Why won’t my hard drive pop up?

Answering the question, why won’t my hard drive pop up on my computer, can be split into two sections: hardware-based issues and software-based issues. Your hard drive won’t pop up because the computer is either not recognizing that a drive is connected, or it can’t recognize what data is on the drive that is connected.

Software Issues

The most common reason for a hard drive not to pop up is a software issue. Software-based issues can include problems with the computer you are trying to mount the drive on, or issues with the data that is on the drive you are trying to mount.

Software-based reasons for no hard drive pop up

Formatting issues

The most common software issue that happens is a formatting issue. There are a bunch of different formats available when you format a drive. Some formats are only compatible with Windows-based machines, while others are only compatible with Linux-based machines, and still others are only compatible with macOS-based machines. So the first thing to check is if this drive you are plugging into your computer is formatted in a way that your computer will understand. 

If you are plugging a drive into your computer that hasn’t been plugged into your computer before, and it doesn’t pop up, be sure to consider the format of the drive. However, if the drive has worked with your computer in the past and is suddenly not popping up with no changes to the drive, then you are likely not dealing with a formatting issue.

Keep in mind you can reformat a drive so it works with your computer, but when you format a drive it does erase all the data on the drive! So do not format a drive with important data on it.

Partition Corruption

The second most common issue I see with a drive that won’t pop up due to a software issue is partition corruption. Partition corruption can be caused by a lot of different things. A common cause is having the drive disconnected from the computer without ejecting it (especially when this happens while the drive is being accessed by the computer). Another common cause of partition corruption is having the computer freeze or shut down while it is accessing data on the drive.

If partition corruption is the issue, you would be able to format the drive to make the drive useable again, but remember, formatting the drive will erase all the data on the drive. Do not format the drive if important data is present, get data recovery completed first.

Erased drives

A drive can be completely erased with no partition information at all, making it impossible to mount on the computer until it has been formatted. If you have a brand new drive that you purchased, sometimes they come erased and you have to format them in order to use the drive. I keep repeating it because it is very important, do not format a drive with important data on it. Formatting the drive will erase all the data present on the drive.

Operating system issue

Keep in mind that if a drive does not work on your computer (and isn’t showing any signs of hardware issues), a good troubleshooting step is to plug the drive into a computer it has worked with before. A hard drive pop up issue could just be a problem with the computer being connected, by connecting to another computer, you can make sure it isn’t just an issue with the operating system or other problem with your computer rather than the drive itself.

Repairing software issues on the hard drive

If you have important data on the hard drive that is not working, the first step is to complete data recovery on the drive. Once the data is recovered and safe, then you may want to try to repair the software issues on the drive you have. There are tons of tools available to repair software-based issues with hard drives. Most operating systems have a built-in repair utility that does a decent job of repairing issues.

As mentioned above, it is important to not try to repair software issues on drives if there is important data on the drive. Your first step should be creating a clone or image of your drive. Once that clone is complete you should complete the data recovery steps and get all your important data safe before running any repair utilities, but just be sure to have a clone at the very least.

Hardware Issues

When a drive does not pop up because there is a physical issue with the drive itself, you are dealing with a hardware-based issue. Your hard drive pop up issue could be as simple as a failed cable, or as complicated as a bad head stack on your drive. Some of the more common issues with drives are bad blocks and firmware issues. There are also power issues like a failing printed circuit board (common after a power surge of some kind), or issues after the drive is dropped like failed or stuck heads. Often times, hardware-based issues will require professional data recovery services.

Hardware-based reasons for no hard drive pop up

Bad Blocks

The platters that hold the data on your drive are made up of what are called sectors or blocks. When a block goes bad, they no longer can hold data or be read. If important information was in a block that went back, sometimes, that inaccessible data will cause the computer to not be able to read the drive enough to allow the hard drive to pop up.

Firmware Issues

Hard drives have their own (fairly complex) firmware. The firmware tells the drive how to work, so if it becomes corrupted, the drive will not be able to operate correctly. A lot of hard drive firmware is stored on the platters, so bad blocks could develop in the firmware section of the drive as well.

Power issues

Sometimes hard drives will develop power-based issues. Normally these issues are caused by a failed or failing PCB (printed circuit board). Often times these power issues will show up after a power surge, or if you use the wrong power adapter with your drive.

Drive head issues

Head issues usually occur after a drive is dropped. The heads read the data from the platters, so if the heads inside your drive are not working properly, the computer will not be able to mount the drive for use. I have a whole article about heads if you would like to learn more about them.

Repairing hardware issues

It is best not to repair hard drives but rather to just replace them. There are some things that can easily be fixed like replacing a failed power cable, but usually, if there is a hardware issue, the cost of repairing and the likelihood of future issues make repair a bad decision.

Recovering Data From Hard Drive

If you have important data on your hard drive and it has a software or hardware issue, I can help get the data off the drive! I have over a decade of experience recovering hard drives and have the expertise needed to provide safe data recovery services. Get started on your recovery project by filling out my quote form, or give me a call at (620) 615-6836 to discuss your project. I would be happy to help!