Solved - Files Not Showing in External Hard Drive Doesn't Have to Be Difficult

External Hard Drive Has Become a Necessity in Modern Life

external hard drive Different from internal hard drive, an external hard drive is a portable storage device that can be attached to a computer via USB, eSATA, or Firewire. External hard drives typically have high storage capacities and are often used to back up computers. Having our videos, pictures and other large files copied to an external hard drive is a safe way to back up things. Besides, external hard drive are always acting as data transmission medium, thus we don't have to carry on computers with us everywhere.

External hard drives usually have the following advantages in common:
  • Small volume: An external hard drive is usually several inches in size, such as 2.5 inches, 3.5 inches in common.
  • Large capacity: External hard drives always adopt large capacity and the unit is always Terabyte.
  • High speed: External hard drives connected via Firewire usually works at high speed, which makes it rather easy to transfer data between computer and external hard drives.
  • Portability: Since external hard drives have small volume, it is available to carry them everywhere.
  • Ease of use: External hard drive are very easy to handle. They can be applied in both Windows and Mac and will be automatically detected in a few seconds. Then users can treat them like internal hard drive.
  • Lower cost per GB: Today external hard drive has become a necessity in our daily life, thus the price is getting lower and lower due to proven technique. Normally we only spend several cents per GB on an external hard drive. For example, WD Black 6TB costs around $300, which is approximately equal to 5 cents per GB - much cheaper than a USB flash drive.

Now that external hard drives enjoy so much advantages listed above, they are getting more and more closely to our daily life. Today we have get accustomed to bring an external hard drive with us in case of data transmission, such as to deal with working paper between office and home. By using external hard drive, we avoid the network requirement, the uploading and downloading process, and time. What's more, if our families enjoy one computer at home, there is a big risk of data loss, so backing up our important data to external hard drive is a wise choice.

However, in the process of using external hard drives, we will inevitably encounter some difficulties, such as "external hard drive not shown in My Computer", "files not shown in external hard drive", and so on. In this post, we are going to talk about the second issue: Why we can't see files in external hard drive? And we will also explain how to show hidden files in external hard drive beyond all doubt.

Sometimes Files Are Missing from External Hard Drive

Although external hard drive has brought us great convenience, there are sometimes when we open an external hard drive and find nothing in it. However, the disk properties prove that a section of disk capacity is taken by something. If we still have a general impression of how much space our data occupies in the external hard drive, we can almost tell these things are the files we stored in the external hard drive. But why they disappear? Such kind of question is all over the internet. The following mentioned examples are just a drop in the bucket.

"I have a problem with my external hard disk. I saved some school documents on my drive. When I got to the school computer to copy my home task, then I noticed all my folders went missing, except ones that are not in folder. I still have my used memory, but can’t see my folders. Please help me!"
--By shegzy4 from Makeuseof

"Hey guys I have a problem with my external hard drive ... 2 days ago I've bought a new laptop and when I plugged my hard drive into it to install some games I found that it doesn't contain anything except 2 files. Also it shows 900 GB used space and this means that my old files are still there. So please help me return them back because I need them. By the way I've tried showing hidden folders and everything in folder options.
--By Sarooo from Tomshardware

Faced with such confusion, most users behave like ants on hot bricks, while some users skillfully find that if they try to type the path or address of a specific folder, it opens. However, typically we have stored large numbers of files and folders in the external hard drive and we cannot remember all names of folders…So any better idea?

Why Can't See Files in External Hard Drive and How to Solve it

Since files missing from external hard drive is a frequently discussed issue in each forum, there must be some ideas that catch the point. And we decide to make a list of the useful suggestions for users to refer to. Through internet searching and our actual operations in Windows 7, we have summarized several main causes as well as the solutions. Generally speaking, there are 5 possible reasons for this issue. And we will list the corresponding solutions straight after.

Reason One: The files are hidden.

Solution One:
Run "cmd" and press "Enter" key. Input "DIR/A x:-s" (X refers to the drive letter of our external hard drive). The meaning of this command is: list the non-system files in X: drive. If this command returns nothing, it means our folder has been marked as "protected system files", then we can refer to the second solution.

Solution Two:
Check whether the files are endowed with system property. Run "Control folders", or go to Control Panel -> Appearance and Personalization, and then we can see the window Folder Options. In view tab check "show hidden files, folders, and drives" and uncheck "Hide protected operating system files (Recommended)". Then check whether our files/folders are there.

control folders
folder option

Tips: If the checkbox is not optional, we can run "cmd", and input "attrib -H -S X:\folder name /s /d" (X: means the specific drive letter of the external hard drive and can be replaced by D:, E:, F: etc.) Then press "Enter" to make it optional. Please pay attention to the space between the command.

Solution Three:
If our files keep missing from the external hard d drive, run "cmd" and press "Enter" key. Then, if the hard drive letter is O:, we should enter this command: "attrib -h -r -s /s /d o:*.*". Finally, check if our real files will be showed.

unhide files cmd

Solution Four:
If all solutions above fail, try the following process which is most complex:
1. Run "cmd";
2. Type the location of the external hard drive. Example: "d:", "e:", "f:", etc.;
3. Type "dir /ah". We will now see the files/folders with hidden attributes;
4. Type "attrib [name of file/folder] -r -a -s -h";
If we're going to unhide files, we should type the whole name plus the expanded-name. Example for file named "party": "attrib party.jpg -r -a -s -h";
If we have folder names with 6 characters or more, type the first 6 characters followed by "~1". Example for folder named "birthday": "attrib birthd~1 -r -a -s -h";
5. We should repeatedly type "dir /ah" after un-hiding some files/folders so we know if the files/folders are now appearing or hiding;
6. Finally check our external hard drives, all data should be there.

Tweet Your New Skill

Reason Two: File system errors.

Solution: Right click the external hard drive and choose "Properties". In tools tab click "Check now" and check "Automatically fix file system errors". Then click "Start" and wait for the end.

fix system error

Reason Three: "CheckedValue" has suffered from virus infection.

Solution: Run "Regedit". In Registry Editor, follow these route:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced\Folder\Hidden\SHOWAL. Then check whether the data value of "CheckedValue" is "1". If NOT, delete "CheckedValue", create a new "DWOR" in the blank and rename it as "CheckedValue". After that, modify the value data as "1".

delete checked value
edit Dword

Reason Four: The mirror image in memory is damaged.

Solution: Sometimes the mirror image in memory is damaged and the operating system does not respond a timely refresh, which happens by chance. Restart the computer and then reconnect the external hard drive to check if our real files are shown. (Note: Relatively speaking, this is not a very reliable solution, and only works occasionally, because it happens occasionally.)

Reason Five: The partition of the external hard drive is damaged.

Solution: Recover the data in damaged partition, and then format the partitions on the external hard drive.
Partition damage is another possible cause for files not shown in external hard drive, and can be caused by incorrect operations and virus attack. If there is nothing important in the external hard drive, we can simply format the hard drive and then put it into use. But what if we can't afford to lose the data in it? In this case, executing damaged partition recovery is a wise decision. We know there is a lot of software that can help us recover lost data, and a reliable one is called MiniTool Power Data Recovery.

MiniTool Power Data Recovery is composed of five data recovery modules, and they are Undelete Recovery, Lost Partition Recovery, Digital Media Recovery, CD/DVD Recovery and Damaged Partition Recovery, of which Damaged Partition Recovery module is the most powerful one. Damaged Partition Recovery module can recover data from logically damaged partitions, formatted partitions and RAW partitions. In addition, it supports both MBR-style and GPT-style partitions as well as Windows dynamic volumes. Moreover, it helps us to recover data from local hard drives and external hard drives. Here comes the tutorial of how to show hidden files in external hard drive by using MiniTool Power Data Recovery.

Tips: According to a survey, lost/damaged data can be recovered to a great extent. But why there are many cases where these data can't be restored completely? In fact, more than 90% of the failure is caused by incorrect operations during the recovery process, resulting in greater damage. So please keep the following suggestion in mind if you have no idea of how to do data recovery: after data loss, shut down the computer immediately, and stop any operation to the hard drive, or it will increase the difficulty of data recovery, and also affect the success for the repair.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to computer. Launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery, and then choose "Damaged Partition Recovery".

minitool power data recovery

Step 2: Choose the damaged partition of the external hard drive to have a full scan.

full scan

Step 3: When the scan is finished, we can see all our files are listed there. Now we can browse them one by one to tick the needed ones and then choose a safe location to store them. Soon, the data we choose will be recovered to the appointed location.

check files

Download Freeware

Now that all needed data has been restored, we can now format the damaged partition in external hard drive and then restart writing data in it. How to format the damaged partition? Right click "My Computer" - choose "Manage" - choose "Disk Management" - right click the damaged partition and choose "Format".

format partition

That's all for the solutions. Users who are suffering from this issue can follow the directions to have a try, after all, each solution has helped many users out of woods and we also find it helpful.

Reason Six: The files are lost.

Solution: If all solutions do not work, we should consider the files are already lost. In this case, stop writing any data to the external hard drive and follow the operations mentioned in Reason Five. MiniTool Power Data Recovery may light the hope of data recovery as long as the external hard drive is not physically damaged.

Bottom Line

Why files not showing in external hard drive is a frequently asked question in all forums? In this post we have summarized almost all feasible solutions for users who have got headache on this issue to refer to. Remember external hard drives today have become indispensable medium for us to deal with computer backup, privacy protection, data transmission and so on, so we need to pay more attention to the operation we have made during the usage to avoid unnecessary trouble. Once something unlucky happens, and leads to serious data loss, we should stop any operation we are going to make so as to create the largest possibility for data recovery.

Common problems related to partition recovery and our solutions: