How to Fix When Windows Doesn’t Recognize a Connected USB Drive

  • Key Takeaways:
  • If your USB drive is not showing up in File Explorer, start by checking the Disk Management window.
  • Try troubleshooting steps like updating drivers, disabling USB selective suspend, and running hardware diagnostics.
  • If the drive appears damaged or corrupted, you may need to reformat it, but back up data first if possible.

As someone who has worked in tech support, I’ve encountered numerous cases where Windows fails to recognize a connected USB drive. This issue can be frustrating, especially when you need to access important files stored on the drive. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through various troubleshooting steps to help you resolve the problem and get your USB drive up and running again.

Diagnosing the Issue

The first step in fixing the problem is to diagnose the root cause. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Check Disk Management: Open the Disk Management tool (right-click the Start button and select “Disk Management”). Look for your external drive in the list of disks. If it’s not listed, the drive may be physically damaged or not receiving enough power.
  2. Try a Different USB Port: If the drive appears in Disk Management but not in File Explorer, try plugging it into a different USB port on your computer. Some ports may be faulty or not providing enough power.
  3. Avoid USB Hubs: If you’re using a USB hub, try connecting the drive directly to your computer’s USB port. Hubs can sometimes cause power or data transfer issues.
  4. Check on Another Computer: If the drive isn’t recognized on any USB port or computer, it may be physically damaged or have a corrupted file system.

Troubleshooting Steps

If your USB drive is detected in Disk Management but not showing up in File Explorer, try the following troubleshooting steps:

1. Update USB Drivers

Outdated or corrupted USB drivers can prevent Windows from recognizing your drive. Here’s how to update them:

  1. Open Device Manager (right-click the Start button and select “Device Manager”).
  2. Expand the “Universal Serial Bus controllers” and “Disk drives” sections.
  3. Right-click on any devices with a yellow exclamation mark and select “Update driver.”
  4. Choose “Search automatically for updated driver software.”

2. Disable USB Selective Suspend

Windows has a power-saving feature called “USB selective suspend” that can sometimes cause issues with USB drives. Here’s how to disable it:

  1. Search for “Power Options” in the Start menu and open it.
  2. Click “Change plan settings” next to your current power plan.
  3. Click “Change advanced power settings.”
  4. Expand the “USB settings” section and set “USB selective suspend setting” to “Disabled” for both battery and plugged-in modes.

3. Run Hardware Diagnostics

If the issue persists, you may want to run a hardware diagnostic to check for any underlying hardware problems. Dell and other manufacturers offer built-in diagnostic tools that can help identify and resolve hardware-related issues.

4. Check for File System Errors

If your USB drive shows up as “RAW” in Disk Management, it likely has a corrupted or unsupported file system. You can try to fix this by formatting the drive, but be warned that this will erase all data on the drive.

  1. In Disk Management, right-click on the drive and select “Format.”
  2. Choose a file system like NTFS or exFAT, and click “OK.”
  3. If prompted, click “OK” to format the drive.

Important: Before formatting, try to back up any important data on the drive using data recovery software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard or Recuva. These tools can often recover deleted or lost files from damaged drives.

5. Update Windows

Sometimes, outdated Windows versions can cause compatibility issues with USB devices. Check for and install any available Windows updates, as these may include bug fixes or driver updates that could resolve the issue.

6. Restore Windows

If all else fails, you may need to perform a System Restore or reset your Windows installation. This can help resolve any deep-rooted software conflicts or corruptions that may be causing the USB drive recognition issue.

When to Replace the Drive

If none of the above troubleshooting steps work, and the drive is not recognized on any computer or USB port, it’s likely that the drive itself is physically damaged or has failed. In this case, you may need to replace the USB drive.

Before doing so, however, try using data recovery software to retrieve any important files from the drive. These tools can often recover data from damaged or corrupted drives, giving you a chance to back up your files before replacing the drive.


Not being able to access files on a USB drive can be incredibly frustrating, but with the right troubleshooting steps, you can often resolve the issue and get your drive working again. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to diagnose and address common causes of USB drive recognition problems in Windows.

Remember, if you suspect physical damage or complete drive failure, don’t hesitate to seek professional help or replace the drive. And always prioritize backing up your important data, as data loss can be devastating.

With patience and persistence, you can overcome this common Windows issue and regain access to your valuable files stored on your USB drive.