External drive not found in Windows 10

I had a USB hub fail yesterday. The 3 external drives connected through the hub all disappeared from my system. I almost went into panic mode when I moved the external drives’ cables to a new USB hub and they were still were not working. However, I knew some keys to the process.

tl;dr: Restart has benefits that shut down/power up do not. Make one change at a time.

In Windows, the process of moving a drive from one USB port to another can be fraught. I have seen this problem in the past. I don’t know the exact reason Windows has this behavior.

When the hardware configuration changes, the na├»ve way of just unplugging the drive from one port and installing the cable in another doesn’t always work. When there is a problem, Device Manager might show the drive, but it could have a error flag. [See below for an easy way to launch Device Manager.]

Before pulling out the heavy guns on the problem, it might be that some simple steps are enough. Some actions unlikely to succeed:

  • Device manager’s driver uninstall.
  • External hardware manager software.
  • Registry changes
  • Disk management changes
  • For emphasis, making changes in Device Manager, even if you see errors there
  • Modifying BIOS settings

Some of these are suggested as the first line of defense, but I’ve found them unhelpful when USB drives are not recognized.

Device Manager can show your progress but you do not need to make any manual changes there. Especially true: Online help that says you should download and install special tools shouldn’t be trusted.

The two keys are

  • “Shut down/power up” is not always equivalent to “Restart” when it comes to USB devices.
  • Only make one change at a time.

Shut down/power up is safe but sometimes a restart is still needed.

The steps I took to successfully transfer the drive is as follows. It’s wiser to disconnect/reconnect while the power is off, but Restart is still needed after the power is turned on.

  1. Power down and unplug the drive from their old ports.
  2. Power up and Restart the system
  3. power down and put the drive’s cable into its new USB port
  4. power up and restart the system again.

At this point the device manager showed the external drives under the “Disk drive” category.

I was disappointed that, at first, Windows didn’t show the drives in Explorer and Device Manager didn’t show any errors. To fix this didn’t require any extra magic steps. I did an extra restart and shut down the system and turned off the power strip. I did not change anything in administrative tools nor device manager.

My point in this description is to explain that the error when I moved a drive from one USB port to another required some extra steps but no wizards hat.

A similar problem can happen when you move a USB hub from one USB port to another. That also requires multiple reboots. You just make each change one at time.

Fortunately, changing usually works without any trouble. Unfortunately, when you do have trouble, many online help sites give identical suggestions that don’t work. The pedestrian steps of change, restart, change, restart can be enough.

To launch Device manager in windows 10, just go to search in the taskbar and type Device Manager. You can also search in the configuration tool (the gear in the start menu). You don’t need to remember the name of the tool’s file any more.