How to Use an External Hard Drive

Jul 29,2019 • Filed to: Answer Hard Drive Problems • Proven solutions


If we compare Hard drive to what it was a few years ago, we may find a variety of changes that are to our benefit. The most common and easy way to extend the life of any computer, which is running out of space, is installing an external or internal Hard Disk. To add more Hard drive storage space to your system, simply plug in the External Hard drive. The major function is to store programs and files and act as a secondary storage to your computer. To add videos, digital photographs, music and other important text documents, you'll require a Hard drive with ample of space. In this article, to help you install an external hard drive, we will tell you how to use an external hard drive on Windows and Mac. So you won't have any troubles on it.

Part 1: How to Use an External Hard Drive on Windows

As a secondary hard disk space, external hard drives are considered to be one of the most portable devices that store data and frees up a humongous amount of space in your system. Here are the few steps that'll help you to attach and fetch data from your external hard drive to your PC if you are working on Windows:

Connect the external hard drive: If you are using hard disk for the first time, it is advisable to read the manual provided. Though, there isn't any different way to use a particular hard disk, you must be familiar with the settings and configuration. Almost all the external hard drives are plug-and-play; all the user needs to do is to plug it in the USB socket through the cable and turn it on. However, in some case, you'll have to install drivers that are required to run a certain software package. You can easily find these details and latest update on the programs on manufacturer's website.

How to use an External hard Drive on Windows-Connect the external hard drive

Hard drive as a primary partition: As soon as you connect the external hard drive to your PC, the system will recognize it. The basic input/output system will detect the new device immediately. If you are planning to use the hard disk as a primary partition in Windows, make sure that you install Windows on the disk. To get more information, search Help and Support for "Installing and Reinstalling Windows"?.

How To Use An External Hard Drive on Windows-Hard drive as a primary partition

Installation for Windows: For the installation of hard drive in Windows, click on the Start button; click Computer, where you can easily detect your hard drive. However, if you can't find it in Computer, attempt the following steps to improvise your search:

  1. Click on the Start button, click Control Panel and choose System and Security, then click Administrative Tools and double clicking on Computer Management. However, if you are prompted for any kind of system password, type the password and get confirmation.
  2. Click on Disk Management under Storage to look for the new hard drive.

How To Use An External Hard Drive on Windows-Installation for Windows

There are possibilities that you might have to format the hard drive before you can use it. In case, your system is unable to detect the new device attached, cross check with the user manual provided with the external hard drive.

Part 2: How to Use an External Hard Drive on Mac

When you attach your external hard drive on Mac, it should be ready to use. However, you might want to take some precautionary steps before mounting your drive, for expected results. There are certain things that you'll have to keep in account such as the drive you are using is pre-formatted to FAT32, since it is readable and writable on both Windows and OS X system. This way the drive can work on multiple platforms without being interrupted. A disadvantage that has been seen in FAT32 drives is that with Master Boot Record partition scheme, this device is not capable to work with Apple's Core Storage routines, not allowing OS-supported encryption of the external hard drive.

  1. Connect your Hard Drive to the system. Generally, the Hard Disk comes with a USB Cable, Firewire, and in some instances, both. Plug the cable available in the compatible slots of your hard drive and system.

    How To Use An External Hard Drive-Connect Hard Drive to the system

  2. Move on to the disk utility option by conducting a search on the top right corner of the screen.

    How To Use an External Hard Drive on Mac-Move on to the disk utility option

  3. You'll be able to locate the hard drive on the left part of the interface. Find the name of your Hard Drive and click on it.

    How To Use an External Hard Drive on Mac

  4. You are now supposed to click on the Erase tab. Wait for the Volume format drop down list to appear.

    How To Use an External Hard Drive on Mac-locate the hard drive

  5. Go ahead and choose the format of your Hard Disk Drive. If you are using the Hard Disk only for Mac, then you must select Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

    How To Use an External Hard Drive on Mac-format of your Hard Disk Drive

  6. Click on Erase, complete the formatting, and get set to read and write data on your Hard Disk Drive.

Part 3: How to Maintain External Hard Drive

Using and maintaining the hard drive are two different approaches. External hard drives are easy to use, but it becomes a peculiar task to maintain them. Typically, magnetic hard drives are supposed to be placed horizontally. Other than that, maintenance of their cable is also one of the few things that must be kept in mind. Here are few things that will be useful for you to use your external hard drive effectively:

  1. Figure out what you need to purchase: Choose a Hard Drive according to your requirements. There is no point in purchasing something that'll be of no use later. List out your requirements before making a purchase.
  2. Backing up the data: Your data isn't backed up until it is not stored in more than one location. A backup can easily be created by drag and drop option or with simple copy paste method. Another way is to use copy software that will copy the file to the directed destination after the setup has been completed. Use of automatic backup is also highly recommended.
  3. Hard Drive Security: Encrypting file information is a good option, but there are many smart hackers who can access your file. Make sure that you maintain the security of your hard drives with passwords and other security files that'll encrypt the important data on the hard drive.

It’s important for one to know how to use an external hard drive as proper maintenance and installation helps in sustainability of the Hard Disk. To begin with, one can consult their manuals or simply follow the instructions given above on how to use an external hard drive effectively.

Part 4: How to Recover Lost Files from External Hard Drive

If you lost data on your external hard drive unfortunately, don't worry! You still have the chance to get lost data back. To recover files from external hard drive, you can have a try the following tool.

Best External Hard Drive

Recoverit - Best External Hard Drive Recovery Software

  • Recover lost or deleted files, photos, audio, music, emails from any storage device effectively, safely and completely.
  • Supports data recovery from recycle bin, hard drive, memory card, flash drive, digital camera and camcorders.
  • Supports to recover data for sudden deletion, formatting, lost partition, virus attack, system crash under different situations.

Note: Recover Lost Mac Data under Mac OS X 10.13 (High Sierra)

Due to macOS High Sierra (macOS 10.13) requirement, Mac users are not allowed an access to the built-in system drive from any apps. Therefore, if you need to restore lost data from the system disk under macOS 10.13, please "disable System Integrity Protection" first.

How to disable "System Integrity protection"? Please follow the steps below.

system integrity protection

Step 1Reboot the Mac and hold down "Command + R" keys simultaneously after you hear the startup chime, this will boot OS X into Recovery Mode.

recovery mode

Step 2When the "OS X Utilities" screen appears, pull down the "Utilities" menu at the top of the screen instead, and choose "Terminal".


Step 3In the "Terminal" window, type in "csrutil disable" and press "Enter" then restart your Mac.

Video Tutorial on External Hard Drive Recovery

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