Data Recovery

Fixing Corrupt SD Memory Cards & SD Card Data Recovery

Author: Nishat Paiker | Updated on April 16, 2021 | Data Recovery | Card Recovery | 23 min read

Summary: Are you unable to access photos, videos, and audio files saved in SD card? Is your SD card corrupt? Read this article, which consolidates SD card corruption issues and all the possible fixes and advanced solutions such as Stellar Photo Recovery to restore lost media files from corrupted memory cards of any capacity and brand.

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As we move towards the paperless era, the utility of digital storage media has grown manifold. Especially in terms of personal data storage, where individuals commonly rely on the extended capacity of portable storage solutions like SD cards to store their photos, videos, music files etc. Over the years, the memory card technology has evolved and expanded to terabytes capacities from the meagre beginning of 1-2 GBs.

The small SD card is the most convenient and inexpensive storage media that provides suitable storage capacities for DSLRs, camcorders, music players, Android phones, tablets, digital cameras, and other portable devices.

However, SD cards are prone to corruption, accidental formatting, or damage, leading to loss of stored photos, videos, audio files and other data. Also as memory cards have a limited lifespan, after a certain period of usage they can get corrupt or damaged.

Common signs & symptoms of a corrupt SD card

Usually, the situation of SD card not working initiates with an error message. If not handled properly, it may lead to permanent data loss in which SD card recovery gets difficult. A corrupted SD card doesn't let you access your files from it. The files may get disappear, the card may not open or isn't recognized by your computer.

Here we have shared some of the common signs that indicate SD card is failing and you are on the verge of data loss:

Unable to format SD card or "SD Card is Damaged. Try Reformatting it.
Black screen appears along with an error message 'SD card is not accessible. The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.
You can view the files of your SD card in camera as well as on computer but unable to add, delete, save, or copy them and may get an error message –'disk is write-protected.'
All or some photos on your SD card are missing.
'Read / Write error on SD card' , 'Unreadable SD card'.
'Memory card error' or 'corrupt memory card'. Read more on Memory Card Recovery.
SD card shows the message 'SD card is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?
You receive error message 'SD card unexpectedly removed'.
Error messages stating 'SD card is blank or has unsupported file system'.
"SD Card Locked" or "SD Card Read Only" Error.
Any other SD card Error message like "bad sectors", "0 bytes" "wont mount", "SD Card full " etc .

Checks before troubleshooting corruption and performing SD card recovery:

Are connecting devices working?

Your SD card may not be corrupt. At times, a device may not read an SD card due to incompatibility or driver-related issues. In such cases, try to connect your SD card to another computer or use a different card reader.

Is your SD card write-protected?

You won't be able to open, edit, copy, or save your photos, videos, and other files in the SD card, if it is write-protected. Slide upward the switch on left side of SD card to disable write-protection.

Once you made these checks and if still SD card is not accessible, then it's probably a logical issue. You can follow the below methods to fix corrupted SD card and recover your photos and videos from it.

10 Fixes for Corrupt SD Card Photo Recovery

Top 10 methods to fix a corrupted SD card and recover the lost photos & other data 

Method 1: Unhide hidden files stored in corrupt SD card

Method 2: Try chkdsk command to check for memory card errors

Method 3: Assign a new drive letter, if SD card is not detected by PC

Method 4: Reinstall the driver

Method 5: Use Windows Troubleshooter to fix Corrupted SD Card

Method 6: Use SD card repair solution provided by manufacturer

Method 7: Use drive 'Error Checking' feature

Method 8: Use Diskpart in CMD command

Method 9: Format to repair corrupted SD Card

Method 10: Nothing worked? Use SD card data recovery software to restore files

Did You Know: You can wipe or erase an SD card to permanently remove the data and protect your privacy. See how.

Fix 1: Unhide the hidden files stored in a corrupt SD card

When you connect an SD card to a virus infected PC, the virus may hide all photos, videos or other files and folders in the media. The size of the disk would appear unchanged but you won't be able to see the data stored on it as its attributes get changed to "hidden" and "read only". Follow the below steps to recover the hidden photos, videos etc., from SD card:

  • Connect SD card to your system
  • Open Windows Explorer, click and follow Tools > Folder options > View
  • Check in Show hidden files, folders & drives option.
  •  Uncheck Hide protected operating system option.
  • Click OK.

Now you should be able to see all the hidden photos, videos, audio files and folders in the memory card.

Fix 2: Try chkdsk command to check for memory card errors

Connect the affected SD card with the PC via card reader and follow the below steps to fix SD card errors using chkdsk command:

  • Click on the Start option from Windows taskbar and select Computer.
  • Search for your SD card under Devices with Removable Storage and note the drive letter assigned.
  • Click the Start option again. Type "cmd" in the search box.
  • Right-click cmd and select Run as administrator.
  •  A command window opens, type "chkdsk" followed by the drive letter corresponding to the SD card, then by a colon and /f. (e.g., chkdsk E: /f)
  •  Hit Enter. Chkdsk will check for possible errors and try to fix the corrupt SD card. Next, follow the subsequent message prompts.

Fix 3: Assign a new drive letter, if SD card is not detected by PC

Connect your SD card to PC via card reader. If your system does not assign a new drive letter to it, then it isn't reading it, i.e., SD card is not detected. In some cases, the reader may assign a drive letter, but you get the message "Please insert the disk into drive E:" indicating that it isn't reading the card. To resolve this problem assign a new drive letter to your SD card by following the below steps:

  •  Connect the SD card to your PC
  • Open the Run dialogue box using Windows+R key
  • Type compmgmt.msc and hit Enter
  • Under Storage option, select Disk Management
  •  Right-click the drive you want to assign a letter
  • Choose Change Drive Letter and Paths
  • A dialog box appears, click on Change
  • Check in Assign following drive letter
  • Choose the letter you want to give from the drop box. Click OK
  • Close the Computer Management window. Restart the computer, your SD card should be readable now.

Fix 4: Reinstall the SD card driver

If assigning the drive letter doesn't help, you can try reinstalling the driver by following the below steps:

  • Right click on My Computer/ This PC. Click the Manage option.
  • Click the Device Manager option on the left side.
  • Double-Click Disk Drives option from the list. Then right click on the name of your 'removable drive.
  • Click Uninstall and click OK.
  • Disconnect your storage media and restart your PC.
  • Reconnect your SD card again. Your PC will detect it.

Fix 5: Use Windows Troubleshooter to fix corrupted SD Card

Windows Troubleshooter feature often find problems and fixes issues related to hardware and drivers. You can try to fix memory card errors by following the below steps:

  • Connect your SD card to PC.
  • Select and follow Start > Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot

  •  Select Hardware and Devices and click Run the troubleshooter.

Next, restart your computer, the SD card issue should be resolved.

Fix 6: Use SD card repair solution provided by manufacturer

Some SD cards manufacturers such as SanDisk, Samsung, Kingston, etc., also provide solutions to repair corrupt storage media. You can use their tools to fix corrupt SD cards and recover stored photos, videos etc. Visit the manufacturer's website to download the tool or contact the customer support.

Fix 7: Use drive 'Error Checking' feature

Windows has an 'Error Checking' feature for its internal and external drives that scans for errors related to file system and fixes them.

Follow the below steps to repair corrupt SD card using 'Error Checking':

  • Connect the SD card to your PC.
  • Press Windows + E to open Windows Explorer.
  • Right-click on SD card and open Properties.

  • Click on the Tools tab.
  • Click Check button.
  • The scanning process begins. After the scan completes, if errors are found, fix them by following the onscreen instructions.

Fix 8: Use Diskpart in CMD command

If you are getting SD card 'read-only' error message and you have also checked the card is not write-protected, then try to fix the error by using diskpart utility in CMD command. Follow the below steps to use diskpart fix method:

  • Connect SD card to Windows PC.
  •  Click Start >Run. Enter cmd.
  • Type diskpart and press Enter.
  • Type list volume. All connected drives are listed.
  • Type select volume 1. 1 represents the letter of your SD card drive.
  • Type attributes disk clear read only and hit Enter.

Restart your PC and again connect your SD card. The problem should be fixed now.

Fix 9: Format to repair corrupted SD card

Formatting mostly fixes corruption issues including those related to file system. It also helps to reuse your SD card. You can use this method to recover corrupted SD card.

Follow the below steps to format SD card on your PC:

  • Connect your SD card to PC.
  •  Double-click My Computer/ This PC to open Windows Explorer.
  •  Right-click on your SD card under Devices and drives and select Format. This opens the Format window.
  • Click the File System box. You get the three options - NTFS, FAT32, exFAT. Choose the one that you want to format.
  •  Click Start.

If you are unable to format your SD card, use a formatting software such as SDFormatter provided by SD Association. Formatting software can fix corrupt SD cards and make them reusable.

Although formatting fixes corrupt SD card, but the process deletes all your stored videos, photos, and other files on it. You can recover formatted SD card by using a professional SD card recovery software.

Fix 10: Nothing worked? Use SD card data recovery software

If data loss is your key concern with SD card corruption, know that whenever an SD card gets corrupted, the data may appear as lost but it's still recoverable. You can restore the photos, videos, and audio files with the help of a photo recovery software as long as your SD card is not physically damaged or the data is not overwritten.

Follow the steps listed after the below video for instructions on how to do SD card data recovery using the Stellar photo recovery software.

Key benefits of Stellar SD card recovery solution Recovers from formatted, corrupt, inaccessible, & encrypted SD card and other storage media. 

  • Recovers from formatted, corrupt, inaccessible, & encrypted SD card and other storage media.
  • Recovers deleted photos, audio and videos files from all types of SD cards – microSD card, SDHC, SDXC, memory cards, memory sticks etc..
  • Simple 3-Step Recovery process — Select device, Scan, and Preview & Recover.
  • Quickly recovers hundreds of photos and videos with original file name and date timestamp.
  • Displays the SMART health of your SD card (reveals health & temperature indicating wearing signs of drive).

Recommended: Begin your SD recovery with free demo

You can always try the free demo version of Stellar Photo Recovery software to see if you can recover your lost data. The free trial helps in buying decision. The software supports the latest Windows 10, macOS 10.15 Catalina and the lower versions.

Watch what Usman Dawood, the renowned Photographer has to say about the software in his review

Step-by-step: How to recover lost Photos, Videos & Music files from SD card:

1. Connect SD card to PC or Mac computer.

2. Download the trial version of Stellar Photo Recovery on PC or Mac.

2. On Home screen of the software, select your SD card.

3. Click Scan.

4. Once the scanning finishes, Preview and click Recover

5. A dialog box appears. Click Browse to select location to save the recovered videos, photos & audio files.

6. Activate the software to Save the media files at your desired location.

Tips to Protect your SD Card

SD cards are fragile and need to be protected to store your data for long term. Here are some effective tips you should follow to guard your SD card photos, videos and other files from loss:

  • Never remove SD card while saving or viewing its photos or videos etc.
  •   Don't remove SD card from camera mid-way during file transfer.
  •   Don't shoot pictures & videos when camera battery is low.
  •   Protect SD cards from extreme temperatures, dirt & moisture.
  •   Use SD cards from established brands such as SanDisk, Panasonic, Sony, Kingston, Lexar, Olympus, etc.
  •   Don't use the problem SD card, until the lost files are recovered.
  •   Don't use the same SD card in multiple devices. This is required to keep the card free from virus infection and subsequent error situations.
  •   Use a good quality card reader for connecting your SD card to the system.
  •   Always keep some space left on the card
  •   Always format the new SD card as soon as you get it
  •   Always safely eject the SD card from  the device
  •  Turn off the device as soon as you remove the card
  •   When you get any errors, stop using the Sd Card
  •  Try to use smaller capacity SD cards than using one large capacity one
  •  Do not store any corrupt data on the card

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to Check if an SD Card is corrupt or not?

Answer: Windows built-in Check Disk utility is the best tool to check any SD card for errors.

  1. Open Windows Explorer and locate the drive assigned to the SD card. Right-click on your SD card drive and click on Properties.
  2. Select the Tools tab and click the 'Check Now' button in the Error-checking section.
  3.  For scanning the SD card without making any changes to the card, uncheck both 'Automatically fix file system errors' and 'Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors'. For fixing only file system errors, check 'automatically fix file system errors'. For doing a lower level scan of the SD card and to fix any errors it finds, checks both boxes.
  4.  Press Start to begin the scan. After the scan completes, the result is displayed on the screen.
  5.  Click on See details to see more details about the scan, like scan performance, error fixing, and other details.
  6. There are also some free utilities like H2testw and FakeFlashTest for checking SD card errors.
Q: Which is the best SD card recovery software?

Answer: Choosing the best SD card recovery software that can restore photos in your loss situation can be a confusing task, considering the number of choices available. Read this post that identifies best SD Card Recovery Software for PC and Mac and choose one which meets your expectations and needs.

Q: Is Cloud better than SD card?

Answer: Cloud or SD card, both have their own benefits and limitations. You have to choose as per your requirement. Cloud services are free but up to a limited data while SD cards cost depends upon the type and capacity. There are possibilities of SD card corruption & data loss, but with Cloud you don't have to worry about these factors. You cannot access Cloud without Internet services like in case of SD card. For business and professionals who have large data to store, Cloud may be a preferred option against SD cards. The portable memory cards are better off for storing and transferring photos, videos, etc., and accessing it anytime anywhere without the need for Wi-Fi or mobile data.

Q: What if you lose valuable data from such devices that do not have SD card slots e.g like an iPhone?

Answer: In that case, you can recover lost or deleted data from iOS devices, iCloud backup, and iTunes backup with the help of iPhone data recovery software. The software can recover lost or deleted data due to Jailbreaking iOS device, Damaged/broken/lost/stolen iPhone, Water damage, iPhone stuck in recovery mode, stuck at Apple logo screen, factory reset loop, virus attack, black screen/white screen of death, iOS upgrade etc. Moreover, if you have difficulty extracting information from iTunes and iCloud backup or iTunes/iCloud backup is corrupt or not compatible, you can easily choose the selective information and retrieve them in a simple and secure way.

Q: I am unable to format my 16 GB SD card. It is showing a message asking to reformat. What should I do now

Answer: First try by changing the card reader or connect your SD card to a different device. If still there's an issue, your card has become corrupt, and you may need a memory card recovery software to recover data.

Q: How to transfer photos from my phone internal memory to external SD card?

Answer: Android phones have File Manager app that you can use to move photos from phone's internal memory to SD card. If your device doesn't have ES File Explorer app, download it from Google App store. 

Open File Explorer and select Images option. Select photos that you want to move to SD card. Tap Move to option at the lower-right side of the phone screen. A menu will appear. Select your SD card from the menu. Select a folder on your SD card into which you want to move the photos. All the photos are moved from internal storage of phone to the external SD card. 

Q: Can I recover RAW photos from the corrupt SD card in Mac?

Answer: Yes, with Stellar Photo Recovery Software Mac version, you can recover RAW pictures from all types of SD cards.

Q: My Camera is giving the message "memory card locked" when I insert SD card into it.

Answer: Please check the lock switch on the left side of SD card. Slide it up to unlock it. .

Q: SD card is not being recognized by PC. What can I do now?

Answer: Recheck the device connections. If the problem is not resolved, follow the given solutions in this article. One of them should fix the issue.

Q: Can I also recover my word, excel document using the SD card recovery software?

Answer: Stellar Photo Recovery software is especially for photos, videos, & music files recovery from hard drive, SD card, flash memory cards, pen drive or any other external storage media. To recover your documents, excel files, PDFs, PPTs and other lost data from any storage media, use Stellar Data Recovery software.

Q: I am getting an error message "this memory card cannot be used. Card may be damaged. Insert another card" in Nikon D3200 SD card. How to fix and recover?

Answer: Your SD card may not work on PC, if it is not working in DSLR. Try to transfer your photos to PC if possible, else take the help of memory card recovery software to restore your photos stored on it. Next, you can format your SD card to fix the issue and reuse it. .

Q: My Macbook is unable to read the SD card. I have tried various methods, but nothing seems to work. Please help.

Answer: Check the physical connections of your device, if they are working properly, including SD card slot, USB cable etc. While to recover data from unreadable SD card, you can try SD card recovery tool for Mac.

Q: What to do when you see the message "SD card is mounted read-only" on your device?

Answer: Check if the SD card is not write-protected. If it doesn't help, try to fix by using Diskpart utility in CMD command window. (read the steps shared above in this post.)

Q: Getting "SD Card not inserted" or "no memory card" error?

Answer: Check the physical connections of your device. Connect the SD card to a computer using an external card reader. If the card is recognized when connected to the computer using an external card reader, back up all data on the card and format the card. If your memory card is detected by the computer, but there is no data showing, you can try Stellar Photo Recovery software for recovering all your multimedia files.

Q: How to fix "SD Card unexpectedly removed" error on your Phone?

Answer: You can try these methods to resolve the error.

  1. Unmount and again mount the SD card after rebooting your smartphone. You can also try inserting your SD card to another device to check if the error shows or not.
  2. Sometimes, long pressing the power button resolves such kind of errors.
  3. Format the SD card that would fix file system errors.
  4. Restore it to Factory Settings
  5. If none of the methods work then the SD card might be corrupt and you need a recovery software to recover your files back.

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