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?
Well, the answer to that question depends on a number of factors. In this article, we’re going to take a very close look at the reasons why your SD card is not showing up on your Windows PC, as well as how you can fix it.
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- 🔧 Outdated or corrupted drivers: To much surprise, your computer may recognize your device, but communication may be interrupted due to a lack of usable drivers.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 on Windows
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:
- Download and install Disk Drill.
- Select your SD card from the list of devices in Disk Drill. Next, click Search for lost data.
- Click Review found items upon completion of the scan.
- 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.
- Choose an output location that doesn’t reside on the SD card. Click OK.
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 or Not Showing Up on Windows
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 the most efficient solutions so you can identify and fix your particular problem.
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.
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).
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.
Method 3. 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:
- Right-click Start, then select Device Manager.
- 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.
- Click Driver, then click Update Driver.
- 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.
- Click Uninstall Device.
- Click Uninstall.
Once the driver is uninstalled, safely remove the SD card, then reconnect it to force the drivers to reinstall.
Method 4. 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:
- Right-click Start and select Disk Management.
- Right-click the volume of your SD card, then select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Click Add. If there is already one there, select it then click Change.
- Select a drive letter from the dropdown, then click OK.
Method 5. 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:
- Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin). If prompted by UAC, click Yes.
- Type chkdsk D: /f /r. Replace D: with your SD card’s drive letter. Press Enter.
Method 6. 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.
- Right-click Start and select Disk Management.
- Right-click the volume of your SD card and select Format.
- 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.
- Click OK again.
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.
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.
Jordan Jamieson-Mane is a freelance content writer with a passionate interest in technology. Starting from a young age, this interest gradually turned into a career, with Jordan studying in the field of IT and moving into a technical role right out of tertiary education. After gaining first-hand experience in the field, he started his journey as a freelance content writer. As a tech enthusiast, his interests within the realm of technology include hardware, networking, smart technology, and consumer electronics.
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor for Handy Recovery. Andrey is a software engineer expert with extensive expertise in data recovery, computer forensics, and data litigation. Andrey brings over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair to the team.