My External Drive is Not Blinking Mac [Reasons and Fixes]

If you’re a macOS user, you might have a portable hard drive to back up your important files to access them anytime and anywhere. But after connecting the drive to your Mac, you see that the Drive’s LED isn’t blinking. So, why is the drive’s LED not blinking?

If your external drive isn’t blinking when connected to a Mac, there might be a power supply issue. Or the drive formatted to a format that macOS doesn’t support. To fix this, plug in the drive to another USB port and see if the drive’s format is okay.

So, these are some reasons among many. If you want to know other causes and how to fix this, stick to the end. Let’s start!

What is the Purpose of the External Drive’s LED Indicator?

If you’re a desktop user, you might have seen the drive LED blinking on the front side of the case. In a laptop, this HDD or SSD light is mainly located near the power button or on the edge of the laptop body.

Moreover, this light is also present in external or portable hard drives. But what does this HDD/SSD LED indicator do?

The drive’s operation light blinks when the drive storage is in use, or it’s being read from or written to. Now, let’s explain the different scenarios for the external drive’s LED and what that indicates.

The External Drive LED is On and Not Blinking

If you see that the drive’s light isn’t flashing and it’s always on, that indicates a locked device or frozen one.

The External Drive LED Blinks Continuously

When you copy anything from that drive to your PC and paste anything to that drive, the drive’s LED indicator blinks until the transfer is complete.

The External Drive LED is Not Blinking

The reason the external drive LED is not blinking may Either the drive isn’t connected properly to the PC, or it’s not getting enough power. As a result, the PC won’t recognize the drive, it won’t do anything, and the light won’t blink.

So, let’s dive deeper into that when you connect your portable drive to a Mac, that LED won’t blink at all.

Why is Light Not Blinking on the Portable Drive in Mac?

Popular portable storage drives like the WD, Seagate, Toshiba, Samsung, SanDisk, etc., have an LED indicator. So, when you connect one to your Mac, that light starts blinking due to the read & write operation.

But when nothing is going on, that light won’t blink. However, there are other reasons behind this. Let’s explore one by one.

Drive Formatted to Wrong File System

The wrong file system, such as NTFS, will prevent macOS from writing to the drive. The latest macOS, like BigSur and Cataline, can only read an NTFS formatted drive. But older OS won’t recognize that drive.

In that case, macOS can’t perform anything on that portable drive; without anything going on, that LED won’t blink.

Faulty Cable or USB Port

The drive’s light won’t blink due to lack of power supply. Faulty data transfer cables will fail to deliver power to the drive. There is also a chance of low or no data transfer.

A defective USB port can also cause the drive not to work or the LED not to blink, just as a faulty cable does.

Drive Software Issue

Backdated software might cause these issues. An old driver might prevent the portable storage from connecting to the latest macOS. That’s why it’s not mounting, and the LED indicator remains off.

USB Hub Problem

A faulty hub can cause this problem, too. People connect the hub with the Thunderbolt port for multiple device pugging. The drive won’t work if connected to a faulty hub.

Damaged Portable Drive

Lastly, a damaged drive can be a reason. New or old electronic devices can malfunction at times. There are many symptoms of a failing external drive. Among those, mounting issues and the LED blinking issue are common.

How to Fix LED Indicator Not Blinking Issue in External Drive in MacBook?

If the drive is working perfectly on your Mac, but the LED isn’t blinking, the light must have been damaged. In that case, ignore that HDD/SSD operation indicator light.

Conversely, when the drive is not working, and the LED is also, you can apply some quick fixes.

Quick Fixes

  • Restart the Mac: Sometimes rebooting the system works like magic. So, reboot your device and check the drive is working correctly. You can do that by going to the Apple menu and selecting Restart.
  • Look for Torn in the Cable and Change it: Data transfer cables can get damaged or ripped easily due to prolonged use. So, check for any damage in it and change that cable after finding one.
  • Change the Port: A broken or damaged port won’t power up the external drive. So, to check that, plug the drive with another USB port. If it works fine, then the first connected port was damaged.

Now, let’s move into the major fixes.

Plug in a Power Adapter

Some devices come with a power adapter. If you’re running a portable HDD drive, it might need enough power to run the mechanism properly. So, the USB might fail to deliver that adequately.

In case your drive comes with an additional power adapter, connect that. The drive will work fine, and the LED will start blinking if the power supply shortage is the main issue.

Change Finder Preference Settings

Sometimes, macOS doesn’t recognize the external drive. In that case, you can change the Finder preference settings and make it visible so the Mac device can recognize it as a drive. To do that, follow the steps below.

  • Press Command + N to open the Finder Window.
  • Click on the Finder menu from the top left corner.
  • Select the Preferences option and then click on the General tab.
Click on the Finder menu from the top left corner
  • Change back all to the default settings under the General tab.
    • Uncheck all under the Show this items on the desktop.
    • Select the All My Files option for the New Finder Windows show.
    • Check the last option (Open folders in tabs instead of new windows).
Select the Preferences option and then click on the General tab
  • Disconnect and reconnect the portable drive.
  • Reset the SMC (System Management Controller).
    • Shutdown the device.
    • Press Shift + Control + Option from the keyboard’s left side.
    • Press the Power button simultaneously.
  •  Relaunch Finder and go to Preferences > General.
  • Check the box for the External disks option.
Check the box for the External disks option

Now, the drive will appear on the desktop.  From there, you can use that drive to do all sorts of read/write operations, and that light on the drive starts blinking now.

Manually Mount the Portable Drive

If that portable drive isn’t mounted automatically even after changing the Finder preference settings, it’s time to mount that drive manually. You can use the Mac’s official Disk Utility app to do that.

  • Press the Command key + Spacebar to open the Spotlight search field.
  • Type disk utility in the search field and hit Enter.
ype disk utility in the search field and hit Enter
  • Click on the grayed portable drive’s name from the left sidebar.
  • Select the Mount button from the right menu bar.
Select the Mount button from the right menu bar

Now, the external drive will show up on the desktop.

Pro Tip: Select the First Aid option from the Disk Utility’s top menu bar. After selecting it, press the Run button. After finishing the process, click the Mount button again and check whether the drive is showing.

Select the First Aid option from the Disk Utility’s top menu bar

Format the External Drive to the Supported System File (APFS or ExFAT)

Mac doesn’t allow writing on the Windows-supported NTFS drive format. As stated before, the latest macOS does support reading files from the NTFS drive.

So, there is a high probability that Mac is rejecting read/write operations or even failing to recognize the NTFS formatted drive. That’s why it’s not connected to your Mac, and that light isn’t blinking.

In that case, formatting the drive to the supported file system will fix this issue.

Note: If that external drive is fully operational in another system like Windows, backup all the files from the drive. Formatting it will remove all the data in it.

  • Open the Disk Utility app.
  • Click on the grayed portable drive from the left sidebar.
  • Go to the top right menu bar and select the Erase option.
Go to the top right menu bar and select the Erase option
  • Give the drive a suitable name or keep it unchanged.
  • Click on the Format’s drop-down icon and select the ExFAT option.
Click on the Format’s drop-down icon and select the ExFAT option
  • Hit the Erase button.

Now, it will start the formatting process. To format the drive to the APFS format, follow the instructions below.

  • Press the Command key + 2 after opening the Disk Utility app. It’ll show all the devices’ views, especially the drives of the volumes.
  • Click on the actual portable drive instead of the volume.
  • Select the Erase button again from the top right menu bar.
Select the Erase button again from the top right menu bar
  • Change the drive name if you want.
  • Switch the Scheme to GPT or GUID Partition Map.
  • Change the Format to APFS.
  • Click the Erase button after that.

That’s it. Now, the drive will get formatted to APFS format and work without issues on your Mac.

Update the Portable Storage’s Driver

You can also go to the portable storage manufacturer’s website and download the latest driver for the macOS. Updating the driver sorts many issues, including this light blinking and not mounting issue.

Having trouble with your Mac’s startup disk? If you’re facing issues like ‘Macbook Choose Startup Disk Empty,’ check out our comprehensive guide on how to resolve it quickly and get your Mac running smoothly again.


Now, you know how to fix if the portable storage LED isn’t blinking or undetected on your Mac device. If you’re seeking more related factors on this portable drive and Mac, look at the following questions.

Should I overload my external drive?

You should never overload your external drive. Always keep some space in the drive. It will make the drive work faster. Overloading it will make it slow and unresponsive.

How long does an external hard drive typically last?

The external hard drive might last around 3-5 years if no serious physical damage exists. But that’s not constant. It mainly depends on the model, build quality, and how you use it.

What is the suitable drive file format for Mac?

You can use the MacOS Extended (Journaled) format, which is great. However, APFS (Apple File System) is the latest format for Mac that runs on macOS 10.13 or later. But, both Mac and Windows support ExFAT or FAT32 format.

Final Words

Portable drives are essential; you can carry important documents or files anywhere. So, using the drive with the official or authorized data transfer cable is recommended. Plus, check the disk health from time to time.

Suppose you see some issues; back up all the crucial files first to keep your data safe and secure. Best of luck!

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