WD USB, FireWire, or eSATA external drive is not recognized or detected in Windows XP


After installing and using an external hard drive under Windows 7 or Vista, the drive is not detected correctly under Windows XP.


When an external hard drive, initialized or formatted on a computer system running Windows Vista or 7, may either have been converted or created a GUID partition, which is not supported by Windows XP. If it has a GUID partition (GPT Protective Partition), it will look similar to the image (Disk 1) below when viewed in Disk Management. If the drive is not seen in Disk Management, something may be wrong with the drive and it's best to Contact Us for additional assistance.



The partition table on the external hard drive must be set as an MBR (Master Boot Record) in order to function properly between Windows XP, and Windows Vista or 7. There are three ways this can be accomplished: From Disk Management on a Windows Vista or 7 computer, by writing zeros to the drive, initializing it and formatting it with an MBR partition table, or using the WD Quick Formatter Utility from the Windows XP computer.
In order to change the drive from a GUID partition table to an MBR all of the data on the drive will be erased. Make sure that you have a copy of your data before you proceed with one of the steps below.

Disk Management on a 7 or Vista System:

  1. Right-click on Computer and then left-click Manage. If Computer is not located on the desktop it should be under the Start Menu
  2. Left-click on Disk Management in the left pane.
  3. Right-click on the colored bar for the external hard drive you want to change into an MBR disk and choose Delete Volume.
  4. Image

  5. You will be warned that deleting the volume will erase all data on the disk. If there is nothing on the drive that you want, click on Yes.
  6. Image

  7. The bar should now be black and show the drive as unallocated. Right-click on the disk listing (Disk 1 in the image below) and choose Convert to MBR Disk
  8. Image

  9. The drive will now have an MBR. Right-click on the black bar and choose New Simple Volume to format the drive.
  10. Note: For information on how to format the drive, see the following KB: Answer ID 3865: How to Partition and Format a WD Drive on Windows and macOS

Write Zeros in Windows XP:

  1. Open the Data LifeGuard Diagnostics software from your Start Menu. It should be listed under WD Diagnostics.
    If you don't have the software installed you can download the Windows version from the following link: DLG Diagnostics for Windows.

  2. If you get a message to close any open programs, close any programs that you may have open and left-click on OK
  3. You may get a message that says the software has found a drive and asks Would you like to prepare this drive for your system? If so, click on Yes and skip to step 6. If not, then at the main screen, left-click Setup Your Hard Drive.
  4. You will then get a screen listing your different drives and the controllers that they are attached to. Click the tab that corresponds to the drive that you have. If you trying to setup a USB drive. It should be under the USB tab. Left-click on the drive that you want to setup and click on Next
  5. At the next screen under Installation Type set it to Add the drive as an additional storage device and left-click Next
  6. On the next screen, click on Next to format the drive to the specifications listed in the window. If the next button is not highlighted, you may need to need to click on Erase to clear any partitions/formats on the drive first.
  7. The software will then partition and format the drive. When it is done click on Next or it will auto-continue to the next screen after 8 seconds.
  8. The drive should be formatted and appear as a drive letter in My Computer. Click on Done
  9. If you are finished with the software. Click on the X in the upper right corner to close the program

Format WD External drives using WD Quick Formatter in Windows or Mac:

  1. From the Windows XP computer, download and install the WD Quick Formatter for Windows if running Windows, or WD Quick Formatter for Mac if running Mac OSX 10.5, 10.6, 10.7, 10.8, or 10.9 (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, or Mavericks).
  2. For further assistance installing and using WD Quick Formatter, please see: Answer ID 3868: How to format external drives using WD Quick Formatter in Windows or Mac

In case the answer did not answer your question, you can always visit the WD Community for help from WD users.

Please rate the helpfulness of this answer