Why is my external hard drive not recognised in Windows 7?

HannibalCat October 21, 2012
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I have a Seagate drive that I have been using to backup my photos and music. I’ve used it for years in Windows XP, Windows Vista and now Windows 7. Up until this week it worked fine. Once a week I’d plug it in and back everything up.

Now it isn’t being seen as a drive by Windows, it just turns up as a USB device, has no assigned drive letter and cannot be accessed via Windows Explorer. I suppose the drive itself might be kaput, but it seems odd that the system recognises it being plugged in and unplugged if this is the case. Any thoughts?

  1. Wendy
    January 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Okay, so I got a message from my computer that I have a hard disk failure and need to back up. Bought a USB toshiba terabyte external hard drive. Although the computer recognizes it, it basically ignores it and keeps telling me to connect a device for backup when the device is already connected. Tried all the regular stuff to correct. I have tried everything. Read all above. It is assigned drive "G" and has no errors on it. It has the latest updated driver on it. It is empty. Computer has all latest updates, though it is not capable of shutting down and pulling itself back up. Have to do force end and restart. Even the toshiba itself is lacking the proper wording for back up when plugged into this computer. In my other computer there is a toshiba prompt for automatic backup but in this computer I have to attempt it though control panel. Fails...but at least there is a backup path there.

    • Tina Sieber
      January 11, 2013 at 3:51 pm


      Does the external hard drive appear in your device list and can you access it manually? If not, is it being recognized by other computers?

      • Wendy
        January 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm

        It's recognized but only partially.....hard to explain. Yes, it does fine on another computer. I can drag things over to it with this computer but it will not give me a prompt for a complete backup no matter how I try to access it.

        • Tina Sieber
          January 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm

          What operating system are you trying to connect the hard drive to? I assumed it was Windows 7, but you didn't say. If it's not Windows, it might be a formatting issue.

          I think it's best if you ask a new question. This way you get to pick the brain of a lot more people. Be sure to share all the details you know, i.e. operating system, how you connect it, what you do, expected behavior, actual behavior, error messages etc.

        • jaybird
          February 15, 2013 at 5:12 am

          try knoppix

  2. Nikhil Chandak
    October 26, 2012 at 6:52 am

    virus in ur external hard drive or virus in ur computer(in which connect the hard drive)
    or ask an computer engineer

  3. Rody Roon
    October 25, 2012 at 7:41 am


    I am not sure about this work for you or not just try it also go to administrative tools/computer management/disk management' see if there is a drive shown without a drive letter. If there is right click the shown drive and choose 'change drive letters and paths' select a drive letter from ones offered and click ok. and if the problem is detect it shown on My Computer section.

    • Deborah
      December 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      I have been having the same problem, my external hard drive is 'not recognized' by Windows 7. It worked fine with XP and Vista, and intermittently with Windows 7 until now - no way to make it work. I tried the Disk Management and there is a drive there (I suspect my external hard drive) but when I right click the drive to try to assign a new letter the only option appearing is 'help'. Really frustrating as there seems to be no obvious reason for this.

  4. kumar raja
    October 25, 2012 at 6:44 am

    I Think it might be a Harddrive Problem because the Pins of the External HDD may be solder problem that's why it shows a message called 'Not recognized by windows'

    IN most of the External HDD it is the main problem

  5. Anonymous
    October 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    This also happens to me with my WD 500GB my passport essential.. it is recognized by system when its plugged in but the drive isn't accessible.. My HDD is dead.. try using another controller to see if it works.

  6. Douglas Mutay
    October 23, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I have already gone through this hard time and I know what you're talking about. I have tried several solution without any succes. Then finally one day after I have installed Linux Mint for testing, I decided to try the drive. plugged it in and bam! it was working. I was able to recover all my precious file. But for some unknown reason until now I still can't use it in Windows.

  7. James Yu
    October 23, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Try plugging it into another PC as what the other commenter suggested. Might be your USB port gone bad. I have the same issue with my Desktop XP. i did not recognize my external HD but did with another laptop. Symptom of such problem is clicking sound heard on the external HD.

    Doing further searching suggests that we use external powered USB HUB...( not usb powered )

  8. Shubharup Ganguly
    October 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Just a side note, but if you use it for backups then you should probably get a new one. HDD storage is comparatively cheap these days, both online and retail. You could always sell the HDD, and buy a new one for as low as $80 out of your pocket. Also, if you don't plan/want to get a new one, I suggest that you try an online backup solution. Relying on an old HDD for your backups could be a disaster.

  9. Judel
    October 22, 2012 at 10:14 am

    i can't find my file on my external drive i think its hidden because the size of the drive is stiil big its means its only hidde

  10. Dimal Chandrasiri
    October 22, 2012 at 2:18 am

    I don't think you've lost your data, but for sure u've lost your driver usb controller. since you've used it for some time, I don't think you have the warranty anymore. try to get the HDD in the enclosure and fix it to a another. you can get an enclosure from the market. it'll work again.

  11. Ali Mirdadi
    October 22, 2012 at 12:38 am

    I had this same issue and it was driving me crazy!! I checked everything I could think of!! Until I thought I would check it out in the computer management..
    Go to:
    Control Panel
    Admin tools
    Computer management
    Disk management
    And sure enough there were my drives that I couldn't access. I had to right click on the drive header and select 'Online'
    And now sure enough I see all my drives in the 'Computer'

  12. ha14
    October 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    1) Right-click on “My Computer” then Click on “Manage”
    2) Double-click “Disk Management” You will probably see WD Disk
    3) Right-click in the left portion of that drive box WD Disk
    4) Click “Initialize” and “OK” in the next dialog box. Wait few seconds and it should now say “Online” in the box.
    5) If there is no assigned drive letter, right click on the big space of your WD hard drive then choose Assign drive letter or Change Driver Letter and Path

    1. Go to run and type cmd then right click on it and choose run as administrator
    2. type DISKPART and hit enter
    3. etype : LIST DISK. This will show you all the connected disk with the offline one.
    4. Now select the offline disk using the next command SELECT DISK wheredisk_no is the offline disk number which you can get from step 3 result.
    5. Now you have selected the offline disk. Now enter command ONLINE DISK.

    check this microsoft solution

    SeaTools for Windows

    • John Hannibal Swift
      October 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Already done - the drive does not appear anywhere on the system. It worked fine last weekend and I can hear it whirring but maybe it has simply failed with age? It's about four years old and has served me well. Unfortunately it has my music library backed up on it. Maybe it's time to try iMatch or Amazon's cloud player?

      • ha14
        October 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

        did you tried on another pc to see if it is not you windows the problem. if another pc recognize your hard drive, perhaps you can use restore point to revert back to last week for example.

  13. Dino Pearsons
    October 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    If the disk died, Windows would still recognise the drive controller, just not the drive itself. Have you tried using Disk Management to see if it shows up there (http://pcsupport.about.com/od/windows7/ht/disk-management-windows-7.htm)? In case it does, you might be able to re-format/re-partition it and use it again.

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