In today’s world of technology, we collect an abundance of data on our devices and computers. External drives such as those made by Western Digital are perfect tools for storing and handling that data. That is until you plug the drive into your Mac and cannot access it because the drive does not show up.
Thankfully, this is just a minor issue you can clear up by a simple reboot, reconnecting the drive, or updating the settings in Finder. While there is always the possibility of device failure, it is good to first check all of your options before giving up on the drive.
My name is Eric, and I have worked with all kinds of computers and external devices. As an engineer, when I see problems like this, my first reaction is to fix them instead of just buying a new one. In most cases, there are solutions to get the WD external drive going again.
Keep reading below to see some of the possible reasons this may be happening and some solutions you can use to fix it.
2 Reasons Your WD Drive Might Not Show Up On Mac
Regarding a device like a WD external drive, two categories of issues can cause the problem. I often find it helpful to separate the two to narrow down where the possible failure may be.
The problem is either a hardware issue or a software issue.
Hardware problems are those in which a physical part or connection has failed. Internal components are impossible to fix unless you are a qualified technician or someone very familiar with the internal parts of a drive. Things such as USB cables and ports can often be hardware issues that you can fix.
On the other hand, software problems usually have to do with configuration settings, drivers, and even operating systems. These problems almost always have a solution we can fix ourselves.
Let’s take a look at the different issues that are common for each type of Western Digital Hard drive problem.
Below are some of the most common hardware issues that prevent your WD drive from showing up on your Mac and how to troubleshoot and fix each.
When looking at possible hardware problems, you might want to first plug the device in and see what USB devices you can see from your desktop. If you cannot see the device, this may confirm that you have a hardware problem.
A poor connection can happen quite often. You go to plug the USB cable into your Mac and don’t get it fully plugged in, or it is slightly crooked. Hopefully, this is your only problem because it is very easy to fix.
How to Detect: The only way to detect this one is to just try the fix to see if it works. It’s very simple, will only take a few seconds, and there is absolutely no risk involved.
How to Fix: Simply unplug the device and plug it back in. Do this on both the computer and the drive side of the cable. Make sure the connectors are seated well on both ends of the cable. You can even try a different USB port if you have one open.
If you are lucky, the drive will appear in Finder, and your problem will be solved.
Damaged or Bad USB Cable
A damaged USB cable is a common problem with external drives. Since some are portable, we carry them around with the USB cord, which can often get damaged in a pocket, briefcase, or backpack. Constant plugging and unplugging also create wear and tear.
How to Detect: With the drive plugged into your Mac, you can try moving the cord around a little to see if it suddenly causes the drive to show up, but this is unreliable and unpredictable. The best way is to use another cable that you know works. Plug it in and see what happens.
If your drive shows up using the other cable, then you will know that you have a damaged or bad cable.
How to Fix: Purchase a new USB cable or use the spare one and you are good to go, problem solved.
Defective USB Port
Our USB ports can often take a beating. Constantly plugging and unplugging devices can sometimes bend the pins and even loosen the solder joints where they are connected. Although it’s not as common as a bad cable, it does happen.
How to Detect: Again, you can try wiggling the plug to see if the connection goes in and out, but this is not an effective test since it could be the cable that is bad. The best thing to do is try another USB port.
If you don’t have one available, unplug another device or try another computer if you have one available. If it works on the other port or computer, it is a good indication that the port is bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Sometimes specific ports have trouble with certain devices.
To verify if the port is bad or not, try plugging some other device such as a mouse or keyboard into the suspect port and see if that device works. If it does not, then you know you have a bad port on your hands.
How to Fix: If you truly have a bad USB port, you probably won’t be able to fix it unless you are a technician experienced in this type of repair. For now, your best bet is to use a different USB port if you have one available.
If you have other devices plugged into your open ports, you may need to look at getting a USB hub so you can share your working ports. You can also access the drive from another computer if needed.
To get the port repaired, you may need to take it to the Apple store or a qualified Apple repair shop. If your Mac is still under warranty or if you have Apple Care, it may be covered, and you can get it repaired under the plan.
Damaged or Defective Drive
It could be that the drive itself is defective, damaged, or just worn out from use.
How to Detect: Detecting a bad disk can often be difficult, and the best way to do this is using another computer to see if it works there. Assuming you have already ruled out a bad cable by using a spare one as described above, take the drive to another computer and plug it in.
If you don’t have another computer available, check with a friend or family member to see if they will let you plug your drive into their system. You can also try plugging it into a Windows PC to see what happens.
If it does not work on another system, then there is probably something wrong with your drive.
How to Fix: If the drive has failed or is damaged, you may be out of luck as there may not be any way that you can read the data on it. If you do have data that you need and do not have it backed up, some professionals may be able to recover it for you, but it will cost quite a bit.
If the drive works on a Windows PC, it could be that your Mac does not recognize the format of the data. Most Macs can read an NTFS formatted drive, they just cannot write to it, so it should still show up on your Mac unless it is some other format not supported by macOS.
Either way, I would suggest looking at the software issues and solutions before taking any extreme measures to recover the drive.
While most of the devices we use today seem to be plug and play (meaning no setup required, just plug them in), there are times we still need to configure items, install drivers or just change some basic settings to get things to work. Sometimes even a quick reboot will do the job.
You Haven’t Rebooted in a While
Believe it or not, a simple reboot of your Mac can often do wonders, especially if you haven’t done so in a long while. A reboot does several things, such as clearing your memory, killing stale processes, resetting NVRAM (on M1 and M2 Macs), and numerous other things.
How to Detect: You probably know if you haven’t rebooted in a while. The only way to tell if this is really the problem is to go ahead and reboot.
How to Fix: Shut your system down and then restart it. It’s as simple as that for most newer Macs with M1 or M2 chips. If you have an NVRAM issue, it will automatically fix and reset it. For older Macs with an Intel processor, you can follow the steps provided by Apple to reset it.
Rebooting can often solve many issues, including USB port issues which may, in turn, solve your WD external drive not showing up issue.
This is a common problem with a simple fix. If the preferences for the Finder application on your Mac are not set properly, it will not display external drives. This one is easy to detect and easy to fix.
How to Detect: Follow the steps below to see if Finder is configured properly.
Step 1: Open Finder on your desktop.
Step 2: Click on the Finder menu in the top left corner of the screen and then select Preferences.
Step 3: In the Preferences popup window, check if External disks have a checkmark beside it. If it does not, then this is most likely your problem.
How to Fix: In the Finder Preferences window shown above, click on External disks so that it has a checkmark beside it. Once you close the window, you should be good to go, and you can check to see if the drive shows up.
macOS is not up to Date
An out-of-date macOS on your Mac would rarely cause the problem, but it is possible, and when you have issues, it is always best to ensure that your macOS is up to date with the latest version.
How to Detect: From your desktop, click on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of the screen, then select About this Mac.
The overview tab on the About This Mac pop-up window will show you the current version of your macOS and will let you know if a new version is available.
How to Fix: If your Mac indicates a new macOS version available, click on the button to install the latest version. Once it has been completed, plugin your drive again to see if it shows up.
Disk Not Mounted
Sometimes, for whatever reason, your macOS will not automatically mount the disk drive. This basically means that the OS has not connected to the drive and made it an accessible disk on your system.
How to Detect: The easiest way to check this is to use Mac’s Disk Utility. Use LaunchPad and type Disk Utility in the search window. Then click on the Disk Utility icon to start it up. Look for your drive on the left side of the screen.
If you see it there and it is greyed out, then this means it has not been mounted. If you don’t see it at all, there is another issue.
How to Fix: You can manually mount the drive in Disk Utility with the following steps.
Step 1: Click on the drive name (which should be greyed out) on the left side of Disk Utility.
Step 2: Click on the Mount button on the top right side of the window.
Once it is mounted, it will no longer be greyed out, and you will see the data for that disk in the window. You can now go to Finder and see if it shows up in the list of drives.
Data Corrupt or Damaged
This can be a complex problem, and while it is possible to lose some or even all of your data, some solutions can help you.
How to Detect: This can be a hard problem to detect, but one of the first things you might do is try plugging the drive into another computer. If you see the same issue or the drive comes up but it is acting strange, or data appears to be missing or unreadable, it may be corrupted.
If you try the method shown above to mount the disk and it is unable to do so or has errors, that is another sign that the data on the drive could be damaged. It could be that the only way to determine if this is the problem is to go ahead and try the fix shown below using First Aid.
How to Fix with First Aid: It is possible that the First Aid tool on your Mac can repair a disk with corrupt or damaged data. It’s worth a try to see if this is the actual problem and fix it if it is.
Step 1: Open Disk Utility by going to LaunchPad, typing Disk Utility in the search field, and then clicking on the icon.
Step 2: Select the drive on the left side of the Disk Utility screen if available.
Step 3: Click on the First Aid icon on the upper right side of the Disk Utility window.
Step 4: This will display a popup window. Click on the run button to begin the process.
First Aid will scan the disk and try to repair any errors that it finds. Once completed, you can check to see if the drive now shows up.
How to Fix with Third-Party Software: If First Aid does not fix the problem, there are third-party apps available that can possibly help. Check the AppStore to see what’s available, and hopefully, there is a utility out there that can fix or recover your data.
How to Fix by Reformatting: There’s a chance that you may be out of luck and unable to recover the data. In this case, you may still be able to make the disk usable by reformatting it. You can use the disk utility to reformat it.
Warning: Reformatting will completely remove all data and any chance of recovering it, so make sure you have exhausted all other solutions first, and you are ok with losing the data that was previously on the disk.
Having an external WD drive that will not appear on your Mac can be extremely frustrating. It can be due to a hardware or software problem, but the most common issues have simple fixes such as configuring Finder to show external drives or replacing a USB cord.
I hope the information I have provided above can help you to figure out and fix your WD external drive problem.
Let me know if and how you solved your drive problem. I would love to learn what worked for you!