Hardware Windows

My USB drive is not showing in Windows. What should I do?

USB drive
Dark drive: help your PC find the disk (Image by sebastianperezhdez from Pixabay)

We’ve all done the USB hokey-cokey: put the square plug in, the square plug out, in, out, in, out, shake it all about… and still Windows won’t recognise the hard disk! So what do you do if your USB drive is not showing in Windows?

This article is an extract from Help! My Computer Is Broken. Click here to find out more and order a copy.

There are a few things to try. First, open the Windows Device Manager – by searching for that phrase in the Windows 10 search box – and see if you can find the hard disk. It might be listed under Disk Drives. If you can see the drive in question, right click on its listing and click Uninstall.

Now unplug the disk drive from the machine, reboot the PC, plug it back in and the hard disk’s software driver should load automatically, hopefully allowing you to see the drive’s contents in Windows Explorer.

If that fails, it’s time to move up the chain a little. Go back into the Device Manager, click on Universal Serial Bus controllers, and then right click to uninstall all the devices listed here. Note that if you have a USB mouse, you will likely lose temporary access to this. When you’ve uninstalled everything, reboot the PC and the drivers should (if you’re connected to the internet) reload themselves. Plug your hard disk back in and hopefully now it will get the recognition it deserves.

No? Then it’s time to take a fresh tack. Right click on the Windows 10 Start button and select Disk Management. If you can see your disk listed in the drives at the top of the screen, right click on it and select Change Drive Letter And Paths. Now click the Change button and give it a letter in the middle of the alphabet, such as M, that no other drive is likely to use. For some reason, simply assigning a drive a letter sometimes makes it visible in Windows. Ours is not to reason why…

If you’re still seeing no signs of life and you’re using a laptop on battery power, then let’s just check the computer isn’t quietly putting your USB ports to sleep. Search for “power plan”, open the Edit Power Plan setting and select the Change Advanced Power Settings link. Under USB settings, change the USB Selective Suspend Setting to Disabled for both battery and when plugged in, and see if that makes a difference when you plug in your disk drives.

If all of that still draws a blank, it may be that there’s a fault with the drive itself. Try plugging it into another computer to work out if it’s just sulking with your machine or if it’s completely given up.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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