Ultimate Guide to Fix Files Not Showing in External Hard Drive

As a kind of portable storage device, external hard drive is widely used to store and transfer massive files between computers, not only expanding computer capacity, but backing up valuable data. It really brings great convenience in our daily work and life.

However, you may come across some issues while enjoying the convenience of the external hard drive. For example, the external hard drive just shows used space but no files in it. All files are gone. Why does this issue happen?

Actually, issue of files not showing in external hard drive occurs at times. This will cause much trouble because many users don’t know how to make the files visible or rescue the lost files. Don’t be afraid. In this post, I’d like to share some tested methods to resolve the problem.

5 Fixes to Files Not Showing in External Hard Drive Windows

The causes for this error are various. Never mind even though you are not sure what the exact reason is. Just keep reading and try the methods below to troubleshoot.

Method 1. Reboot Computer and Check Hardware Connection

This solution applies to the case that the mirror image in memory is corrupted, which leads to system responds abnormally. As a result, the files in external hard drive may not show up. In this case, what you need to do is to refresh the computer.

Firstly, you can restart computer and then connect the external hard drive again to see whether its files can be seen. If this doesn’t work, go to check the hardware connection. Change a USB port or USB cable to reconnect the external hard drive.

Method 2. Show Hidden Files on External Hard Drive

Sometimes, files in external hard drive may get hidden due to your improper operation or virus infection. As a result, files will not be seen in the drive. To remove the hidden property, you have two options.

Option 1: Show Hidden Files in File Explorer

① Go to File Explorer. Click File, and then choose Folder and search options.

② Next, click View and then Show hidden files, folders and driver on the pop-up window. Click Apply to confirm.

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Option 2: Show Hidden Files with Command Lines

① Type cmd in Windows Run dialog. Press Enter and choose to run Command Prompt as administrator.

② Supposing the drive letter of the connecting external hard drive is H, type this command attrib -h -r -s /s /d H:*.* and then press Enter.

③ Exit the window when command ends.

After trying the two ways, you can open the external hard drive to check if the files can be visible.

Method 3. Run CHKDSK on External Hard Drive

This way will be useful when files are not showing in external hard drive resulting from corrupted or unrecognized file system. At the moment, you are suggested to make a data recovery from the external hard drive first to avoid data loss. Then, run CHKDSK to scan and fix errors for the external hard drive.

Step 1: Recover Data from External Hard Drive

You may need a piece of data recovery software for external hard drive to achieve it. MiniTool Power Data Recovery and Disk Drill are nice recommendations. Here is a brief tutorial of data recovery from external hard drive with MiniTool Power Data Recovery.

① Install this program on your Windows PC. Open it to get the main interface.

② Choose Hard Disk Drive module. Select the target external hard drive (that is connecting to this computer) and click Scan.

③ Just wait minutes until the scanning process completes. Then, browse the scanning results to check and find out the needed items. The Find, Filter and Show Lost Files features can help you find specified kind of files quicker. Finally, click Save to set a storage location to store the selected files.

Step 2: Run CHKDSK

① In File Explorer, right click the target external hard drive and click Properties.

② Click Tools tab, and then click Check now under Error checking.

③ In pop-up window, tick on the option Automatically fix file system errors and click Start.

When the checking and error fixing process comes to an end, you may check the external hard drive to see if the original files appear.

Method 4. Adjust Settings in Registry Editor

Another solution to files not showing in external hard drive is to adjust settings in Registry Editor. You may try it in this way:

① Type regedit in Windows Run dialog. Press Enter to run Registry Editor.

② Navigate to this location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\Folder\Hidden\SHOWALL

③ Next, double click CheckedValue to check if the data value if 1.

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④ If not, you need to delete it. Then, right click SHOWALL folder > New > DWORD and rename it as CheckedValue. Finally, set its value to 1.

Method 5. Format the External Hard Drive

If files are still not showing in the external hard drive after trying all solutions above, it indicates the files may get lost due to virus invasion, partition loss or drive corruption. Upon these cases, you can try recovering data, and then format the drive to make it usable again without any issues.

As the process of data recovery from external hard drive is introduced in method 3, now, let’s move to how to format the drive directly.

① Enter Disk Management by clicking This PC > Manage > Disk Management.

② Right click the connecting target external hard drive and click Format.

③ Select a files system (FAT32 or NTFS) that is compatible with your Windows system. Click OK to confirm.


There are 5 useful methods to solve files not showing in external hard drive introduced in this post. If you are suffering from this problem, just try these methods to get the issue fixed.

Another important point is it’s necessary to take actions to protect files in external hard drive as it usually contains much essential data. Please be careful when you handle it. Also, making regular backup is a good way to ensure data safety.

Adrian has always loved technology. Growing up, he spent most of his time playing video games and using computers. He started writing in-depth tutorials about various aspects of tech to help out his friends who were just getting into the field. Now, as a freelance writer, he tests out new technologies while also reviewing them for consumers like you!

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