Windows 10: what to do if a removable disk not showing up?

USB sticks are a great thing; they allow the easy transport of enormous amounts of data in the smallest of spaces. In the meantime, the invention of M-Systems, a company based in Israel, has become an integral part of the computer world. Even in the cloud age, they allow data to be securely transported from one computer to another.

Because they are so practical and actually allow the uncomplicated and fast exchange of data from a computer to a portable storage space, it is all the more annoying when the computer does not recognize the USB stick. Here we will show you how to make a USB stick that is not displayed in Windows 10 visible.

This guide works with most mass storage devices such as USB sticks, external USB SSD hard drives or SD cards.

What to do if the USB stick is not displayed?

If the USB stick isn’t showing up in your explorer, there could be a number of reasons related to either the computer or the USB stick. Here we show various solutions so that the stick reappears and you can access your data.

The first step is to simply try a different USB port, maybe that USB port is defective. If that doesn’t work, you should try plugging the USB stick into another computer. This way you can rule out that the USB stick is defective. If it is recognized on another computer, the problem is probably with the computer and not with the mass storage device.

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If the problem is with the computer, you should first use Windows to check for the latest drivers for the USB port. To do this, open the Device Manager with the key combination WINDOWS + S and the search command “Device Manager” and navigate down to the category “USB Controller”. Click on the small arrow to the left of the corresponding icon to open the menu. Here you select the “USB mass storage device” item with the right mouse button and click on the options “Disable”, “Enable” and “Update” one after the other.

USB_Device Manager.jpg

Conflicts with other disks

The Windows operating system from Microsoft needs a letter for each storage medium. So C: always stands for the main hard disk partition, next to it there is D:, E: and so on. USB sticks must also be provided with such a letter. For example, if a USB stick was programmed with the letter F:, but other hardware is already working under this letter, Windows cannot recognize this USB stick. In this case, troubleshooting is a bit more complicated than the above solutions.

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You open the “Run” window with the key combination WINDOWS + R. Enter “compmgmt.msc” in the command line and confirm with the Enter key. This will open the computer management.

USB_Computer Management.jpg

On the left side you will find the “Disk Management” category. If your USB stick (or any other data medium) appears here, Windows recognizes the mass storage device but cannot display it. In this case you can right-click on the USB stick and select the “Drive letters and paths” option. A new window will open where you can assign a new drive letter to the USB stick. Then close both windows with “Ok”, and the data carrier will work again. If not, it may help to unplug the USB stick and plug it in again.

The last resort: format the disk

If the USB stick is not recognized on several computers, the problem is not caused by defective USB ports or is related to the drive letters, the USB stick is defective.

The only thing that helps now is formatting the data carrier, but with a little bit of skill and luck, the data on the mass storage device can be restored. Since the data may still be lost completely or partially, you should not take this step lightly.

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To format a USB stick, open the “Run” window again with WINDOWS + R and run the “diskmgmt.msc” command. The “Disk Management” window then opens. If the disk is recognized here, right-click on it and select the “Format” option.


Once the process is complete, you can try to recover the data. For this, you need a data recovery program, such as the freeware tool Recuva. After installing the freeware, a wizard will open to guide you through the recovery process. Here you can select the type of data you want to recover (images, videos, documents, etc.). Next, you define where to look for the files. Of course, you select the data carrier that has just been formatted.

When the search is complete, the program will show you the recovered data, which you can save by clicking on “Restore”. If the data you are looking for does not appear again, there is still the option of a “deep scan”, this takes much longer but also searches the data carrier much more thoroughly.

If the disk is no longer displayed in Disk Management either, it is probably physically damaged and can only be disposed of.


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