We’ve all been in a situation like this before: the drive you want to access is properly connected yet the computer is unable to detect it. Not only can this send shivers down anyone’s spine due to the threat of losing all data on that particular drive, but it may also indicate a serious issue with the disk or, even worse, the computer itself. However, as catastrophic as an undetected drive may seem, there is always a logical explanation as to why this phenomenon occurs. More importantly, no matter how severe the issue is, there are several ways to help the system finally detect the drive or, if that doesn’t help, at least recover the data from it.
The Most Common Issues and How to Solve Them
Most of the time the reason a disk isn’t detected by the system is that there is something wrong with the connection between the two. This can be caused by many different things like a loose or broken cable, receiving no power and, in the case of external HDDs, an issue with the USB port. However, errors related to the connection between the drive and the computer can be easily resolved by checking the cables or plugging them into another port, hopefully bypassing the broken one.
Occasionally an erroneous booting of the system may result in certain drives not showing up. Should this occur, a simple reboot usually solves the problem. If not, it may indicate something more serious.
System and Driver Error
Although not seeing an important drive in “This PC” even if it’s properly connected to the system is rather unnerving, it doesn’t immediately mean that the disk is unsavable. If you access the computer’s BIOS/UEFI during the boot-up session and see that the drive is there, then this suggests there’s a system error. Thankfully, by right-clicking on the Start menu and selecting “Disk Management” from the list, you’ll be able to see all the installed disk drives. From here, assign a new letter to the ‘undetected’ drive – marked with a light blue or green bar – and this error could easily be bypassed.
If that doesn’t help, then it’s best to check if there are any driver issues. For that, launch “Device Manager” the same way you did with Disk Management and find the problematic drive. If there is a yellow exclamation mark beside it, that indicates an error with the drivers. From this point you can either let Windows take care of the issue on its own, or manually uninstall and reinstall the necessary drivers.
Note, however, that if a message pops up asking you to format the disk, hit “Cancel” immediately, otherwise the system will wipe everything from the drive, destroying all the data previously stored on it.
Bad Sectors and Physical Damages
While bad sectors can be fixed provided that they aren’t caused by physical damage, if they outnumber the working sectors, then the drive could become undetectable. Even worse is if the same phenomenon occurs due to the drive crashing, overheating, or being damaged by a sudden burst in voltage. If that’s the case, the chances of being able to access the disk’s content are low, but even if you are able to miraculously revive the drive, then you should immediately stop using it and attempt to recover any data on the damaged device as soon as possible.
Recovery From the Grave
Sadly, there may be instances where the only way to get the drive functioning properly is to format it, which ultimately wipes the device clean of data. However, contrary to popular belief, if the drive has been formatted with data on it or a partition has been deleted, that data can still be retrieved with tools like data recovery software.
With this, it’s best to make sure that no new data is written on the drive – which is best achieved by detaching the disk completely and connecting it to another computer – and then performing a deep scan with the software. Hopefully most of the data that was previously on the drive can be salvaged and saved in another location.
Note that even if the drive in question has been reinstated to its former glory, nothing guarantees that it won’t become undetectable again. For this reason, it’s highly recommended to make backups of the drive’s content on a regular basis and keep them on an external drive and/or in the cloud.