How to Fix Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac?

Because of non-standard interfaces, Apple computers are very demanding on various external and internal devices. Compatibility of connectors, the right drive file system, compatibility, standards, and more are important for the stable operation of hard drives on your Mac. It often happens when a new hard drive is not showing up on Mac. This can happen if you have bought a new SSD drive and are installing it instead of the HDD (this is available on Macs before 2012), or if you have decided to connect an external hard drive to a newer Apple computer.

What to do if my hard drive is not showing up on Mac? Read this tutorial to the end and find out the answer to that question!

What to Do When a Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac?

If your Mac no longer detects an external hard drive, in most cases, the software can help you fix the problem. Most likely mismatched file systems cause the trouble. However, faulty hardware can also bring you some headaches. For example, SSDs sometimes break because of a short circuit, power failure, or simply because of aging (just like batteries, SSDs degrade over time). In such a case, you may need to replace internal or external SSD or HDD.

Note. All MacBooks released in 2016 and onward do not support user-replaceable drives.

Do not be quick to panic. The first thing you need to do is ensure the software is not the problem. Let us show you what hard drive formats are available and how to choose the right one. The wrong drive format can cause a hard drive not to show up in a Mac.

You can transfer data between computers using various ways. The easiest method of communication between two computers (for example, between a MacBook and a Windows PC) is through network sharing. When you work within the same network, you can access any computer in Finder. To complete this, you’ll need to select the desired system in the Share window and connect to the computer using a username and password.

If you need to transfer data from an external drive, you need to consider the specifics of macOS when working with common file systems:

  • NTFS. NTFS is a Windows-specific file system. Your Mac can read files on an NTFS drive, but it cannot write data to such a disk without reformatting it first.
  • FAT/ExFAT. Full support for Mac and Windows, but you cannot use FAT/ExFAT drives for backups.
  • HFS/APFS. Apple-specific file systems. Windows does not support HFS/APFS drives.

NTFS and FAT are the most common standards. They are universal file systems that work well in both Windows and macOS. If you need to write data to an NTFS drive, you can use one of the third-party drive utilities.

How Do I Format the Hard Drive On My MacBook?

You can format a drive with the file system you need using the standard macOS/Windows tools. Note that a new hard drive or flash drive will not appear in Finder until you format it with one of the supported file systems.

To format a drive, you need Disk Utility (it is a default macOS app you can find using Spotlight or Launchpad). After opening the program, you will find a window with a list of partitions and physical drives. Clicking on the name of the desired drive will take you to the information section. What you need is the Erase button at the top of the screen.

hard drive not showing up mac

As soon as you click the button, you will see a window with formatting options. Here you need to specify a name for the disk and select a file system (ExFAT if you plan to share the drive with Windows PCs or APFS if you do not use Windows computers). Clicking the “Erase” button in the bottom-right corner of the window will start the formatting process.

hard drive not showing up on mac

In the disk utility, you will see an unformatted hard disk. Format it to the desired format, which is optimal for your Mac. If the attached drive does not show up in the Disk Utility, you should check the connectors and compatibility. You may also need to reset the SMC.

How to Choose the Right Hard Drive For Your MacBook?

When selecting a drive, the first thing to consider is the specifics of your computer. For example, an external hard drive for the MacBook Air and early Pro models can be paired with any of the available interfaces (USB-A, Thunderbolt, and, in some cases, FireWire). And the 2016 MacBook Pro external hard drive should ideally have Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C support, or you’ll have to deal with adapters.

Note that an SSD or external HDD drive for the 2011-2012 MacBook Pro can work with Thunderbolt 1, which will provide 10 Gbps speeds. Keep this in mind, so you don’t overpay for higher performance SSDs, for which connector speeds can be a bottleneck.

Alternatively, you can replace the internal optical drive with a SATA-based SSD. This applies mostly to older MacBooks with optical drives Apple no longer produces. To accomplish the procedure, you need a special adapter cage that lets you install a SATA or M2 SSD.

Important. macOS may fail to detect an external HDD or SSD with unconventional form-factor. For example, U2 drives may not show up in macOS. That happens mostly because of missing drivers. If you plan to buy an unconventional HDD or SSD (anything different from regular 2.5 inch or M2 drives without USB connectors), make sure the manufacturer provides drivers for the latest versions of macOS.


Any Macbook can suddenly stop detecting an external SSD or HDD. That can happen with older or newer models from different brands. For example, WD (Western Digital), Samsung, or Seagate hard drive not showing up in Mac. In this case, you need to try to perform a few actions, we described in our article.

  1. Make sure that the device has been selected correctly, and the Mac supports the drive form factor.
  2. Format the new hard drive according to the supported Mac format of the year.
  3. Reset the SMC (System Management Controller) if formatting does not help.

If the external or internal drive is still not readable by the Mac, the cause may be a hardware failure.

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