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Ultimate Guide to Troubleshoot External Hard Disk Problems

fix external hard disk
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It is important to back up data as an insurance against losing data. There are different options like CD/DVD/Blue Ray, Thumb drive and external hard disk. External Hard Disks and thumb drive are more popular since it is easy to store and also data transfer and retrieval is fast. Also the cost per GB has drastically come down and huge storage space also contributed to its popularity.

Because of availability of huge storage space, users tend to save everything inside the hard disks. A drawback is that if anything happens to hard disk all the data inside is lost. In most cases, the problem is solvable unless the hard disk itself is physically damaged. In worst case scenario, you need to take it to data recovery shop where you will be charged for the amount of data saved.

This article is a complete guide to troubleshoot any external hard disk problems. Also applicable for other USB storage device including thumb drive.

Step by step method to troubleshoot external Hard Disk Problems

Scenario 1:
External hard disk is not getting detected

  1. Connect the cable properly. Frequent use of USB slots can lead to loose connections. Adjust the cable and if lucky, you might get the LED light blinking again.
  2. If connecting the device to a USB slot didn’t work, try it on another USB slot. Maybe on another computer.
  3. If none of the USB slot is working, try the steps mentioned below in that order.
  • Disconnect all USB devices
  • Press Windows Key + R for opening Run window. Inside type devmgmt.msc for opening device manager window
  • Scroll down to Universal Serial Bus Controllers. Expand it by clicking on the + on left side. There will be some entries listed under it.
  • Starting from the entry at the bottom of the list, right click and then click uninstall. If you don’t have an uninstall option in that entry, leave it and proceed with the entry above it. After uninstall, if the computer asks to restart, ignore the message. Don’t restart, until all the entries under Universal Serial Bus Controllers is uninstalled.
  • Restart computer after all the entries under Universal Serial Bus Controllers is removed.
  • Connect the USB drive. The new USB drivers will be installed and hopefully your USB device should work fine.

Scenario 2:
External hard disk is getting detected, but unable to display partitions.

At times the external drive might be detected by the computer, but it is unable to display the partitions. This can be because of multiple reasons such as corrupted hard disk partition, corrupted file system or maybe too many bad sectors.

  1. Press Windows Key + R for opening Run window. Type diskmgmt.msc. This will open disk management. This display all drives inside your computer. Check if your external hard disk is listed there. If you are not sure which one is your external drive, just disconnect the disk and connect it back again while keeping disk management window open. You can see the drive disappearing and reappearing which is your external drive.

If you can see your external hard disk detected in disk management, but it is not listed in windows explorer, you need to do a scan.

  1. Open command prompt with administrator privilege
  • In Windows 8 and 8.1, right click on Start -> Select Command Prompt (Admin)
  • In Windows 7 and Vista, type cmd in the search window and right click on the cmd which appears in the search window. Right click and select Run as administrator.
  1. Run the command by typing chkdsk /r <drive letter> and hit enter
    check disk
  • chkdsk scans computer
  • /r is for repair
  • <drive letter> if E is the drive which is not getting detected in windows explorer, type E:

The scan might take some time to complete depending on how big is the hard disk space and processing power of your computer.

  1. Once the scan is complete, shut down computer. Remove USB hard disk. Turn computer on, connect hard disk and check if the problem is solved.

Scenario 3:
External hard disk still not fixed after following scenario 1 and 2

Connect the external hard disk on another computer and check if it is getting detected. If not, your hard disk is damaged. As a final step, you may try the steps mentioned in Scenario 6.

Scenario 4:
External hard disk is too slow. You get an hour glass everytime when you open a file or folder which stays there for some time.

This might be because of errors in hard disk because of not shutting down computer properly, not disconnecting USB device properly and even changes in indexing files because of changes made by softwares or even malware.

  • Run a check disk command as mentioned in 2nd and 3rd step in Scenario 2. Chkdsk command is capable of fixing these errors

Scenario 5:
Some files are missing from your external hard disk

This can be because of presence of too many bad sectors. Chkdsk command can be used to fix bad sectors.

  • Run a check disk command as mentioned in 2nd and 3rd step in Scenario 2.

Scenario 6:
If none of the above scenarios worked, try these as last step.

There are lot of third party hard disk diagnostic tools such as Seagate SeaTools, HDDScan, Hitachi Drive Fitness Test etc. which have additional tools to recover the drive or information inside the drive.

If none of these methods worked, it’s time to get specialized help from data recovery shop where they will examine your hard disk in specialized labs and retrieve data. Please note: These services are very costly. So do not use the service unless you have so important data inside.

Hope you find this article useful. Use the comment section for feedback or if you have any queries.

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About the author: Anup Raman A Tech Enthusiast|Blogger|Tech Trainer with 10+ yrs experience in the field of IT. My expertise are in Operating Systems, mainly Windows and Computer security which comes from my experience, working as Tech Support and Trainer for Microsoft, Symantec and McAfee. Loves blogging about Technical Troubleshooting, discussing latest Gadgets, Games and doing Reviews.

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