How to Speed Up Slow Unresponsive External Hard Drive on Mac

An external hard drive is essential for backing up your files from your Mac. Data backup is crucial for anyone who knows that a system can get compromised and you lose everything. External hard drives are also good for creating more space on your Mac. Whenever you move large files from the Mac to the external hard drive, then you should end up with more space on your device to help it work better.

Even with the best external hard drives, sometimes you might notice that it is not as fast as it used to be. Whenever this is the case, then you know that there is a problem. Today, we look at what are the reasons for ending up with a slow and unresponsive external hard drive and the possible fixes for these issues.

Once you fix most of these issues, you should find your hard drive working smoothly than ever before. Let us see what we have to deal with below.

Top Reasons for a Slow and Unresponsive External Hard Drive and their Fixes

  • Defragmented hard drive with errors and bad sectors

Whenever there is fragmentation on your external hard drive, it means that your data is not organized in a way that is easy to retrieve. As a result, we need to defragment this data on your hard drive. During this process, the data is reorganized in a way that allows for ease of loading the files faster.

Depending on the extend of use, sometimes you might end up with errors and bad sectors on your hard drive. It is best if you consider defragmenting with the First Aid tool in Mac to see if it helps.

  1. To access First Aid, go to Utilities>Disk Utility
  2. Select from the list of hard drives the one that you want to repair. In our case, we will select the external hard drive
  3. Proceed to click on First Aid at the top of the window and then choose Run to start repairing the external hard drive.

Depending on the size, then it might take some time before it finishes with the repairs.

  • Issues with the USB cable and USB ports

The external hard drive needs power from the Mac’s USB ports to power it on. Problems arise when there is an issue with the USB cable powering and transferring the data to and from the hard drive.

When the USB cable connecting the two has issues such as being broken, you would find that data transfer is slower. If you notice that the cable is torn, especially at the connectors, you should buy a new cable to replace the old one.

Do not just buy any USB cable as not all of them are made of the best quality. Look for the best in the market so that you can still enjoy the fast reading and writing speed of your external hard drive.

If you replace the cable, but the performance is still not what you want, then switch the USB ports. Sometimes the USB ports on the Mac might be faulty, making it hard to access the data from your hard drive.

  • You have malware and virus infection

Viruses, malware, ransomware, and other types of threats do not just affect the internal hard drive of your device. Once you connect to an infected Mac, then you can expect that your external hard drive would end up with the same infection. With these viruses on the hard drive, sometimes they can lead to several issues such as slow and unresponsive drives.

The solution is to scan the hard drive to see if it has any of these viruses and malware to remove them. We will recommend that you use CleanMyMac X software to scan for the threats on your device. Here is how to do it correctly.

  1. Launch the CleanMyMac X software
  2. Choose Malware Removal option from the left pane of the software
  3. Make sure that your external hard drive is connected and then click Scan.
  4. The software will go through the whole drive, including your Mac, searching for any malware and viruses.
  5. Click Remove after the scan process is complete to delete the various malware and viruses found on the drive.
  • The hard drive is damaged

When your external hard drive is damaged, then it would have the same slow and unresponsive performance. It is because the Mac is having a hard time reading data from a damaged disk. How do you know that your hard drive is damaged? Here are a few indications to help you understand better.

  • The disk emits a rattling sound whenever it is connected to the Mac and you try to read data from it
  • Each time your Mac tries to access the external hard drive, it freezes
  • The hard drive does not allow for checking of errors, even on other operating systems
  • The LED light that shows the hard drive is powered on does not work. Or when the Mac cannot recognize the hard disk even after changing the USB cable.

Unfortunately, with damaged hard drives, it is only appropriate if you replace them. Some might lead to permanent data loss in the future if you do not replace them early enough. Back up your data on a newer and healthier hard drive before it is too late.

  • The hard drive is almost full

When there is less space on your external hard drive, then it becomes hard for it to work properly. It is the same just as you would have a Mac with an almost full hard drive. Fetching some files might take longer than expected.

It is possible that your hard drive is full of files you probably no longer need. With such a problem, it is best to optimize the external hard drive by deleting these files. Open the hard drive to identify some of the files you no longer need. Go for the large files as once you delete them, it should be easy to find more space on your drive. Sort the files by size to find the large files on the drive.

Alternatively, CleanMyMac X can still come in handy for optimization of your hard drive.

  1. Launch the software and click on Large & Old Files tab on the window.
  2. The software will then search for these large files both on your Mac’s internal hard drive and the external hard drive.
  3. Once the files are found, they will be highlighted with the locations so that you can delete them from your hard drive.
  4. Delete those files you no longer need. It could be an ideal time to optimize your Mac at the same time.

Sometimes duplicate files can lead to less space on your external hard drive. However, it is not easy to go through each folder on the hard drive to find these duplicates. What you need is a software to find these files. From the same developer of CleanMyMac X software, you also get the Gemini 2 software for finding duplicate files on your drives.

Once you install the software, simply launch it and follow the on-screen instructions to run it. The software will go through the drives to find duplicate files and ask which ones you would like to delete.

  • Format your external hard drive

Sometimes the damage to the files is far too much that formatting your hard drive seems like the only option. As a result, you need to back up any of the important data that is still accessible. You do not need any third-party software for this as MacOS comes with the tool to do the job.

We will use Disk Utility to format the hard drive.

  1. Go to Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility
  2. Once the window opens, select the external hard drive that you need format and then click Erase at the top
  3. Provide the name of the external hard drive and the format you would like before clicking Erase to start the process.

Formatting should not take long even for a large hard drive. Within a minute or so, it should be done with the process.

In Summary

From the various problems we have seen above, it is now easy to understand how to deal with a slow or unresponsive external hard drive. Try out the various fixes we have mentioned to see if your hard drive’s speed gets better. If you are going to use third party software to repair and organize the data in your external hard drive, make sure it is a verified and safe software. The last thing you want is to end up with a software that introduces malware to your external drive.