Solutions: Cannot Open External Hard Drive and Files/Folders

The solutions are divided into two parts, one is for external hard drive itself not opening with errors, and the other is files are not opening. Data recovery goes first when you cannot open a hard drive. To retrieve files from an inaccessible HDD, external HDD, USB flash drive or a memory card, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is what you're going to use.

Table of Contents

Case 1. Cannot Open External Hard Drive

Usually, even an external hard drive is correctly connected to a computer system, and well recognized. It cannot open.

We collected the most frequently occurred errors that would go with the not opening issue and tested out corresponding solutions. The common errors are:

  • The disk in drive X: is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?
  • You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it.
  • The drive X: is not accessible. Access is denied.
  • Drive X: is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
  • Drive X: show as xxGB RAW in Disk Management, cannot open it as normal.

Besides those prompt errors, some reasons for a connected hard disk cannot open issue are vaguely known to us, like virus infection or system configuration, and you need to try many approaches to examine, presume and finally work it out.

Take one more step before proceeding with the troubleshooting. Do you have important data waiting for recovery? To retrieve files from an inaccessible HDD, external HDD, USB flash drive or a memory card, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is what you're going to use.

How to Recover Data When External Hard Drive Can't Open

Whenever you're facing an inaccessible, unreadable or not opening hard disk drive, data recovery is the priority thing. You can evaluate the EaseUS hard disk data recovery software's capability, speed, and efficiency by installing its demo version placed on the page before purchase. 

Step 1. Choose the external hard drive

Since you're going to recover data from the external hard drive, run EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard and choose the exact drive where you lost data. Click Scan.

select external hard drive

Step 2. Scan for lost data

The software will start immediately to scan all over the selected drive for all lost data. During the scan, you could see more and more data showing up in the results.

scan external hard drive

Step 3. Preview and recover data

After the scan is over, check the scan results for the desired data. You can preview the file by double-clicking on it. Click Recover and choose another location to save the recovered data.

preview and recover data

Fix 1. Format the external hard drive

After retrieving your data, you can directly format the external hard disk, which is corrupted very likely, when you cannot open it in Windows. It will save you all the time and effort of trying a list of other possible solutions offered online. 

You can format a hard drive using cmd, disk management and third-party hard drive formatting software. To avoid a software installation, we take Windows Disk Management as an example here.

Step 1. Press Windows + R keys to bring up the Run box, type diskmgmt.msc and hit Enter.

Step 2. In Windows Disk Management, you can check the current status of the external drive. If it's shown as RAW or unallocated, right-click on the drive and choose Format...

format the external hard drive that cannot open - choose format

Step 3. Choose a file system like NTFS and click OK.

format the external hard drive that cannot open -choose file system

For a better understanding, this method is helpful in all of the following three cases:

Case 1. The External Hard Drive Won't Open and Cannot Run chkdsk

"My 500 GB external hard drive appears on my computer but won't open when I tried to access it. Then I tried chkdsk to check for errors, but it didn't work. Is there any fix?"

Case 2. The External Hard Drive Detected but Won't Read or Show up in My Computer

 "My 80GB USB Hard Drive recently stopped showing up in the 'My Computer' folder for an unknown reason, how do I open it and access my data?" 

Case 3. Can't Open My External Hard Disk, It's Saying to Format It

"I can't open my external hard drive. It says I have to format it. In the computer, it just shows Local Disk K, but there is no storage reading."

Fix 2. Fix I/O Error on the linked page

When your hard drive is recognized but cannot be opened due to the disk not being accessible with "The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" message, it can be fixed by running CHKDSK or changing the transfer mode for the drive in IDE Channel Properties. 

For a detailed guide, please refer to how to fix I/O device error on an external hard drive.

drive is not accessible, i/o device error

Fix 3. Request Admin privileges

If you don't have Admin privileges of accessing to your external hard drive, it won't open and usually shows this error message "Drive is not accessible. Access is denied". To fix the issue, you take ownership to get the permissions. To do it:

Step 1. Right-click on the inaccessible hard drive, select Properties.

Step 2. Go to the Security tab, switch to Advanced, then click the Edit button. On the Owner tab, modify the ownership of the specified account.

Fix can't open my external hard disk, access denied in Windows Explorer

Case 2. Cannot Open Files on External Hard Drive

If we discuss further the topic of not being able to open an external hard drive, you will find that the problem becoming more serious. In fact, the other group says that they can open the disk drive as normal, but the files and folders there.

In such a case, you cannot directly use the data recovery software as we introduced in the beginning, it's not guaranteed with success. Good luck, when we have worked on files not opening issue before, and I'm going to post the links here for reference.

Case 1. Open the external hard drive and try to open a folder, saying 'this folder is empty'

this folder is empty

Case 2. Try to open a file in Windows but warnings showing up as 'The system cannot find the file specified'.

the system cannot find the file specified

Was This Page Helpful?

author icon

Updated by Daisy

Daisy is the Senior editor of the writing team for EaseUS. She has been working in EaseUS for over ten years, starting from a technical writer to a team leader of the content group. As a professional author for over 10 years, she writes a lot to help people overcome their tech troubles.

Read full bio

author icon

Written by Roxanne

Roxanne is one of the main contributors to EaseUS and has created multiple posts on digital devices like PCs, Mobile phones, tablets, Mac, etc. She loves to share ideas with people of the same interest.

Read full bio

Product Reviews

TrustScore 4.7 | 323 reviews
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a powerful system recovery software, designed to enable you to recover files you’ve deleted accidentally, potentially lost to malware or an entire hard drive partition.

    Read More
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best we have seen. It's far from perfect, partly because today's advanced disk technology makes data-recovery more difficult than it was with the simpler technology of the past.

    Read More
  • EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Pro has a reputation as one of the best data recovery software programs on the market. It comes with a selection of advanced features, including partition recovery, formatted drive restoration, and corrupted file repair.

    Read More