Hard Drive Appears Empty But Isn't? Get 7 Solutions to It

The hard drive appears empty but isn't error occurs when your files are hidden or the hard drive is infected by a virus. Read through this article to learn effective solutions.


By Kelsey / Updated on July 11, 2022

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Why does my hard drive say it’s empty?


I downloaded some episodes to my external HDD yesterday. But today, I found that the HDD hard drive appears empty but isn't, since Windows says that it's still full as before. This has never happened before and I'm baffled.

Hard disk showing empty but space occupied can be caused by diverse reasons. The following are the possible reasons:

  • Hard drive files are hidden - Files or folders are hidden, causing data not to be displayed.
  • Hard disk file system error - A file system logical error causes the stored files to be inaccessible, but data still remains on the hard drive.
  • Hard drive is attacked by virus/malware - Viruses or malware delete or hide hard drive files, causing data to disappear but still take up storage space.
  • Hard drive is corrupted - Improper plugging and unplugging operations or other reasons cause the hard drive to become corrupted and files not be displayed correctly.

Luckily, there are many ways that can help you to get back hidden files, retrieve files from viruses, or recover corrupted hard drive.

Hard drive appears empty but isn't - 7 useful fixes

Although there are numerous reasons why a hard drive may appear empty, it does not mean that the missing files cannot be recovered. Next, we will present seven credible and effective methods to fix hard disk empty but shows full. Read on and find the solution that works for you.

Method 1. Run anti-virus software

To make sure that the “hard drive appears empty but isn't” issue is not caused by a virus infection, we strongly recommend that you run your antivirus software to check and remove the virus first. This can prevent viruses from harming files on other hard drives on your computer.

Method 2. Reconnect your hard drive

If you are using an external hard drive such as a USB and find that your files are not showing up but they are still taking up space, it is possible that it results from an incorrect connection. You can safely remove your USB first and try to plug it into your computer again.

If you only have one computer available at hand, please try another port. Connecting your USB to another computer can is another way to check if the “hard drive empty but shows full or occupied" problem persists.

Usb Drive

Method 3. Show hidden files from File Explorer

If there is no problem with the hard drive connection, it is possible that hidden files are the culprit of "my hard drive shows empty but it's not". Mistaken operations and virus invasion both easily bring about hard drive data to be hidden. Thankfully, you can recover hidden files by following the simple guideline below.

Step 1. Ensure your hard drive is recognizable by your PC. Then, press Windows + E keys to launch Windows File Explorer.

Step 2. Click on the View wizard on the top, tap Options, and go to the View tab.

Step 3. Tick the box next to Show hidden files, folders, and drives and click Apply.

Show Hidden Files

Method 4. Recover hidden files using CMD

You could also recover data from hard drive using Command Prompt, which allows you to recover hidden files as well as deleted files. By executing the ATTRIB command through Command Prompt, you can modify the hidden attribute of a file/folder to make it visible.

Step 1. Click Start and search for "Command Prompt". Select the Run as administrator option from the search result.

Run As Administrator

Step 2. Type “attrib -H -R -S /S /D G:\*.*” and press Enter to show hidden files on the G: drive. You can replace the drive letter G: with the one that you want to recover stored files on it.

Attrib Cmd

Pro tip: Meanings of the attrib command parameters:
–h Clears the Hidden file attribute. If a file uses this attribute set, you need to clear the attribute before changing any other attributes for the file.
–r Clears the Read-only file attribute.
–s Clears the System file attribute.
•​​​​​​​ /s Executes whatever file attribute display or changes you have made on the subfolders within the drive or path you've specified.
•​​​​​​​ /d Applies attrib and any command-line options to directories.

If the ATTRIB command fails to show files on hard drive and you make sure that the command line runs without errors, that is to say, your files are not hidden but deleted or hard disk has logical errors.

Method 5. Run Hardware and Device Troubleshooter

Sometimes, running the Hardware and Devices troubleshooter can help you identify and fix device problems on your computer when the device isn't working properly like external hard drive not showing files but used space or external hard drive showing empty but isn’t. However, this tool seems to be deprecated from Windows 11/10. Thus, this option is only available for Windows 7/8 users.

Here are steps on how to solve the “folder shows empty but files are there” issue with the troubleshooter.

Step 1. Click Start > Update & Security > Troubleshoot in turn.

Step 2. Tap Hardware and Devices and click on Run the troubleshooter to detect problems on your hard drive.

Run Hardware And Devices Troubleshooter

Method 6. Check hard drive for errors

As mentioned earlier, if the hard drive has a file system error, files may be inaccessible. The "internal/external hard drive appears empty but not" problem may be due to a logical error.

In this case, you can use the Windows native Disk Check tool, which can automatically check and repair file system errors, and recover lost data.

Step 1. Open This PC or My Computer, and right-click your hard drive.

Step 2. Choose Properties and head to the Tool section. Then, click on the Check button under Error checking.

Check Hard Drive

Step 3. Then, click Scan drive to begin the scanning process.

Method 7. Recover hard drive lost data with file recovery tool

If none of the above methods succeed in fixing the “hard drive empty but shows used space” problem, your data is most likely deleted. But rest assured, deleted files are not impossible to retrieve. Easy to use and professional file recovery software - MyRecover can easily recover deleted and lost hard drive data for free.

Apart from file deletion, this tool can recover data from formatted hard drives, virus-infected hard drives, system-crashed computers, etc. It can find your lost data in a short time and you can retrieve your data at a high recovery rate.

Download the tool (it supports NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, and ReFS in Windows 11/10/8/7 & Windows Servers) and check out the data recovery guide below.

Download SoftwareWin 11/10/8/7/Server
Secure Download

Step 1. Run MyRecover and choose the hard drive that lost data to click Start Scan.

Select Location To Scan

Step 2. It will automatically list all found deleted/lost files that can be recovered. You can click Filter to select a specific file type or search for file name in the search box to locate what you need.

Scan C Drive

Step 3. Select the items that you want and click Recover x files.

Select Deleted Text File To Restore


On this page, we collected 7 ways to help you fix the "hard drive appears empty but isn't" problem. You can try them one by one until the files are displayed properly.

Kelsey · Editor
Kelsey is an English editor of AOMEI Technology. She is passionate about helping people find effective ways to deal with all problems in computer. She has great insights into data backup and recovery, disk partition and clone, and other data protection measures. She likes learn computer skills to improve herself and enjoy quality time with family and friends.