Hard drive/SD card/thumb drive is not showing up

Sometimes it happens that you connect an external storage to your PC or laptop but the drive doesn't show up in My Computer. There are two main reasons why the device is not displayed:

  1. File system error. File system is responsible for the way the data is stored on the device. External storage devices typically use one of the Windows filesystems: FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS. Various viruses, unsafe removal, power cuts can disrupt file system integrity leading to data loss. Typically, formatting the device can fix the issue. However, before formatting the drive you may want to recover data from the device. Keep reading to find out how to do that.
  2. Physical damage of the device. In this case the device seems to have died. If it is a thumb drive, its lights doesn't come on, if it is a hard drive, you do not hear familiar sound of disk spinning. Alternatively, it may happen that the disk itself works correctly but the error is caused by the enclosure. For more information on how to get access to the data in case of an enclosure failure, refer to this page.

Why the disk is not displayed in Windows

To understand what kind of the damage, logical or mechanical, you deal with, you need to go to Disk Management and check whether the device is displayed in there. If you can see it, the damage is most likely logical and you can easily recover data and then use the device as before. Otherwise, you deal with physical damage and the option is either to fix the device or throw it away.

To get to Disk Management in Windows 10, press Win+X and choose Disk Management from the menu. In other Windows verions, just click Start and type indiskmgmt.msc

If you see your disk in Disk Management, first try to recover data stored on it using special data recovery software like ReclaiMe, then fix the problem by formatting the drive.

How to recover data if the disk is not displayed in My Computer

  1. Think in advance where you are going to copy the recovered data. Prepare the storage: an external drive, a thumb drive or a network device.
  2. Download, install, and run ReclaiMe software.
  3. Choose your device and click Start.
  4. Data Error Recovery in ReclaiMe
  5. Wait till the software completes scanning the device.
  6. Estimate the recovery quality using the Preview function.
  7. Buy a license key and copy the data.

How to make the device visible in Windows

As soon as you recovered data from the device and checked that the files can be opened, you can start fixing the device. To make the drive visible in Windows you need to format it.

In Disk Management, right-click Partition and choose Format. Note that there are two types of formatting – quick and complete. You can read more about the difference here. Shortly, the difference is the following: quick format affects only the partition table, while complete format resets each sector of the device. Typically, quick format is enough to fix most files system error and you can leave the Perform a quick format checked and click OK.

Perform a quick format

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