External disk lights up but is not recognized: how to solve it

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External disks are supported by a language of lights and sounds that allow the user to know when the device is working correctly or to diagnose some kind of problem or anomaly that could prevent it from working properly.

The signals are interpreted depending on the specific device, but generally, when the external disk is operating correctly, it shouldn’t emit sounds that aren’t generated by the disk’s rotations and the device’s lights shouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary – such as flashing irregularly or turning off for no apparent reason.

Now, if your external drive lights up but doesn’t recognize it in your computer, it’s possible that the problem can be solved with one of the solutions presented in this article.

External disk lights up but does not recognize

Does your external drive light up but not recognize it? This can happen for various reasons. Such as:

Defective hardware – This could be anything from a faulty cable to a broken hard disk. If there’s a hardware component that isn’t working, it could be affecting the performance of the whole unit

Outdated or corrupted drivers – Drivers allow your operating system to communicate with your external drive and other devices. If the drivers are out of date, you may be missing out on important compatibility updates. Or your existing drivers may have been corrupted, rendering them unusable

Unsupported file system – If your drive is formatted with Apple’s HSF+ file system, for example, Windows won’t recognize it. Instead, it will suggest that you format it with one that is compatible. This will happen with any drive that is using a file system that is not recognized by the operating system

Insufficient power — Insufficient power – If you have a USB 3.0 external disk, make sure you connect it to a USB 3.0 port. After all, a USB 2.0 port may not be able to supply enough power to support operation. Also, if your drive requires external power, make sure it is plugged into a socket when in use.

What to do when your external drive isn’t recognized?

When your external drive lights up but is not recognized, you can try various solutions. These include changing the USB port, connecting USB Root, deleting viruses or having the hard disk detected again by changing the registry.

Change the USB port

If your external disk cannot be detected or does not appear on your PC, change the USB port (you can try connecting the external hard disk directly to the motherboard) or connect it using a different USB cable, to see if it appears on the PC.

Connect the USB Root Hub

Connecting the USB Root Hub can solve the problem with your external drive that lights up but is not recognized.

To do this:

  • Click on “Start”, type: devmgmt.msc. Then press “Enter”
  • Open the “Device Manager” and then expand the “Universal Serial Bus” controllers
  • Right-click on “USB Root Hub”, click on “Properties” and then on “Power Management”
  • Unmark “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.

Repeat this process to turn on all the USB Root Hubs in the list and restart the PC. Then see if the external drive is recognized again on your computer.

Remove viruses

It is recommended that you use the scan and clean function of your antivirus.

This way, you’ll be able to solve the most common problems related to malfunctions caused by viruses, which can easily alter the activity of your hard drive – such as your external drive turning on the light but not recognizing it.

Practically any antivirus can perform this function, so use the one you prefer.

You can also use your operating system’s native antivirus tool.

Windows Security (Windows Defender Security Center, in previous versions of Windows), for example, allows you to scan specific files and folders to ensure that they are safe.

With it, you’ll be notified immediately if any threats are found.

To scan specific files or folders, simply right-click on the ones you want and select “Scan with Microsoft Defender”.

When the scan is complete, you will see the scan options page with information on the scan results.

To activate Microsoft Defender Antivirus in Windows Security, follow the path Start > Settings > Update & security > Windows Security > Virus and threat protection.

hen select “Manage settings” (or “Virus and threat protection settings” in versions prior to Windows 10) and change “Real-time protection” to “Enabled”.

This will automatically activate Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

If you are running Windows 10 for Enterprise, activate Microsoft Defender Antivirus by uninstalling all your other antivirus programs.

Update the hard disk driver to fix the external disk error

Your external drive’s drivers may be out of date, which could be the reason why it lights up but is not recognized.

In this case, update the drivers in your operating system and restart your computer to correct the error.

After all, keeping your drivers up to date allows your external drive to work optimally and safely.

Also, if your operating system is up to date, you’re less likely to be affected by viruses that put your external disk at risk and, consequently, the information stored on it.

To update the external disk drivers, you can download them from the manufacturer’s website or use the Windows “Device Manager”.

Download the manufacturer’s driver

  • Go to the manufacturer’s driver download page and locate the latest driver download for your external disk.
  • Navigate to the “Downloads” folder, right-click on the installer.exe file and select “Run as administrator”.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions. When the installation is complete, restart your computer.

Update or reinstall the driver via “Device Manager”

If you have consulted the manufacturer’s website and do not have your own driver software, reinstall and update your external hard disks in the “Device Manager”.

External disks will usually be listed under disk drives or universal serial bus controllers (they will be listed as a USB mass storage device)

  • Right-click on the Windows icon in the toolbar and click on “Device Manager”.
  • Expand “Disk drives” and locate your external disk. If your hard disk is not listed there, expand “Universal Serial Bus Controllers”.
  • Then right-click on the hard disk and select “Update driver”
  • Then click on “Automatically search for updated driver software” and follow the on-screen instructions
  • To reinstall a driver, right-click on the external disk and select “Uninstall device”. Once uninstalled, restart your computer – it will reinstall it automatically.

Have the external disk detected again by changing the registry

This is a delicate procedure, but it is usually very effective for repairing problems with external drives that turn on the light but don’t recognize it.

Below you will learn how to do this, but remember that it is very important to follow the steps carefully and to the letter.

Make sure that each step corresponds to what you are doing, otherwise your information could be affected.

If you don’t have the confidence to carry out the process, send your external drive to a company specializing in drive repair and data recovery to repair your device without losing your files and documents.tos.

  1. Click on “Start”, type: “regedt32” and then “OK”
  2. Back up your registry by going to “File” and click on “Export”.
  3. On the left-hand side, go to: “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlClass{4D36E967-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}”
  4. If you see any top or bottom filters on the right-hand side, delete them
  5. Then try accessing the external disk again.


When your external disk lights up but doesn’t recognize it, this can happen for various reasons.

These include hardware defects, outdated or corrupted drivers, an unsupported file system, insufficient power and much more.

In these cases, you can resort to some solutions to solve the problem – such as changing the USB port, connecting the USB Root Hub, updating the external disk drivers or changing its registry to make it detectable again.

If none of these work, it’s time to leave the repair of the drive and the recovery of the documents and files saved on it to a specialized company – such as Bot.

With more than a decade’s experience, state-of-the-art equipment and highly trained professionals working in a room with fully controlled particles, we can recover your data without the risk of damaging it further – a danger you run when trying solutions on your own.

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