WD Elements External Hard Drive Not Working Mac Title Image

So, you’ve just bought a WD Elements. Or you’ve been using your WD Elements drive happily on your Mac.

But you can’t get it to work … Urgh!

WD Elements is plug and play on a PC.  And will work great on a Mac with a little set up.

But if you run into a problem with your WD Elements not working on Mac.

Read on to troubleshoot.

WD Elements External Hard Drive Not Working Mac Fixes

The reasons why your WD Elements isn’t working on your Mac will vary. Depending on if this is the first time you’ve used your WD Elements hard drive on your Mac.

Or you’ve been using your Elements hard drive on your Mac for a while. And now it’s stopped working.

Whether your WD hard drive is new to your Mac. Or you’ve had it sometime. It’s worth at least scanning the basic things to check. Just in case one of them is your hard drive’s issue.

And you’ll get yourself a quick fix.

WD Elements Hard Drive Not Working On Mac First Check These Things

Start with some basic checks.

1. Show External Hard Disk On Your Mac Desktop.

You’ve plugged in your Elements drive and you see nothing. No WD external drive icon on your Mac desktop.

Have you set your Mac to show External Disk on your desktop?

WD Elements Drive Icon

When you’re using an external drive on your Mac for the first time. You won’t see a drive icon. This is because you’ll need to set your Mac to show it on your desktop.

And if this isn’t the first time you’ve used your drive. It’s worth double checking anyway. Just in case you accidentally turned it off.

To fix this.

Open up a Finder window.

Pick Finder Settings (from Mac OS Ventura). In previous Mac releases it’s called Preferences.

Finder Settings

Then click the General tab. And put a check in the box to show ‘External disks‘.

Finder Settings Show External Disks

Then, your WD Elements drive icon will show up on your Mac’s desktop.

2. Put Your WD Elements External Drive In A Mac Format.

Western Digital ships your WD Elements drive NTFS formatted. Your Mac can read NTFS format. But can’t write to it. Or use it for a Time Machine backup.

To write to your external hard drive. Or to use it for a Time Machine. You’ll need to change its file system format to APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled).

Since Mac OS x Big Sur you have the choice to format as APFS (Apple File System) and use for a Time Machine backup. Earlier Mac OS releases did not support an APFS file system with Time Machine.

You can find full instructions on formatting your WD Elements drive on the site. Just click the link text.

One thing. Formatting will wipe everything on your Elements WD external hard drive.

Do you mainly use your drive on a Windows PC?

Then you’ll likely want to keep your hard drive’s file system format. Particularly if you’ve data on there.

There is NTFS driver software you can use on your Mac. You run the software on your Mac and leave your drive in NTFS format.

You’ll find several companies that make and sell NTFS driver software to run on Mac. Just do an online search.

CLICK HERE: To Read A Review On WD Elements On Mac

WD Elements External Hard Drive Not Working On Mac, But It Did Before

When your WD Elements external drive worked on your Mac before. But it doesn’t today. Then here are the things to run through for a fix.

1. Check Your USB Cable.

If your WD Elements shows no light when you plug in. Then your WD external HDD is not getting any power. The next thing to check is your USB cable. Or adaptor if you’re using one.

You’d be shocked at how many times a faulty USB cable. Or USB C adaptor is the root cause, when an Elements WD hard drive stops working on a Mac. USB cables fray and break inside. Plugging in and out. Plus, moving them around. Can cause your cable to look fine but no longer work.

Find yourself another USB 3.0 cable and give that a try.

2. Plug Your USB Into Another Mac Port.

Your Mac has software that sits at the USB port waiting for devices to be plugged in out.  After plugging in and out several USB devices. Sometimes the port software gets stuck. And doesn’t react to you plugging in your Elements drive.

When you plug in your WD Elements and nothing happens on your Mac. It’s time to try another port on your Mac.

3. Plug In Direct To Your Mac If You’re Using a USB Hub.

Sometimes the port on a USB hub fails. Or just doesn’t provide enough power to your WD Elements.

When your having problems with your Elements hard disk not working. Plug directly into your Mac computer and see if that fixes your issue.

4. Plug Another Device Into that Port On Your Mac.

Plug in a flash drive. Or thumb drive into your Mac’s USB port. Does that work?

This is another good check to see if the issue is just with your Elements WD drive. Or is the problem at your Mac’s port.

5. Reboot Your Mac.

This is the point to reboot your Mac. When you’ve tried everything else suggested so far. Do a full shutdown and reboot your Mac computer. This will reset several pieces of software running on your Mac.

At the top left of your desktop. Click on the Apple logo. From the Apple menu pick Shutdown.

After your Mac powers down. Wait a minimum of 10 seconds. This is important. Then power on.

After your Mac fully boots back up. Log in and plug in your WD external hard drive.

6. Reset Your Mac’s NVRAM.

Not sure what your Mac’s NVRAM is? It’s a small amount of memory holding hardware settings data. And sometimes your iMac, MacBook Air. Or MacBook Pro needs it’s NVRAM cleared.

On an Intel Mac. Shut down your Mac.

On Power on. Hold down OPTION + Command + P + R keys. All at the same time. Wait at least 20 seconds.

Your Mac will reboot. Keep holding the keys while it does this. Hold till your Apple logo shows on the screen. Or you hear the second start up chime.

When your Mac’s login screen appears. Log in and plug in your Elements external hard drive. And see if clearing your Mac’s NVRAM has cleared your issue.

7. Put Your WD Elements Onto Another Mac.

It’s time to see if your Elements WD external hard drive will work on another Mac.

Try it on a friends Mac and see if that Mac can see your drive.

If their Mac can see your hard drive. Then what’s the difference between their Mac and yours?

That may point to where your problem is.

8. Try Your Element Drive On A PC.

If a Windows PC can see and use your Elements drive just fine. Then is it formatted NTFS? And so set up for a PC. To use an NTFS drive on your Mac you’ll need to reformat. Or use driver software.

But note. Unless you reformat you can’t use an NTFS drive for Time Machine.

9. Fix with Disk Utility First Aid.

When your WD Elements shows on your Mac’s desktop. You’ve got files on there but it won’t work. You try and access your data. Or your backup and you get an error.

Or your WD external disk won’t eject.

It’s time to use Disk Utility’s First Aid.

Disk Utility is your Mac’s disk management software. You’ll find it in your Applications folder.  

Inside the Applications folder you’ll find another folder called Utilities.

Double click on Disk Utility in there.

When your Disk Utility window opens. Check you can see all devices.

At the top of the desktop. Click the Disk Utility View menu. And pick the option to show all devices from the menu.

Disk Utility Show All Devices
Disk Utility Show All Devices

Then in the side bar on the left hand side of the Disk Utility screen. Click on your Western Digital Elements drive. You’ll find it listed under External.

Click on your external hard drive at the top level.

WD Elements Internal External drive list
WD Elements Internal External drive list

Then click on First Aid along the top of your Disk Utility pop up window.

And run it on your drive. And see if First Aid can repair your external hard drive.

If it doesn’t run the first time just try again. Sometimes First Aid fails the first time. But runs fine the second time.

10. Deinstall Western Digital Software.

Have you installed and your running the Western Digital Software? Discovery or WD Drive Utilities?

So many Mac users have issues with this software on their Mac’s. With the software clashing with other software on their Mac.

Or they’ve upgraded their Mac OS to the latest version and now the WD software doesn’t run. And there isn’t a version out yet for their version of Mac OS.

Most all the features provided by the software is in Mac OS already.

Switch off any features you may have turned on in that software for your Elements drive.

And then de install the WD software. And see if your WD hard drive and Mac start to work together again.

11. Try Data Recovery.

When you’ve tried everything else. And your Elements external hard drive is still not working on your Mac.

When you must at least try to get your data back. Then it’s time to seek out data recovery services.  Western Digital runs a service.

And there are data recovery software suppliers.

It’s a cost. And there is no guarantee you’ll recover data. But when you must get your data back. It’s worth a shot.

And promise yourself next time you’ll keep your data on two WD Elements. And have one external hard drive as a copy of the other. Just in case.

In Closing

We hope this article helped you with your WD Elements drive.

And your WD Elements is now working.

Please keep in mind that you should always back up any data that you need to keep.

While you’re here go ahead and take a look at our other articles on the site.

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