Many Mac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air owners use a WD My Passport to expand their Mac’s internal storage.
But what if your WD external hard drive stops working?
And you’re freaking out.
Take a breath. Here are some of the more usual reasons why you might be having problems with your external hard drive.
Along with some ways to fix them.
WD My Passport For Mac Not Working Reasons And Fixes
The first things to check when your My Passport external hard drive isn’t working on your Mac are.
1. Check Your Mac Is Set Up To Show External Drive On Desktop.
When you’ve plugged in your WD external drive and nothing. No drive icon shows up on your Mac.
And it’s the first time you’re using an external drive on your Mac.
It could be as simple as your Mac is not set up to show external drives on your desktop.
To fix this. Open up a finder window on your Mac and pick Finder preferences.
Then click on the general tab. And check the option to show external disk.
Then your WD drive icon will appear on your Mac’s desktop and you should then be fine to use your Mac drive.
2. No Light On Your My Passport Hard Disk?
The WD My Passport drive gets its power from your Mac. Through your Mac’s USB port. And you should see the LED light come on once you have plugged your drive into your Mac.
No light? Then for some reason your drive isn’t getting any power.
It could be a faulty USB cable.
If you’re using a USB hub, then try another port on the hub.
That didn’t work?
Then next plug your WD Passport drive direct into your Mac. You may have an issue on your USB hub.
The exception to this is if you have a particularly old Mac.
The USB standards have evolved over the years. And the power draw allowed by the latest USB standards, are much higher than they were before.
It could be your older Mac isn’t able to give the WD hard drive the power it needs to run. And it could be that you do need a USB hub with its own independent power. So that the Passport hard drive can power up.
3. Can You See Other External Devices On Your Mac?
Can you plug in a flash drive, or thumb drive into that same Mac port. And that shows up? If it does then.
4. Check Your Hard Drive’s USB Cable.
Yes, I know this sounds basic and silly. But you’d be surprised just how many times a failed USB cable is the cause of your problems.
USB cables get plugged in and out. The cables fray and can break inside.
Before you decide your My Passport drive is broken. Find yourself another cable and give that a try. The Passport drives are USB 3.2 Gen 1 so you’ll need to find yourself a USB cable that meets that standard. As that level of cable supplies the power and data transfer your WD hard drive needs.
5. Use Another USB port on your Mac.
Sometimes the software in MacOS that sits at the port. Waiting for something to be plugged it gets hung up.
This can particularly happen when you’ve used a lot of different USB devices. Plugging in and out and the port software gets stuck.
So, try plugging into another port on your Mac and see if that fixes the issue.
6. Reboot Your Mac.
After you’ve tried plugging into another port and your WD Passport drive doesn’t show up. It could be that your Mac just needs a reboot – a full shutdown.
Go to the top left of your desktop. Click on the Apple logo for your Apple menu and pick Shutdown.
When you haven’t shutdown your Mac for quite some time. And you’re just putting it to sleep after you’ve used it. It can get to the stage where it just needs a full power down and power up.
After you’ve shutdown. Wait more than 10 seconds and then power back on.
7. NVRAM Reset Your Mac.
The NVRAM on your Mac is a small amount of memory that holds certain hardware settings. And sometimes that RAM needs a clear out.
On an Intel based Mac you do this by shutting down your Mac.
Then when you power on you hold down the OPTION + Command + P + R keys.
All at the same time. Wait at least 20 seconds.
Your Mac will reboot itself.
You hold down the keys until you hear the second startup up chime. Or your Apple logo appears.
8. Try Your Portable Hard Drive On Another Mac.
It’s possible that you’ve got a hardware or software problem. Or incompatibility issue on your Mac.
See if your My Passport hard drive will run happily on another Mac. That could give you a clue to where the issue lies.
If you can. Try your drive on an Windows PC. If the drive works on a PC then, it’s likely set up for a PC. And you need to read the next section of this article.
WD My Passport Drive Shows On Desktop But You Can’t Put Anything On It
When your WD external drive icon appears on your Mac’s desktop but you can’t copy files onto it. Or use it for a Time Machine backup.
Here’s what to try.
1. Get Your Hard Drive Working By Putting It In A Format Your Mac Can Write To.
You might not realize this but your Passport drive could be in a PC format. Western Digital sells a version of the drive that’s formatted as NTFS.
NTFS is a disk format your Mac can read. But can’t write to.
You can check the format of your WD drive by right clicking on the drive icon on the desktop.
And from the menu you pick Get Info. A pop up window will come up with the vital statistics of the drive. And part of that information is the format.
If it says NTFS in the format field. Then you have an NTFS formatted drive.
At that point you have a choice. You can format the drive to a format your Mac can write to. You can find out how to format your My Passport USB drive at this post here.
But formatting wipes everything that’s on the drive. And when you mainly use the drive on a Windows PC and you have files you want on there. Then that’s not an option.
Alternatively, you can use driver software on your Mac. And leave your drive in NTFS format. There are several companies that make and sell NTFS driver software to run on Mac.
2. Your WD Drive Sometimes Works Sometimes Doesn’t
When you’re having strange problems. A cause can be formatting issues. Recently this happened to a friend of mine with a My Passport Drive For Mac.
Western Digital sells those drives as formatted for Mac. But if you have an older Mac computer. Or your Mac is just picky about its drives. It just may not be happy with the factory delivered formatting.
In my friend’s situation the drive was formatted MacOS Extended (Journaled). But the partition map wasn’t GUID. And her Catalina running Intel Mac was not happy with it.
The safest bet with any new Mac drive is to format it on your Mac. And be sure the formatting is set up right.
Your WD My Passport Is Suddenly Not Working On Your Mac
When you have used your external hard drive fine in the past. And it’s got files on it. And now it’s not working. You can use a MacOS software program called Disk Utility. To see if it can repair your drive.
Disk Utility is useful to try when you have issues:
- Because you didn’t Eject it the last time you used it and now your Mac won’t read the drive.
- You’re getting random reading or writing errors from your drive.
- Regularly, your drive won’t Eject properly.
You can find Disk Utility in your Mac’s Applications folder. Inside the Applications folder you’ll find another folder called Utilities.
Disk Utility lives inside there.
The first thing is to make sure you can see all devices.
You do this from the top of the screen. Disk Utility > View. And pick the option to show all devices from the menu.
You’ll find your Western Digital Passport drive listed under external. Look in the side bar of the Disk Utility window.
Then you click on your WD drive at the top level.
WD Passport Drive Greyed Out in Disk Utility
If you find that you can’t click on your My Passport USB drive because it’s greyed out in Disk Utility. You’ll have to click on the Mount button in disk utility, to mount your drive.
You want to see that your drive shows the Eject symbol at both levels.
When the Eject symbol shows that part of the drive is mounted.
Click on the level where it doesn’t show. And then click on the mount button to mount your hard drive.
Check Your WD Hard Disk Drive Is Setup Right?
You can double check on your My Passport in Disk Utility. Click on your drive at the top level. You should see on the right hand side of the window that it’s a USB external physical disk. And the partition Map is GUID.
You’d use Apple Partition Map for older PowerPC based Mac computers.
When you click on the drive at the second level, just under the drive’s name.
On the right hand side of the screen you’ll find confirmed the format of the drive. MacOS Extended (Journaled) or Apple File System (APFS) or ExFAT. As these are the file system formats your Mac can read and write to.
APFS was originally really made for a solid state drive (SSD). But you can run it on hard drives. As long as your MacOS supports APFS drives.
If the way your drive is set up is not right for a Mac. And you have files on the drive. You’ll need to look at copying them off somewhere else if you can first. And consider reformatting the drive to use it happily on your Mac.
Running First Aid To Fix Your Passport Drive
Assuming your happy that your Passport drive is set up fine for your Mac. You can then run First Aid to see if your Mac can repair your drive.
You click on your drive at the top level. And then pick First Aid and confirm you want to run First Aid on your drive.
If First Aid doesn’t run the first time. You can try ejecting your drive and trying another USB port to see if it’ll run then.
That’s often worked for me.
Try WD Drive Utility For Mac On Your Drive
When you’ve tried everything else. It’s worth giving the WD Drive utilities a shot. It’s part of the WD Discovery Software set. You can download them from the Western Digital site support page.
Sometimes when your Mac’s First Aid can’t rescue a drive. Their software will allow you to run diagnostics. Erase and reformat a drive.
When You Use The Western Digital Software On Your Drive
If you use the WD Drive Utilities for Mac. Or the WD Security for Mac. Or WD Discovery for Mac and you’re having issues accessing your drive.
The very first thing to check is if there is another later version of the software.
It’s quite common to upgrade your Mac operating system. And forget that your disk software won’t run on this new version yet.
You can have issues such as unable to access your password protected drive. Or the WD drive seeming somehow unreadable.
When you use WD software on your Mac it’s worth checking there’s a version certified for your new MacOS. And you check before you upgrade your Mac to it.
Can’t Eject Your WD My Passport On Mac
You’ve tried ejecting your drive but it won’t eject. It could be that an application you’re running is still accessing the drive. And you don’t realize it. Press command + Tab to see which apps are running.
Try quitting your apps. And then Eject your drive again.
And now you’ve made it to the end of this article. Is your drive back up and running?
If it’s not, then you may well be at the point of concluding your drive is defunct. And you’ve got a corrupted hard drive that won’t work anymore.
If your files are important then. You may decide it’s worth your while trying some data recovery software. Or data recovery service. Western Digital themselves offer a service that you could try. And see if you can get some or all of your files back.
But really, the best protection is having your data in more than one place. And have a WD drive that’s a backup copy of your WD drive with your files on.
Particularly if your drive contains important files.
Western Digital has some additional help on their site. Most of what they cover you’ll find here. But you may want to read through their list of fixes.
About Paul Gregory
I’ve been a system administrator for various corporates for 15 years. And as admin I’ve helped many with their Mac’s and there many Apple devices.
I’m excited by watching users, armed with a little knowledge take control of their Mac’s and their files. And why not?
When I’m not at work or working on the site I like to chill with few beers. And watch a bit of car racing. From Formula 1 to stock car racing. The competition is my thing.