In last week’s post on USB external drive connection problems, I offered some tips on how to troubleshoot a USB drive that is not being recognized by your Surface tablet.
Today, I wanted to cover additional troubleshooting tips for connecting those pesky external drives and how to format an external drive via the Disk Management utility in Windows 8.1 that may help you further.
Note: These steps work on any Windows 8.1 computer and are not limited to Surface tablets. The troubleshooting tips apply to any USB attached drive (USB stick, external hard drive, and even the CD\DVD drive).
In this post, you will find:
In this post, you will find:
Note: I don’t want to go into too much geeky detail on everything that the Disk Management utility can do because I am focusing on some of the more common features in this post.
If you’d like to be “geekified”, check out this great post from “How To Geek”, it will tell you pretty much everything you want to know about Disk Management and more.
OK, if you have an external drive plugged in via the USB port on your Surface that doesn’t seem to be recognized, you may have a problem with the disk itself. The best way to trouble shoot it is to make sure it is being recognized in Disk Management, assign or reassign it a drive letter, and maybe even format it. Let’s get started…
How To Open Disk Management:
There are several ways to open the utility but I find the below the fastest:
How to locate your external drive in the Disk Management utility:
- Plug in the USB external drive
- Once you opened Disk Management, you will see Disk 0 – please leave that disk alone
- You should also see Disk 1 – that’s your external drive
- If you don’t see the external drive, refer to my post USB External Drive not recognized on your Surface for more troubleshooting tips.
WARNING: DO NOT DO ANYTHING WITH DISK 0. That is your main Surface built-in disk drive with its system and recovery partitions. Please do yourself a favor and do not mess with its settings.
How to assign a different drive letter to an external drive with Disk Management utility:
- Right-click on Disk 1
- From the options choose Assign Drive Letter and Paths
- Click Change
- Pull down the arrow near the letter (in my case D:)
- Choose another letter – something else (do not choose C:)
- Click OK then Yes
Notice that the drive letter you assigned to the disk now appears when you look at Windows Explorer.
In case you’re wondering why you might need to change the drive letter for an external drive, a common reason is because a program (for whatever reason) expects to see a certain file, folder, or in this example drive, using a specific drive letter.
How to format the external drive:
Another reason that your external drive might not be recognized could be that it is formatted in a way that the Surface can’t understand. To fix this you will have to reformat the drive.
NOTE: This process will delete all data on your external drive, so make sure you have it backed up.
- Right-click on Disk 1 and choose Format…
- Give the volume a name or leave default and make sure FAT 32 is selected (this is an older file format but it will ensure you can use the drive on other devices)
- Click OK
- You will see a warning about all the data being deleted (MAKE SURE YOU BACK UP ALL YOUR DATA from the drive before you format).
Depending on the size of your drive, the format may be a very quick process or it may take some time.
As you can see the Disk Management Utility is a pretty handy tool. This should be all you need to do to help your Surface recognize the an external drive. I also want to reiterate that these problems with recognizing external drives are not unique to Surface tablets. I’ve seen plenty of them on desktop and laptop computers too.
Joanna is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created LoveMySurface.net to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.