The format is a double-edged sword. Does formatting actually delete everything on your SD card?

This article explains what happens when you format an SD card and the exact steps to recover your lost data.

What Happens When You Format an SD Card?


Formatting an SD card replaces the current file structure with a new one. Formatting also reinitializes your SD card’s file system structures. Consequently, your SD card recreates necessary file system structures like the FAT, MFT, and other metadata.

Apart from erasing data, there are two primary purposes behind formatting an SD card:



🗃️Reorganize existing file structure

Each device has its own file system. A formatted SD card ensures that your SD card is completely secure and compatible with the target device (DSLR, Android smartphone, camera, etc.)

🐞Bug fixing & performance optimization

Bugs, like read/write errors and data corruption, can impact the performance of your SD card. Formatting fixes these issues and optimizes your SD card for reuse.


Lost data from an SD card due to formatting? Regardless of why it happened, with the right tool, restoring your precious files can be simpler than you think.

Does Formatting an SD Card Delete Everything on It?

Several Reddit and Twitter threads are littered with questions like, “If I format my SD card, will it delete everything?

Well, It depends on the type of formatting you performed.


A quick format doesn’t permanently delete your data. It resurfaces new file structures over the existing ones. A quick format removes links (or pointers) to your existing files and obstructs access. Subsequently, the data still continues to linger in the shadows.

However, with prolonged use, new files begin to overwrite your “invisible but available” files. As a result, it’s critical to act promptly and recover deleted data. Here’s more information on Quick formatting and full formatting.


A full format erases all existing files and folders on your SD card. Additionally, a full format performs a scan to identify bad sectors and fixes them on the go. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to recover your SD card data after a full format.


Quick Formatting

Full Formatting

Permanently erases data

Identifies and fixes bad sectors

Data retrieval


Memory cards can sometimes resist formatting due to issues like corrupted sectors or software glitches. Regardless of the cause, there are multiple solutions to explore when your card isn’t cooperating.

The next section features a step-by-step tutorial to recover data from a quick formatted SD card.

How to Protect or Get Back SD Card Data?

Data recovery applications pave the way for a straightforward data recovery sequence.

Our editorial team highly recommends Disk Drill. This tool boasts a clean and user-friendly UI, making it an ideal choice for beginners. If you’ve lost data from a formatted SD card, Disk Drill is your go-to ally. Even if you’re grappling with a corrupted SD card that needs formatting, Disk Drill won’t let you down. Its byte-to-byte feature allows you to create an exact “carbon copy” of your entire SD card.

On the other hand, if you are looking to intentionally format an SD card, the byte-to-byte feature protects data by performing a complete backup.

Disk Drill is a storage-agnostic platform, which means that the tool supports data recovery from various SD card devices like microSD, SDHC, SDXC, etc. Disk Drill also facilitates data recovery from corrupted and RAW file systems.

Here’s how you can use Disk Drill to recover data from your formatted SD card:

  1. Download, install, and launch Disk Drill on your PC.Install disk drill for Windows
  2. Connect the formatted SD card to your PC using an external or built-in card reader.
  3. Select the formatted SD card and click on Search for lost data.Select formatted SD card in Disk Drill
  4. Wait for the scan to terminate, and then click Review found items.Review found items on formatted SD card
  5. Refine the SD card search results by leveraging filters. Type a particular file type into the text field (in the top right corner) and hit Enter. For this tutorial, I attempted to find a .mp4 deleted music video.Find and preview music video on SD card
  6. Leverage the preview feature by clicking on the eye icon that appears upon hovering over any file on your SD card. The preview pane displays useful attributes like the file path, file name, etc.
  7. Select the files you would like to retrieve from the formatted SD card, and click Recover.Select files for recover and click Recover button
  8. Specify a destination for saving your recovered data, and click Next. Avoid selecting the formatted SD card.Choose recovery destination folder for files

To learn more about the tool, check out our Disk Drill review. If you’re worried about Disk Drill’s authenticity, check out our comprehensive safety review.


It’s good to format an SD card. Formatting an SD card resets its inherent partition tables and optimizes performance. A formatted SD card is a healthy SD card. Subsequently, you are less likely to lose data from a healthy SD card. However, before executing a format, always ensure to take backups.

Deleting files simply removes references to your SD card data, clearing space for new data. Formatting restructures your SD card’s file system and erases all data. Consequently, data recovery isn’t all that straightforward. If you want to erase all data and prevent easy data recovery, formatting is your go-to over simple file deletion.

Here’s how you can recover SD card data without formatting.

Yes, you can recover data If you perform a quick format. Here’s how you can use data recovery software to recover data:

  1. Download and install data recovery software.
  2. Connect your formatted SD card to the computer.
  3. Select your SD card and click Search for Lost Data to initiate the scan.
  4. Preview the files you want to recover.
  5. Choose a secure recovery location and click “Recover”.


Many store critical information on SD cards. At the end of the day, we are all susceptible to committing accidents like an unintentional format.

SD card recovery software offers a potent solution for recovering data from a formatted SD card. However, time is of the essence. You must act promptly to maximize the chances of a successful SD card data recovery.

Author • 53 articles

Joshua is a content curator for Handy Recovery. His expertise involves taking intricate IT concepts and breaking them down into super easy to understand chunks. He’s been wielding the writing sword for quite some time now - 3 years to be precise. Digital marketing, data recovery, and anything “techy” are Joshua’s niches.

Andrey Vasilyev
Editor • 0 articles

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.