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Find Your Missing USB Drive in Windows 7 & Vista

Sometimes when you plug a USB drive into your machine you won’t see it in Computer or AutoPlay in Windows 7 or Vista. Today we take a look at how to change the drive letter so you can can access it.

The problem with not being able to see your USB drive happens quite often in XP. Our readers have pointed out, and we’re seen instances, where the same problem can occur in Windows 7 and Vista as well. If you’re still running XP and having this problem, make sure to check out our article on how to find your missing USB drive in Windows XP.

Locate and Access the USB Drive in Windows 7 & Vista

The problem is when you plug in a thumb drive or external USB hard drive…nothing happens. You hear the USB sound but AutoPlay doesn’t run, and when you look in Computer you don’t see the drive. More than likely Windows named the drive to a letter that is already in use.

To fix the problem right-click on Computer from the Start Menu or Desktop Icon, and select Manage.

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In the Computer Management window, under Storage, click on Disk Management to see a list of drives connected to your machine.

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You should be able to determine which one is the drive you’re trying to access by its size and format type. Here we’re trying to find a 4GB thumb drive. Right-click on the drive and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.

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Now click on the Change button…

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You can select from a list of drive letters to rename it. Make sure it’s not one already in use or could be in use at some point. Pick a letter toward the end of the alphabet for best results.

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You will be prompted with a warning dialog making sure you want to change the drive letter…click Yes.

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Here you can see we changed the drive from the letter “J” to “U”…

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If you have AutoPlay enabled, you’ll see the familiar screen asking what you want to do with the drive.

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You will also see it in Computer now and be able to access the files and programs from it.

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That’s all there is to it! It’s definitely annoying when you plug in an external USB drive and Windows doesn’t give you access to it right away, but following these steps solves the issue.

Again, this problem happens a lot more in XP and the process of fixing it is essentially the same.

Find Your Missing USB Drive in Windows XP

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/16/10

Comments (11)

  1. Jon

    Or use USBDLM http://www.uwe-sieber.de/usbdlm_e.html

    Assign the next available drive letter for USB drives.

  2. SquareWheel

    I’ve had to do this a few times in the past. I don’t know why Windows doesn’t offer to reassign the letter for you.

  3. AungNaingThu

    How to reenable USE access,pls help.

  4. Michael Gross

    I just got win7 32 bit and have the same problem that my COMPUTER does not show memory stick or memory card but does external hard drive connected to same USB. If I insert cards and then reboot, it will show up and can open ( but only until I close them and then same problem ).
    When I try to go to disk management – I can change name for internal hard drives but get error when I try to rename memory card/stick. They are unallocated and message saids DM console view is not up to date.

  5. Carl F

    Win 7 64 bit HP Notebook. I changed the Drive letters successfully in Computer Management BUT Computer still does not show USB thumb drives and some (not all) external hard drives.

  6. Lutgardo

    Thanks!

  7. Paulo Vitor Airaghi

    MysticGeek … as always, your posts are very usefull..thaks a lot for it.
    I don’y know if it’s a right place (if no, Sorry ), but let’s see…
    Infortunately, this tutorial dosn’t solve for complete my problem. But Now I can “see” the device in Explorer.
    After following the indicated steps, my SONY Microvault USM-L 2Gb was (wrongly) recognized as SM3265 MEMORY BAR. Thus, it can’t be opened via My computer in Windows 7 machines: when i press the “removable drive” icon in My computer, i got the follow message: “The device isn’t inserted” or something like this.
    the data is in a RAW format, and I can’t format the device (even with the sony formatter software or esplorer, or with Windows 7 Install DIsc)

    Can you help me with this stuff?
    Again, thanks for the tutorial and sorry for my bad english.

  8. carls

    Tried (and paid for) USBDLM – and no joy! If HowToGeek wants to take this on, the program could really use some docs or howto’s…

    However, DeskDrive (currently v 18.2 Blue Onion Software.NET, Technology) gives you instant automatic drive/media shortcuts for your desktop when you stick in a USB. Bingo: a highlighted icon appears on the desktop and can be used as a short-cut. Really effective cure for the invisible USB drive.

    BTW, I’ve never seen this problem in XP, mentioned in another comment. It seems to have started with Vista and its distrust of FAT files – and Win7 seems to always carry on the most annoying parts of Vista. IMHO.

    Anyway, DeskDrive is worth a look (free). I donated double – since this problem had cost me several minutes every day…

    December 6, 2009 – Version 1.8.2 Released

  9. Mani from Iran

    wow you are wonderful u fixed my damn problem thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  10. Joe Kondratko

    I have a PNY 4GB thumb drive, and my Dell Inspiron 15R 64-bit laptop with windows 7 doesn’t see the drive at all when I plug it in. The drive hasn’t touched any water and I am always careful with it. I went through the steps listed above and it didn’t find my thumb drive. Is there any other way that I might be able to find the drive?

  11. teisha

    Thank You!!!!!

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