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Technology can oftentimes be an enigma. One moment your SD card is working completely fine, the next you’re scratching your head trying to figure out why none of your devices are reading it. Why does this happen?

Why Is My SD Card Not Working or Unreadable?

This problem can occur for a number of reasons, many of them having no relation to each other. Sometimes it can be as simple as the port on your device being blocked by lint or dust. Regardless, here are the most common causes for your SD card not showing up:

❌ Incompatible file system

If the file system your SD card uses isn’t supported by the operating system attempting to read it, the SD card may show up as blank, if it even shows up at all.

😢 Corruption

Logical corruption can damage the integrity of your SD card’s file system, causing it to become unreadable when it’s connected to any device. This often occurs when an SD card is improperly removed during operation.

💥 Hardware problem

Hardware issues can arise from physical mistreatment of the SD card or host device. If the SD card has been dropped, the NAND chips that store your data may stop functioning.

🔧 Outdated or corrupted drivers

To much surprise, your computer may recognize your device, but communication may be interrupted due to a lack of usable drivers.

No matter which of the above problems resulted in your SD card not working, let’s move on to recovering data from your SD card before we look at solutions to ensure your data is safe and sound.

How to Recover Data From SD Card That Is Not Showing Up

You might be wondering, how is it possible to recover data if the SD card is not reading? Well, through the use of data recovery software. Data recovery software has the ability to read your SD card, even when it’s not visible in File Explorer. Basically, as long as it’s visible in Device Manager, you have a chance of recovering your data.

For this process, we’re going to use Disk Drill, a widely trusted data recovery tool that specializes in the recovery of data in situations like this. It uses advanced algorithms that can access your SD card and pull your data from it before it gets to a point where it’s no longer usable.

These instructions are for Windows, but this process is also possible using Disk Drill for Mac.

Follow these instructions to recover data from an SD card that’s not recognized:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Select your SD card from the list of devices in Disk Drill. Next, click Search for lost data.Scanning the SD card with Disk Drill.
  3. Click Review found items upon completion of the scan.Seeing what Disk Drill discovered.
  4. Check each file you want to recover. Make use of the preview window by double-clicking any file in the view to see the contents of the file. When you’re ready, click Recover.Recovering the marked files.
  5. Choose an output location that doesn’t reside on the SD card. Click OK.Choosing an output location.
Disk Drill can also be used for recovering deleted files from SD cards, so it’s a good application to keep around for any future data loss situations you may find yourself in. Now that all your files are safe, it’s time to fix your SD card.

How to Fix SD Card Not Detected, Not Showing, or Not Reading Error

The issue with your SD card not appearing can happen for many reasons across many devices. Therefore, we’ve broken down the next section by device so you can find a solution for your particular problem.

General Methods

First, we’ll look at some preliminary checks you should do before moving on to bigger fixes. Performing these first can potentially save you hours of needless troubleshooting.

General Method #1: Clean the SD Card and Port

Before your device can read your SD card, it needs to make physical contact. If the SD card or port you’re connecting to contains dust, lint, or other foreign objects, it could be preventing the SD card from making contact with your device.

Clean the contacts on your SD card using a lint-free cloth. Do the same for the SD card port by gently removing any obstructive substances using an earbud. Consider using isopropyl alcohol for more persistent substances that have built up over time (but be sure not to use too much and allow your device to dry before using again).

General Method #2: Disable Write Protection

On the left side of your SD card, you may find a small switch that is labeled “lock”. When this switch is slid up, it means the card is unlocked. When it’s slid down, it means it’s write-locked. This write lock, when enabled, ensures that none of the SD card’s contents are modified. It also prevents new data from being saved.

If you’re having issues with your SD card, make sure it’s in the unlocked position before using it.

Methods for Windows 10/11

Solutions for fixing an unreadable SD card on a Windows laptop or PC are well-documented. Here are a few of the most effective solutions.

Windows Method #1: Update or Reinstall the Drivers

Drivers are what allow for communication between your device and your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer. Without drivers, your computer will be unable to detect any hardware device that you connect to your computer.

These steps will show you how to update your SD card and SD card reader drivers, as well as reinstall them if they have become corrupted:

  1. Right-click Start, then select Device Manager.Opening Device Manager.
  2. Expand the Disk drives dropdown. Right-click your SD card, then select Properties. Bear in mind that your SD card may be named something else. Look for the brand of your SD card, for instance, SanDisk or Lexar.Checking the SD card properties.
  3. Click Driver, then click Update Driver.Choosing to update the drivers.
  4. Click Search automatically for drivers. If any updated drivers are found, proceed to install them. Alternatively, install locally stored drivers by clicking Browse my computer for drivers instead. If not, click Close and proceed to the next step.Searching for updated drivers.
  5. Click Uninstall Device.Uninstalling the drivers.
  6. Click Uninstall.Confirming the driver uninstall.

Once the driver is uninstalled, safely remove the SD card, then reconnect it to force the drivers to reinstall.

Windows Method #2: Assign a Drive Letter

Believe it or not, assigning a drive letter (or changing the existing one) can potentially fix the error of your SD card not showing up. This is because Windows has always relied on assigning drive letters to attached storage devices.

These steps will guide you through assigning a drive letter to your SD card, or changing the existing one:

  1. Right-click Start and select Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the volume of your SD card, then select Change Drive Letter and Paths.Opening the drive letter selection.
  3. Click Add. If there is already one there, select it then click Change.Adding a drive letter.
  4. Select a drive letter from the dropdown, then click OK.Confirming the drive letter.

Windows Method #3: Fix Using CheckDisk

CheckDisk is a command included with Windows intended to find and resolve problems relating to the file system of attached storage devices. Have you ever noticed the error checking option when viewing the properties of a drive? That function is basically CheckDisk with a graphical user interface.

These instructions will guide you through running CheckDisk on the SD card to repair any problems that may be present with the filesystem:

  1. Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin). If prompted by UAC, click Yes.Opening an elevated PowerShell console.
  2. Type chkdsk D: /f /r. Replace D: with your SD card’s drive letter. Press Enter.Running the CheckDisk command.

Windows Method #5: Format the SD Card

Formatting your SD card is always a great solution if your computer picks up the SD card in Device Manager, but is unable to access it. This probably won’t work if your computer won’t read the SD card. The process involves removing the existing file system and either replacing it with a new one or simply refreshing the existing one.

Bear in mind that formatting the SD card will delete any data that’s on it. Therefore, always make sure you recover and back up what data you can before proceeding.
  1. Right-click Start and select Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the volume of your SD card and select Format.Choosing to format the SD card.
  3. Provide a label for your SD card and make sure the file system is FAT32 (our screenshots show NTFS for demonstration purposes). Ensure Perform a quick format is selected, then click OK.Specifying the format parameters.
  4. Click OK again.

Methods for macOS

For Mac users, a lot of solutions are similar in nature to that found on Windows. Let’s look at how you can make an SD card readable again using macOS.

macOS Method #1: Check Your Finder Preferences

It may be that your SD card is recognized, but hidden. This is easily fixed. To do so, you just need to enable visibility in Finder. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Click Finder, then select Finder > Preferences.
  2. Click Sidebar, then make sure your SD card is selected. It should now appear in the sidebar of Finder.Checking your Finder preferences.

macOS Method #2: Mount the SD Card

Before your Mac can perform read and write operations on your SD card, it first needs to be mounted. Mounting typically happens automatically, similarly to Windows, which allows you to access it once it’s connected. If it hasn’t happened automatically, let’s do it manually.

These steps will demonstrate how to mount an SD card in macOS:

  1. Click the Spotlight Search icon, and search Disk Utility. Open the first result.
  2. Select your SD card from the left navigation pane, then select Mount.Mounting the SD card.

macOS Method #3: Update the SD Card Drivers

Of course, you want to ensure the SD card and SD card reader drivers are up-to-date. If they’re not, your Mac is unlikely to pick it up. This is easily done through the System Preferences section.

Follow these steps to update drivers on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen, then select System Preferences.
  2. Click Software Update. If any updates are available, click Update Now to install them.Updating the SD card drivers.

macOS Method #4: Format the SD Card

If your SD card is at least recognized by your Mac, but not accessible, you can try formatting it to repair any damage that is preventing you from accessing it.

Again, formatting the SD card will delete all of the contents currently on it.
  1. Click the Spotlight Search icon, and search Disk Utility. Open the first result.
  2. Select your SD card, then click Erase.Formatting the SD Card.
  3. Enter the label and format for the SD card, then click Erase.Confirming the SD card formatting.
  4. Click Done.

Methods for Android Phones

While the microSD card slot found in smartphones is gradually being phased out by manufacturers, many phones still continue to rely on them for expanded storage space. Therefore, Android smartphones from tech giants like Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, and OPPO, often include built-in methods for fixing a microSD card that may be acting up.

Android Method #1: Remount the SD Card

Before your device can use an SD card, it first needs to be mounted. More modern smartphones do this automatically, but older ones may need to be done manually. If your SD card is already mounted, you can try unmounting it (ejecting it) then mounting it again.

Here are some general steps for mounting an SD card, but they will differ slightly based on the device:

  1. Access your Settings.
  2. Go to Storage.
  3. Tap SD card, then select Mount. If your SD card is already mounted, try tapping the Eject icon next to it, removing it, then connecting it again before remounting.Mounting the SD sd card.

Android Method #2: Format the SD Card

There are benefits to formatting your SD card directly from your Android device, such as knowing that the correct file system will be installed. It also allows users to format their SD card if a computer isn’t available.

Formatting your SD card will delete any data that’s on it.
Again, this may differ based on the device and Android version you’re using, but here are the general steps for formatting an SD card on Android:

  1. Access your Settings.
  2. Go to Battery and device care.
  3. Tap Storage.
  4. Tap the three dots at the top right, then tap Advanced.
  5. Select your SD card, then tap Format.Formatting the SD card.

Android Method #3: Factory Reset Your Device

As a last resort, factory resetting your device may be the solution you need. If the SD card is working on other devices, but not your Android device, a factory reset will restore it to its original out-of-the-box settings, removing anything that may be preventing the SD card from being read.

Be aware that all of the data on your device will be deleted with a factory reset. This includes any locally stored photos, videos, files, contact, and messages. Back your phone up before doing so and make sure your SD card is ejected before proceeding.

To ensure you do it correctly, we recommend following the instructions listed by your device’s manufacturer to avoid accidents, as the factory reset for a Samsung Galaxy device will be different from a Huawei P series.

Methods for Cameras

SD cards offer a means of compact, high-performance storage for professional-grade cameras. Therefore, they’re bought in droves by photographers, videographers, and other creatives.

Camera Method #1: Clean the Port Contacts

Cameras are used in all sorts of environments. Over time, it’s definitely possible that dirt, dust, or other small substances could have made their way into the SD card compartment of your camera.

Be sure to clean the SD card port on your camera to ensure your SD card is making contact when it’s connected.

Camera Method #2: Format the SD Card

Professional photographers shoot a lot of media. Therefore, they use a lot of SD cards. Camera manufacturers have included built-in options to format your SD card on the fly. Make sure the contents of your SD card are backed up before proceeding.

Here are some general instructions for formatting the SD card in your camera. For specific instructions, refer to the instruction manual for your particular camera:

  1. Select Menu on your camera.
  2. Select Setup using the on-camera controls or touchscreen, then select Format.
  3. Select Format Memory Card, then select OK to confirm.

Methods for Nintendo 3DS

Handheld consoles like the Nintendo 3DS use SD cards for storage. Their small size makes them perfect for such small devices. Here are two ways you can fix an SD card not showing on your Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo 3DS Method #1: Check for Compatibility

Not all SD cards are considered compatible with Nintendo 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS systems. In order to be considered compatible, your SD card must meet the following criteria:

  • Older Nintendo 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS systems – SD cards up to 2GB in size, or SDHC cards up to 32GB in size. miniSD and microSD cards can be used with an adapter.
  • Newer Nintendo 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS systems – microSD cards up to 2GB in size, or microSDHC cards up to 32GB in size.

SDXC and microSDXC cards are not labeled as compatible with Nintendo 3DS.

Nintendo 3DS Method #2: Repair Using the Nintendo 3DS Software Repair Tool

The Nintendo 3DS Software Repair Tool can be downloaded and used to repair issues with specific problems pertaining to a downloaded game or application. It can scan the game or application for errors and repair them.

If your Nintendo 3DS is stating that it cannot read your SD card when you try to launch a game or application, consider using the Nintendo 3DS Download Software Repair Tool to try and fix the issue.

When to Contact an SD Card Recovery Service

If recovery using free SD card recovery software didn’t work out, consider using a professional SD card recovery service instead. While it’s often more expensive than data recovery software, it’s without a doubt your best chance at retrieving any data from your SD card.

When you use a good SD card recovery service, your data is being handled by a data recovery professional who makes use of industry-grade equipment in a controlled environment. They have the expertise and tools to identify the damage and recover your data. Once recovered, your data will be returned to you, as well as your drive if requested.

FAQ

Conclusion

The problem of your SD card not showing up on any of your devices is a frustrating one. However, using the solutions outlined in this article, you can get that SD card back up and running in no time.