How To Fix External Hard Disk Not Detecting In Windows (No Drive Letter)

We’re all familiar with such situations where you attach an external disk or a USB storage to your computer and then jump into your Computer folder with the expectation of seeing you attached device appear or pop up, but then nothing happens.

It gets even spookier when you hear the USB connection sound that indicates your USB device is connected, and then it  never make it’s way to the Computer folder. This can be confusing on the least and frustrating in most cases. Such problems have been more common among users after upgrading from mechanical hard drive to SSD or after cloning Windows from one disk to another.

Here we present three suggestions that can possibly help to resolve this problem. The first method is quicker but kind of temporal, while the other two methods require a bit more but are permanent.

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SOLUTION 1: Manually Mount the External Disk by Assigning it a Drive Letter

The quicker but temporal fix is to manually mount the external disk by assigning a drive letter to it, however after you unmount or disconnect this disk and mount another disk, then you will need to mount it again when next you attach it to the same computer.

This might be an option if you don’t use external disks too often or if you quickly want to access your disk without having to run all the commands in the second or third method, then just go for it. However, if you want a permanent fix, then carefully follow the second procedure and maybe the third procedure as well and you will have that without much hassle.

So, starting with the quick fix, simply go your windows search and type create and format hard disk partitions.


Click on the corresponding result from the search, the window below should pop up.

Here as you can see, I have two disks, Disk 0 and Disk 1. Disk 0 with drive letter C is my main hard drive while disk 1 which is the external hard drive I attached, has no drive letter, and that is what needs to be fixed. From here I will simply right-click on the space next to the attached disk and select change drive letter and paths.

Here click on add, then it will suggest a drive letter for your external disk.

You can change that if you want, as long as the letter hasn’t been assigned to any other disk, I will just go with the suggestion and hit ok.

You should immediately see your external disk open up or appear in your computer folder. Again this is quick but temporal, so when you detach and reattach this external disk after mounting another disk, you will need to repeat this process again.

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SOLUTION 2: Enable Automatic Mounting of New Volumes

For a permanent solution, you need to have Windows mount your disk automatically once connected, for that you first need to ensure the Virtual Disk service is up and running. To do that simply press the keyboard combination, Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

You should have your task manager pop up (you can also search task manager from Windows search and click on the corresponding result to bring up this same window.

Here click on the Services tab, and then close to the bottom of the window, click on open services.

On the services window, search for virtual disk, you can simply click on a blank space in the window and then hit the V key to take you to services starting with the letter V, and at the top you should have the virtual disk service.

Here you want to ensure the status of this service says running and the startup type says manual, if you have anything different from these, then double-click on it, and on the dialog box that pops up, use the drop down to select manual on the startup type, and if yours is not already running, then hit start to get it started.

Next you want to make sure that automatic mounting of volumes is enabled on your computer. For that you need to run the diskpart command. So go to search and type diskpart, right-click on diskpart from the results and select run as administrator.

On the diskpart prompt type the command automount and hit enter. If it says Automatic mounting of new volumes disabled, then you need to re-enable it, to do that, simply type the command automount enable and hit enter.

It should say Automatic mounting of new volumes enabled. Now type exit and hit enter to close diskpart. Restart your computer, and try connecting your external disk to see if it now shows up as supposed.

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SOLUTION 3: Check for Attributes that Prevent the Disk from Showing up in the Computer Folder or Having Drive Letter Assigned to it Automatically

The second solution should generally resolve this issue permanently, however, if you notice that this problem continues with a particular external disk, then is likely that that disk or certain partitions of the disk have some attributes that prevent the disk from showing up in the computer folder or getting automatic drive letter assigned to it by Windows.

To resolve that, we need to identify and clear such attributes. To do that, go back to diskpart with admin privilege. On the diskpart prompt type the command list disk and hit enter.

You should have your disks listed, here my attached disk is disk 1, so I will type, select disk 1, and hit enter. With disk 1 selected, type the command, list part and hit enter, that should list all the partitions you currently have on the external disk.

Here I have only one partition, which is partition 1, so I will type select partition 1 and hit enter.

Next type, attributes volume and hit enter, this should show the current attributes of the selected partition, here the partition is set to Hidden, and also No default drive latter can be assigned to it.

To clear those two attributes and revert back to default settings, type the command attributes volume clear NoDefaultDriveLetter and hit enter, it should say volume attributes cleared successfully, then next type attributes volume clear hidden and hit enter. Then finally type exit to close diskpart, and with that your disk should show up again as usual.

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Please share your comments, questions and feedback in the comment section below. 

The following video demonstrates the solutions in this tutorial.