Is the External Hard Drive Slow to Open Files? Fixed!

Find out why your external hard drive slow to open files and get useful fixes to solve this issue in this article. Besides, there’re related data loss prevention measures.


By Penny / Updated on April 3, 2024

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Why does my external hard drive take so long to load?

Many users often use external hard drives to transfer data and save among PCs, which renders a great convenience for them. To some extent, this potable device also is another file backup.

But some users have complained their external hard drives become sluggish to open and load files。


I observed my external WD HDD which is used to write at 120MBps in Windows only writes at 30MBps in Windows 11. What’s worse, this drive is slow to open my files. So why does my external hard drive take so long to load? And how do I fix a slow external hard drive? Any suggestions will be appreciated.

-A user from Eleven Forum


If the external hard drive is too slow to open files, which implies its loading and reading time has been extended. And it’s common to see your external hard drives load slowing or seem stuck while loading files.

Are you wondering about the possible reasons behind this issue? Please get an overview of the following common reasons.

  • Physical damage
  • Faulty connection
  • Damaged file systems or bad sectors
  • Insufficient storage space on your external HDD
  • Fragmented disk with scattered data
  • Virus infection

Is it possible to fix a slow external hard drive without losing data?

Besides, those users are also wondering if is there a way to resolve this problem of slow file opening without any risk of data loss. It turns out there is.

Please recover files from external hard drives via the first part. After that, refer to the second part to fix a slow external hard drive in Windows computers.

Phase 1. Recover files from external hard drives before fixing

To prevent your external hard drive from data loss during the reparation process, you’re advisable to recover all recoverable, retrievable, and accessible files from your external hard drive.  

In this scenario, professional Windows data recovery software like MyRecover is ready to scan your external hard drive and safely recover all detected deleted & lost files from this drive.

Key features of MyRecover:
  • High-efficiency: Recover MS Office files, WPS files, folders, compressed files, images, audio, songs, videos, and websites, from internal and external HDDs, USBs, SD cards, etc.
  • Advanced scanning method: MyRecover runs Quick Scan & Deep Scan automatically to search all the recoverable files. Specify the filename, saved path, date, or size to filter your needed files.
  • Convenience: Retain the original filename, path, and format for the deleted files.
  • Excellent compatibility: Support NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, and ReFS file systems and be compatible with Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, or Server PC.
Download Software Windows 11/10/8/7/Server
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Step 1. Connect your external HDD to the Windows and launch MyRecover. Hover the mouse over the HDD saved deleted files before, and click Scan.


Step 2. MyRecover will automatically scan your selected external hard drive and detect all the recoverable files.

You can also preview or filter specific files according to Documents Type, Name, Path, or Path.

  • Name: Type the relevant filenames in the search bar to locate your desired deleted/lost files quickly.
  • Date modified: Set a customized date (today, yesterday, last 7 or 30 days, etc.)
  • Size: Filter the file size (<128KB, 128KB~1MB, 1MB~512MB, etc.)


Step 3. Click the Missing Files Folder and choose the files you want to retrieve. Then click the “Recover x files” button.


After recovery, please store your retrieved files on your computer instead of the original external HDD.
MyRecover can recover 500MB of files for free in total. If you desire to recover a large number of deleted & missing files from external HDDs, upgrading MyRecover to the Professional or Technician edition is a more cost-effective choice.  
If you can’t open files from external hard drives/can’t open JPG files in Windows 10/11, there might be something wrong with your files or the related programs. You may find feasible fixes below.

Phase 2. How to fix the external hard drive slow to open files?

Please disconnect and reconnect your external HDD as it opens or loads files slowly on your PC. If this simple trick is useless, please consider adopting the following fixes.

Fix 1. See if there exists physical damage

If your external hard drive takes an extended time to open files, there’s a possibility that it has suffered physical damage.

Inspect the external hard disk case for any signs of damage. If the case is broken, replace it and continue using this drive.

See if the LED light on the drive is blinking or not. If not, it indicates potential damage, and you may need to send the drive for repair.

Examine the external hard disk chips for any signs of damage. If any chips are broken, sending the drive to the repair shop is necessary.

Listen if there’re any unusual noises coming from the disk. For example, if your Seagate external hard drive is beeping, it’s advisable to send it for repair.

In brief, if your external hard drive shows one of the above signs, contact your external hard drive manufacturer or a local disk repair center for assistance.

Fix 2. Check and replace USB cables and ports

As mentioned above, a faulty USB connection is also blamed for the external hard drive load slowing. Please refer to the following steps to check and rectify it if needed.

◢ Examine the USB cable connected to your external HDD for any damage or breakage. If found, replace the cable and reconnect the disk to your computer.

◢ Ensure you’ve connected a USB 3.0 external drive to a USB 3.0 port because using a USB 2.0 port could cause performance issues.


◢ If the front USB ports on your computer are damaged, use the back USB port to connect your external hard drive.

Fix 3. Run Virus & threat protection to remove viruses

If your external hard drive slow to open files, it’s essential to check for potential viruses. You can ask for help from Windows features or third-party antivirus software to remove ransomware viruses.

Since several practical Windows features are underutilized, let’s take Windows Security as an example.

This feature is designed to keep scanning for malware, viruses, and security risks, providing real-time protection for your Windows PCs. Moreover, Windows updates are automatically downloaded to keep your device safe and secure from threats.  

Step 1. Press “Win + I” to open Windows Settings and go to Update > Security > Windows Security > Virus & threat protection.


Step 2. Click the “Scan options” button.


Step 3. Select “Full scan” and click “Scan now” to begin scanning.


Fix 4. Check and repair file system errors and bad sectors

Undoubtedly, file system errors and bad sectors on your external HDD can discourage you from opening the drive and accessing files smoothly. At the moment, you can enter CHKDSK with f, /r, /x, or /b parameters to fix errors on your volume because CHKDSK can only display the volume status and cannot fix any errors.    

Please be aware that running CHKDSK can potentially fix the external hard drive taking a long time to open files issue, but it may also cause data loss. So you’d better perform data recovery beforehand and then proceed with this solution.
If your SD card is blank or has an unsupported file system, you can also adopt this way.

Step 1. Plug the external HDD into your Windows PC. Then type “cmd” in the search bar and select “Run as administrator” to open the command prompt window.


Step 2. Type “chkdsk F: /f /r /x” in the window. Please remember to replace F with the real drive letter of your external hard drive.


Please wait to see this notice: Windows has made corrections to the file system.

Fix 5. Free up Disk Space

Sometimes, full storage space could be the primary reason for your external hard drive’s slow file opening. After checking the storage space, you can refer to the following steps to free up disk space if needed.

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to your Windows > press Win + E to open File Explorer > right-click on your external HDD > select Properties > click Disk Cleanup.


Step 2. Tick the “Delivery Optimization Files” option and click “OK” to save changes. If you want to delete Windows update files on Windows 10, tick Clean up system files.


Step 3. After scanning, under Files to delete, tick the items you want to remove > click OK.


Fix 6. Perform Disk Defragmentation

Poor performance in computing can cause your external hard drive to become sluggish in loading files. To improve the overall performance and the loading speed of your drive, you can seek help from the Disk Defragmentation utility to optimize your external HDD by consolidating fragmented files.

Please refer to the steps below to defragment your external hard drive in Windows 10.

Step 1. After connecting your external HDD, type “defrag” in the search bar and click “Run as administrator” to open this utility.


Step 2. Select your external HDD and click the “Optimize” button.


After disk defragmentation, all the existing fragments on your external hard drive that hindered file access will be cleared. Reboot your PC and reconnect your external drive to experience faster access speeds.

Related suggestions

Why does my external hard drive take so long to load? And how to fix the external hard drive slow to open files? How to recover deleted files from external hard drives? Find the corresponding answers from the above content.

If you’re unwilling to suffer the second damage, it’s necessary for you to take proactive measures to prevent external hard drive data loss at the source.

  • Be away from high temperatures or humid environments such as sunlight and water.
  • After seeing Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media, you’re ready to eject SD cards.
  • Don’t eject/remove your external HDD when it’s reading, writing, or transferring data.
  • Use practical Windows features like Virus & threat protection settings or launch the latest antivirus software to protect your Windows.   
  • Only regular backups are the best data loss prevention measure. If you prefer flexible backup & easier restoration steps, AOMEI Backupper is better than Windows features.


  • Please think twice before deletion.
  • More importantly, please don’t put all eggs in one basket to protect your hard drive data.
Penny · Editor
Penny works as an editor at AOMEI Technology, while she's a tester and editor for AOMEI Data Recovery Tools. She enjoys helping users with data recovery issues on Windows and iPhones using simple and practical solutions. Outside of work, she has a strong affection for pets, particularly giant pandas.