Recovery & Repair
Data Transfer

How to Fix Disk Unknown, Not Initialized?

author Lois Green
date Friday, January 31, 2020

You may have come across the following situation: when you inserted the hard drive or USB into the computer, it didn't show up in File Explorer. You checked it in Disk Management and found it displayed: Not Initialized Disk 1 unknown, not initialized or unallocated. In this case, you have no access to the hard drive or SSD.

Uninitialized Disk

This situation happens now and then and if you encounter the external hard drive not initialized problem, here are some useful solutions for you.

Why is a disk not initialized

There are two main reasons why the disk is not initialized:

# 1. Brand new disk

If your disk doesn't appear in File Explorer and the Disk Management shows as Not Initialized, it is possible that the disk doesn't have a valid disk signature. That means the new disk hasn't been initialized and formatted.

# 2. Corrupted disk

If the drive has existed on your computer and you already stored a lot of data on it, then it could be the drive formatting has become corrupted somehow.

Eight solutions to fix the problem

# 1. Manually initialize the hard disk

Generally speaking, initializing is a process to activate your hard drive but won’t make it usable. If you want to gain access to the disk, you need to create partitions and format the partitions after initialized. Therefore, initializing will erase all of your data. If your disk is new or has no data on it, you can initialize it directly.

However, if you have stored important files on the disk, you should restore the data after initialized to prevent losing data.

Follow the instructions of How to Initialize Disk without Losing Data and then use FonePaw Data Recovery (opens new window) to retrieve data.


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# 2. Turn Uninitialized drive Online

If the disk shows not initialized as well as offline, make it become online by right-clicking and selecting Online.

Disk Offline

# 3. Add a drive letter

If it is already online but has no drive letter on Disk Management, then right-click and select Change Drive Letter and Paths. Assign a letter to the disk. DO NOT choose the letter that is already allocated.

Add Drive Letter

# 4. Format RAW drive

If the partition lists as RAW instead of NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT, then you should format the drive to make it accessible. But formatting will cause losing data unless you operate it properly. Know more about What is RAW File System and How to Fix RAW Drive (opens new window)

Raw Disk

# 5. Create a new volume on unallocated drive

If the partition shows as Unallocated and it is empty, right-click it and select New Simple Volume to create a volume in the unallocated disk. But if you are going to retrieve data from this partition, don’t use this method and skip to the next one.

Create New Volume

# 6. Rescan the disk

If the disk is not showing up in Device Manager, unplug and plug it back in then go to Action > Rescan Disks.

Rescan Disks

# 7. Restart the disk and PC

Turn off your external hard drive and shut down your computer. Then restart your disk and PC.

# 8. Uninstall driver in Device Manager

Go to Device Manager > Universal Serial Bus controllers, find your driver and uninstall it by right-clicking > Uninstall device.

Then enter Action > Scan for hardware changes.

Scan For Hardware Changes

In conclusion, disk failed for many different reasons and it happens randomly. Thus, it is important to back up data from time to time. Above all the methods, the most detailed one must be the first way. If you are still fretting about disk unknown, not initialized, why not give it a go?