Why isn't my USB drive showing up on my Mac?

My USB drive isn’t appearing on my Mac when I plug it in. It was working fine before, but suddenly it’s no longer detected. I need access to important files stored on it for a project. What can I do to troubleshoot and fix this issue?

Alright, sounds like you’re having some trouble with your USB drive on your Mac. This issue happens sometimes, but don’t worry, there are several steps you can take to troubleshoot and (hopefully) fix it.

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Check USB Port and Cable:
First thing, make sure that the issue isn’t with the port or the USB cable itself. Try plugging the USB drive into a different port on your Mac. If it shows up, the first port might be faulty. Also, try using a different USB cable if you’re using an external drive case.

2. Test On Another Device:
Plug your USB drive into another computer. It’s a quick way to see if the problem is with the drive or your Mac. If your drive works on another machine, it’s likely an issue with your Mac.

3. USB System Information:
Open the Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report > USB. Check if your USB drive shows up there. If it does and isn’t showing up on your desktop, it might just be a mounting issue.

4. Disk Utility:
Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. Look for your USB drive in the list on the left. Sometimes the drive needs to be mounted manually. If it shows up, select your drive and click on the “Mount” button.

5. Reset SMC and PRAM/NVRAM:
Sometimes, resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) and PRAM/NVRAM can resolve hardware related issues:

  • SMC: Shut down your Mac, then turn it back on while holding Shift + Control + Option + Power for about 10 seconds.
  • PRAM/NVRAM: Restart your Mac and immediately hold Option + Command + P + R for about 20 seconds until your Mac restarts.

6. Check Finder Preferences:
Open Finder and go to Finder > Preferences > General. Make sure “External disks” is checked. Then go to the Sidebar tab and ensure “External disks” is also checked there. Sometimes Finder settings might prevent the drive from showing up.

7. Reformat USB Drive:
If you’re okay with losing the data on the drive, you can reformat it using Disk Utility. Select your USB drive, click on the “Erase” tab, choose the appropriate format (like Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or ExFAT for shared use with Windows), and proceed. This will wipe the contents of the drive, so make sure this is a last resort.

8. Repair Disk with Disk Utility:
In Disk Utility, select your USB drive and click on the “First Aid” button. Sometimes a quick repair can fix any minor issues with the drive.

9. Disk Drill for Mac:
If you’ve attempted these steps and the drive is still not showing up, it might be a more underlying issue with the USB drive’s filesystem. You might want to check out Disk Drill. It’s a data recovery app and pretty handy in situations where your drive might be failing or have corrupt files. You can download Disk Drill for Mac users here: https://www.cleverfiles.com/disk-drill-mac.html. It has a thorough scan utility that can help recover lost data even if the drive isn’t showing up in Finder.

Technical Jargon:
For the techies out there, it might be useful to get some logs from the Terminal. Open Terminal and type diskutil list. This command will list all connected disks and partitions. If your USB drive appears here but not in Finder or Disk Utility, it could point to mounting issues or file system corruption.

fsck Command:
If the drive is detected in Terminal, you can try using the fsck (file system consistency check) command to check and repair the filesystem. This is more technical and should be done with caution:

  1. First, unmount the disk by typing diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX (replace “diskX” with the identifier of your USB drive).
  2. Then run fsck with sudo fsck_hfs -fy /dev/diskX. This can sometimes fix corrupt filesystems but be advised, misuse can lead to data loss.

DIY Enthusiasts:

If you like to delve deeper into the mechanics, you might want to check the drive’s SMART status for any potential failures. Unfortunately, while SMART isn’t visible to macOS users for external drives by default, apps like Disk Drill mentioned earlier can also read SMART data to some extent.


Hopefully, one of these steps helps you get your USB drive working again. If not, contacting professional data recovery services might be the last resort, especially if you have irreplaceable data on that USB drive. Good luck!

Ugh, this is so annoying. My USB drive just randomly stopped showing up on my Mac too. It was all good a few days ago. :roll_eyes: Have you tried checking “Disk Utility”? Sometimes running ‘First Aid’ on it fixes stuff. Also, try different USB ports or a friend’s Mac to see if it’s the drive or your computer acting up. People suggest “Disk Drill for Mac” but honestly, it’s kinda hit or miss and can be a waste of time. If nothing works, you might need professional recovery… which sucks. Good luck!

First, check if the USB drive is appearing in Disk Utility. Sometimes the drive is there but not mounted. Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility. If it’s listed, try mounting it manually.

If Disk Utility doesn’t help, try a different USB port or a different cable. Ports can go bad, and cables wear out faster than we think.

Sometimes, particularly with older drives, a simple restart of your Mac can do wonders. If the drive is still not showing up, test it on another computer to identify if the issue is with the drive or your Mac.

For accessing your files, Disk Drill is a highly recommended recovery software. It has helped me in similar situations. You can read an independent review here: https://www.pandorarecovery.com/disk-drill-mac-review/.

If you’re still out of luck, there might be a file system issue. Disk Drill can often recover data even when the drive isn’t easily accessible via the normal system tools.

Lastly, ensure the drive is formatted in a Mac-compatible file system (like HFS+ or ExFAT) because sometimes compatibility issues can cause these problems.

If your USB drive isn’t showing up on your Mac, there could be several reasons why this is happening. Let’s try some troubleshooting steps to narrow down the cause and, hopefully, get your USB drive working again.

  1. Check the Basics First:
    Sometimes, it’s the little things that get overlooked. Make sure your USB drive is firmly connected to your Mac. If you’re using an adapter (for newer Mac models with only USB-C ports), try another adapter to rule out the adapter being faulty. Also, try plugging the USB drive into a different USB port.

  2. Check Finder Preferences:
    Go to Finder > Preferences > General and ensure that “External disks” is checked. Also, check the Sidebar tab and ensure “External disks” is checked there, too. This makes sure that Finder will show your USB drive when it’s connected.

  3. Disk Utility Check:
    Sometimes, your Mac detects the drive but it’s not mounting it automatically.

    • Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility).
    • In the left sidebar, look for your USB drive. If you see it listed but it’s grayed out, try selecting it and clicking “Mount”.
  4. Reset the SMC and NVRAM:
    System Management Controller (SMC) and Non-Volatile Random Access Memory (NVRAM) resets can sometimes solve hardware recognition issues.

    For SMC reset:

    • Shut down your Mac.
    • For Mac notebooks with a non-removable battery, press Shift-Control-Option on the left side of the built-in keyboard, then press the power button simultaneously. Hold all these keys and the power button for 10 seconds, then release them.
    • For other models, the procedure varies slightly, so you might want to check Apple’s own support documentation.

    For NVRAM reset:

    • Shut down your Mac.
    • Turn it on and immediately press and hold Option-Command-P-R for about 20 seconds.
  5. Check for Drive Issues:
    It’s possible that the USB drive itself has developed some issues.

    • In Disk Utility, select your USB drive and click on “First Aid”. This will run a check and attempt to fix any minor issues with the drive.
  6. Testing on Another Computer:
    Try plugging your USB drive into another computer (it doesn’t have to be a Mac) to see if it gets recognized. If it doesn’t show up there either, there might be something wrong with the drive itself.

  7. Use Third-Party Software:
    If none of the above steps work, you might want to use a data recovery tool. Disk Drill for Mac is highly recommended for such tasks. It can help you recover data from drives that aren’t being recognized properly.

    • You can download Disk Drill for Mac here: Download Disk Drill for Mac users here.
    • After installing Disk Drill, follow the on-screen instructions to scan your USB drive. It’s user-friendly and often very effective at recovering files even from drives that don’t show up in Finder.
  8. Check System Information:
    If you’re still having trouble, you can try checking the System Information to see if the USB drive is being recognized at a low level.

    • Go to Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report.
    • Look under the “USB” section to see if your drive is listed. If it is, this means the Mac is detecting the drive but not mounting it properly. This might point toward a formatting issue with the drive.
  9. Format the Drive:
    If you’ve tried everything and are still unable to access your files, formatting the drive might be the last resort. Note that this will erase all data on the drive, so make sure to recover any important files first using Disk Drill or another data recovery tool.

    • In Disk Utility, select the drive and click on “Erase”. Choose a format compatible with MacOS (e.g., Mac OS Extended (Journaled), or APFS) and proceed.
  10. Replace the USB Drive:
    If after all these steps, your USB drive still isn’t working, it’s possible that it has failed. USB drives have a limited lifespan, and failures can happen.

Remember, keeping regular backups of your important files can save a lot of trouble in the long run. Use Time Machine or another backup solution to keep your data safe.

Hope this helps and you can get back to your project soon!