How to Format an External Hard Drive That is Not Visible

You can use a third-party tool or run the hardware troubleshooter

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Key notes

  • Often external hard drives aren't visible on a Windows PC, making it challenging to format.
  • This issue could be because of the problematic hard drive or some problems with Windows.
  • You can try updating the drivers or checking the hard drive connected to fix the issue.

There are multiple user queries where users have asked how to format an external hard drive if it is not visible on their PCs. Here is one user query:

How can format WD 500GB External Hard disd drive that is not visible at my computer. The disk simply shows at the task bar, it cannot be read, the green light also shows on the disk. I need to format the drive…….how do I do that since it’s not visible.

If you also have a similar question regarding how to format an external hard drive that is not visible, then this guide is here to help you. We will show you some solutions to help you format the external hard drive when it’s not visible. So, let us get right into it.

Why is the external hard drive not showing up?

Here are a few reasons that could cause the external hard drive to not show up on your Windows PC.

  • Problematic port: Chances are that the port is problematic where you have connected your external hard drive.
  • System drive problem: If the external hard drive is corrupt or there are some issues with it, then it could trigger multiple problems.
  • It is not powered on: Some hard drives come with their own power chord which is required to be connected to the power outlet. In case that is not connected, your HDD won’t show up on your PC.
  • Outdated drivers: Windows may be having some device driver issues with your hard drive because they are not up to date.

How can I format an external hard drive if that is not visible on my PC?

Before applying advanced troubleshooting methods, here are some quick fixes to help you resolve the error.

  • Restart your PC and reconnect your external hard drive. There might be some temporary glitch or something that is preventing the hard drive from being detected.
  • Try a different port. You can connect your hard drive to a different USB port or to a different computer altogether and check whether this resolves the issue.
  • Chances are that the hard drive driver version isn’t compatible with your PC and is causing the issue. You can try updating the drivers.

Let us move on to advanced solutions.

1. Update the driver

  1. Press Windows key X and select Device Manager from the list.
  2. Locate the Disk drives section and expand it.
  3. Check if any of the listed devices have a yellow exclamation mark next to them. If there is an exclamation mark next to your device this means that there might be a driver issue.
  4. Right-click the device and choose Update Driver.
  5. Select Search automatically for driver software.
  6. Your system will check if a new update is available for the drive and prompt you to install it if it finds one.

In addition, you might want to check the manufacturer’s website for the latest drivers. After updating the driver, try formatting the external hard drive and see if this resolves the issue. Getting the latest drivers also helps when an exFAT drive is not showing up.

Alternatively, to ease manually updating drivers on your PC, you can use third-party software. The driver updating apps are reliable solutions that contain libraries of millions of up-to-date drivers, and you can install them with a few clicks.

Get Outbyte Driver Updater

2. Run the troubleshooter

  1. Press WindowsR to open the Run dialogue.
  2. Type the following command and press Enter to open the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter: msdt.exe -id DeviceDiagnostic
  3. Hit Next to start the troubleshooting.
  4. Follow the instructions on the screen to complete the troubleshooting.

Once the troubleshooting process is finished, check whether you can format the external hard drive.

3. Use AOMEI Partition Assistant

  1. Download the AOMEI Partition Assistant.
  2. Install it on your PC.
  3. Launch the program.
  4. Locate the problematic external hard drive.
  5. Right-click on your hard drive and select Format.
  6. Select the file system type and you can also add the Partition Label.
  7. Click Apply at the top-left to confirm the operation.

Several users have reported that their undetectable external hard drive was detected using a third-party partition tool AOMEI Partition Tool.

You can also try using the tool, format it within it, and see if this resolves the error.

4. Check if your hard drive shows in BIOS

  1. Turn off your PC.
  2. Restart it and while it boots, keep pressing F2, F8, F11, or Del to enter the BIOS menu. It might be a different keyboard key for your brand’s laptop. So, check your motherboard’s manual.
  3. Once you enter BIOS, look for your hard drive.
  4. If your hard drive appears in BIOS, it’s connected and working.
  5. If the hard drive doesn’t show in BIOS, it’s rather likely that it’s not properly connected or there is some problem with your external hard drive.

You can look closer at our dedicated guide that will teach you how to easily access the BIOS menu if you are finding it hard to do.

For users facing issues with their new hard drives, refer to our guide, which gives you some important steps to troubleshoot the new hard drive not showing up in Windows 10/11.

If the second hard drive is causing a similar issue, then we have a bunch of solutions that will help you fix the problem.

You might also be interested in reading our guide on how to format an NVMe SSD on Windows 11.

That is it from us in this guide. Let us know in the comments below which one of the above solutions helped you with how to format an external hard drive that is not visible problem.

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