the PC may serve differently, so trying a couple of different ports can be beneficial.

So, disconnect the disk from the current USB port and connect it directly on one port on your computer (not on the hub).

3. Check the Device Manager for hard drive issues

  1. Press and hold down (or right-click) on the Start button.
  2. Select Device Manager on the context menu.
  3. Locate any device with an exclamation mark next to it (or other peculiar issues).seagate fatal error device discovery
  4. If the hard drive appears here, right-click on it then uninstall. how to repair fatal device hardware error

(This will require the hard drive to be reinstalled before any fresh attempt to access the contents).

  1. The rest of the options can also be useful. For example, selecting update driver software will initialize the hard drive drivers update, another potentially handy remedy.

4. Use another USB external hard drive

  • 2TB
  • Suitable for Windows or Mac PCs
  • 18 inch USB 3.0 cable
  • One-year limited warranty
  • Quite noisy

Nothing compares to a new hard drive to get rid of all the errors that occur along the way. And Seagate Portable offers a great solution with the plug-and-play  USB 3.0 and drag-and-drop functionality. 

You can now easily store and access 2TB of content on the go with the Seagate Portable Drive, a great laptop hard drive. This compact external hard drive is designed to work with Windows or Mac PC.

5. Change the USB cable

Strangely, USB cables fail every so often, so try to plug in the hard disk with another USB cable.

The hard drive manual usually highlights a list of compatible cables. Also, take a closer look at our best universal USB cable kits for PCs to find the proper one for your needs.

6. Try a different PC

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This is pretty straightforward. To eliminate the possibility of the present PC being the cause of the fatal error external hard drive fault, plug the concerned hard disk into a laptop or any other accessible machine.

The hard drive may work here meaning there’s something wrong with the original PC.

7. Rescan the disk

  1. Unplug the disk.
  2. Replug it back in.
  3. Select Action then Rescan Disks (when prompted).

Sometimes the error disappears after the hard disk has been rescanned for errors.

8. Ensure that the drive is receiving power

For external Desktop hard drives, plugging the power cable directly into the wall outlet (instead of the UPS-universal power supply or a power-strip stabilizes the power supply).

For portable drives, using a USB power booster cable can help supply extra power.

9. Scan the hard drive for errors

  1. Press the Windows key + E to open the Windows 10 Explorer window.
  2. Click on the This PC tab (on the left pane).
  3. From the list of drives that are displayed, right-click on the relevant external hard drive then choose Properties.
  4. Now click on Tools from the properties window.
  5. Under the error checking area, click on Check fatal device hardware error sd cardand finally click scan drive.

The computer will run through the steps without further interruptions.

The Windows hard drive error checking tool (chkdsk) can help in detecting and sometimes repairing some root causes of the problematic matter.

Run chkdsk from Cmd

  1. Right-click on Start.
  2. Right-click on Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu list.
  3. Type cd\ and press Enter.
  4. Now type chkdsk c: /r then press Enter (replace c with the appropriate external drive letter). Remember to include the spaces as shown.the request failed due to a fatal device hardware error ssd
  5. The chkdsk process starts as soon the above command is entered.

The system will inspect the chosen drive and go ahead to repair any discovered misconfigurations.

This Windows-centric utility can also be launched from cmd (as an administrator).

10. Run further disk tests

Some manufacturers like Western Digital, Transcend, and Seagate have specific diagnostic tools for external hard drives like the WD drive utilities.

Owners of hard disks from these companies can thus visit the respective websites and download this troubleshooting software for further tests.

If the hard drive is still not being recognized after all these, then it’s most likely seriously damaged and may need to be replaced.

It’s always advisable to try and backup all data (where possible) or to use data recovery software to retrieve important information before discarding the disk.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Take a look at our comprehensive guide to fix fatal errors on external hard drives for good.

  • A fatal device hardware error occurs when the hard drive on your PC is physically damaged and the OS can’t access or perform any operation on it. Check out our best 5TB external hard drives recommendations to create a timely backup of data.


  • You can always run a disk check on your external hard drive using the CHKDSK utility. If you are running a chkdsk on your external hard drive, and it gets stuck, try to follow the steps from our dedicated article to fix it.

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