How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (2024)

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Open This PC to view the drive in File Explorer

By

Jennifer Allen

How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (1)

Jennifer Allen

Writer

  • Swansea University, Staffordshire University

Jennifer Allen has been writing about technology since 2010. Her work has appeared in Mashable, TechRadar, and many more publications.

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Updated on October 3, 2023

Reviewed by

Jon Fisher

How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (2)

  • Wichita Technical Institute

Jonathan Fisher is a CompTIA-certified technologist with more than 10 years of experience writing for publications like TechNorms and Help Desk Geek.

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In This Article

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In This Article

  • How to Use an External Drive
  • An Alternative Method
  • When Windows Doesn't Recognized the Drive
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What to Know

  • Plug the external hard drive into your PC using its USB cable.
  • Type This PC into the search bar to open File Explorer. Select the external hard drive from the list.
  • If the hard drive doesn't show up, check the cable and USB port for issues. It's also possible the drive is dead.

This article teaches you how to use an external hard drive on Windows 10 and what to do if the system doesn't recognize the hard drive.

How Do I Use an External Hard Drive With Windows 10?

Using an external hard drive with Windows 10 is typically a very straightforward process. Here's how to do it.

  1. Plug your external hard drive into your desktop or laptop PC.

    You may need to look for where the USB port is on your system. Typically, on a desktop, these are on the front or back of the case. On a laptop, they're usually on the sides.

  2. In the Windows 10 search bar, type This PC.

    How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (3)

  3. Click This PC.

    How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (4)

  4. Double-click the external hard drive listed.

    How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (5)

    The C drive is the one that houses the Windows OS. The external drive should be next to it.

  5. Access any files on the hard drive like you would with an ordinary internal hard drive.

How Do I Find My External Hard Drive on Windows 10?

There are other ways to find your external hard drive on Windows 10. Here's another option that may be more convenient for some users.

Either method provides the same result but one method may prove more useful for your workflow.

  1. Click the folder icon on the Windows 10 taskbar.

    How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (6)

  2. Click the arrow to the left of Quick Access.

    How to Access an External Hard Drive on Windows 10 (7)

  3. Click the external hard drive name to access it.

Why Does Windows 10 Not Recognize My External Hard Drive?

If Windows 10 won't recognize you have an external hard drive plugged in, there are numerous reasons why this might be the case. Here's a look at some of the main reasons why.

  • There's an issue with the USB connection. Try moving the external hard drive to a different USB port. The issue may have been with the USB connection.
  • Try a different USB cable. If your external hard drive has a detachable USB cable, try a different one in case the cable has failed.
  • Check the power. If your external hard drive is powered by an AC outlet (rather than just the USB port), confirm it's receiving power.
  • Try a different PC. You'll know if the problem lies with your computer if you try using the external hard drive on another PC.
  • Check if the hard drive is detected in Disk Management. Press Win+R and enter diskmgmt.msc to bring up Disk Management. Check that the hard drive is listed here.
  • The hard drive can't be read. If the hard drive is listed in Disk Management but can't be viewed, try formatting the disk. You'll lose all stored files but the hard drive should be viewable again.
  • The hard drive has failed. In some cases, the problem might be as simple as a failing hard drive. If you've tried all other solutions, this is likely the case.

FAQ

  • How do I access a Mac external hard drive on Windows 10?

    Install HFSExplorer for Windows and run the program, then connect your Mac drive and select File > Load file system from the device > Load. Choose a file and select Extract to save it to your PC.

  • Why does access to my external hard drive come and go on Windows 10?

    The physical connection may be unstable. Unplug the hard drive and plug it back in to your PC. If you're still having problems, try using a different USB cable.

  • How do I access an external hard drive on a network?

    Set up a mapped drive to create a shortcut to the external drive. That way, you can access it as if the drive were physically stored on your computer.

  • How do I make an internal hard drive external?

    It can be cheaper to use an internal hard drive as anexternal drive. Plug the new internal drive into a hard drive enclosure, then connectit to your PC using a standardUSB connection.

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