Help! I Can’t Access My External Drive!

A reader contacted us with a big problem. She was unable to access her external hard drive. She got this error:

This isn’t an uncommon issue. Your drive could actually corrupt, or it’s possible that your PC has just forgotten how to contact it. If it’s the latter, it’s not too hard to fix. First, let’s open up the Command prompt by typing cmd in your search box. (This works pretty much the same way in all versions of Windows.)


Right-click on cmd and choose Run as Administrator.


Command prompt will open.

You’ll want to type the following the command prompt:  chkdsk /f e:   and press enter.  I’ve used e here because that’s the name of the external drive. If your external drive has another letter for its name, type that letter instead. Don’t forget the space between k and the forward slash and between f and the drive letter.


The chkdsk utility should begin to scan the drive and fix the errors it finds. If it works, your drive will once again be accessible when the utility is finished.

~ Cynthia


6 thoughts on “Help! I Can’t Access My External Drive!

  1. Cynthia, this worked well the first time and I was very hopeful drive would continue to open in future. But being the skeptic I am I moved all 100,000 of my photos & documents to another ext HD with one connected to separate USB ports – took 8 hrs+. Was glad I had that foresight as the ext HD did not open the second time and no amount of cmd prompts would do the trick again. Thanks for tip though, Trish

  2. Tried to use snipping tool to send a screen snip to you but this site does not allow me to paste it. I am not a computer geek, only an everyday user of office, email, photos, and to digitize for embroidery. I have no idea why the things you suggest nearly never work for me. I follow your directions and the steps never seem to occur as you have said they would.
    I typed cmd as you said and nothing came up about run as admin. just
    C: UsersDonna Thompson>
    I pasted exactly what you said for me to type chkdsk /f e:
    Cannot open volume for direct access. was what came up
    What now? Is it all lost?

    1. Donna:

      Did you right-click on Command prompt and choose run as admin before opening the command prompt? What do you see when you right click on the command prompt icon in the results?

  3. I don’t know which letter drive to use as the ext hard drive does not appear on the list of devices on the PC, and I do not get any message either. Also, it does show in events device properties and indicates the last two times the device opened. Over a span of 2 mins the device migrated; device configured (disk.inf); device started. Now I get no indication the device is actually connected to the computer. The lights are on, on the ext drive though. I have tried different USB ports and cords. No response.

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