USB Drive Not Shown in File Explorer

(For Geeks Only)
By Joe Callison
29 February 2020

I have recently encountered a problem on some Windows 10 computers that I have not seen before. When plugging a USB flash drive or USB external hard drive into a computer, it normally recognizes a new device has been added as noted with a familiar sound, then a device driver may be loaded by Windows if needed, as indicated in a notification, and finally a notification announces that the device is ready to use. When you go to File Explorer and click on This PC, the new storage device is shown with a drive letter assigned.  

The problem I have occasionally encountered is the new device not showing up as a drive in This PC. Unplugging the USB device and plugging it back in did not work. I have not tried a computer restart with the device still attached to see if that makes any difference. I have occasionally seen a notification that says a restart is needed for a newly discovered device to work, but usually I have found it unnecessary to do so. I ended up going to Disk Management where the USB storage device showed without a drive letter assigned. I then selected the storage device, clicked on Action in the menu, then All Tasks, and then Change Drive Letter and Paths. From there I would assign a drive letter and then it would show up in File Explorer.

While the workaround solution was okay for me, it is not something I could recommend for the less technical computer users if they encounter the problem, so I began searching for the problem and possible solutions on the internet. One user had been assigning drive letters as I had done, but on their computer, the drive letters were never released when the device was removed so they had to assign a different drive letter each time the device was plugged in and they were running out of drive letters, in addition to File Explorer being filled with old drive letters with nothing attached. Others had driver problems, either for the storage device being plugged in as found under Disk Drives in Device Manager or the USB controller found under Universal Serial Bus Controllers in Device Manager. Updating device drivers was a possible solution, or at least first step.

For some users though, the problem is likely due to one of two problems. Either the virtual disk service is not running or the automount is not enabled. The virtual disk service (vds) status can be checked or started using the Services tab and Open Services link in Task Manager or by running some commands in Command Prompt, running as Administrator. In Command Prompt:

To check the status: sc query vds
To start the service: sc start vds
To set the service to always start on boot up: sc config vds start= auto

The automount status can be checked or enabled by running the following sequence of commands:

To check the status:

To enable automount:
automount enable

While I have not found a simple solution that anyone should be able to use as of yet, at least with some technical assistance it might be able to be fixed.

Posted by Joe Callison

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