How to fix/recover corrupted and unreadable SD memory card and recover lost data?

By Katrina | Posted to Data Recovery, updated on Aug 7th, 2019 |

Summary: If your SD card became unreadable, inaccessible, corrupted or damaged, here you will learn how to repair the corrupted SD memory card. You can also download free SD card data recovery software like iBoysoft Data Recovery to recover lost data from the corrupted SD card.

SD cards, including micro SD cards, are widely used in digital cameras, computers, and mobile phones like Android phones to store files. However, your SD card could turn to be unreadable, corrupted or inaccessible without any reason you already know. Moreover, mistaken formatting will also lead to data loss on SD cards. When confronted with such issues, you probably won't sit back and let go of your important files and documents. In this article, we will show you ways to repair the corrupted, unreadable or damaged SD cards, and also recover lost data from corrupted SD cards effectively.

Let's dive into details.

Table of contents
1. Why does an SD card become corrupted or unreadable?
2. How to fix/repair a corrupted or unreadable SD memory card on Windows 10/8/7?
3. How to recover data from corrupted SD cards?
4. How to avoid SD card corruption in future?

Why does an SD memory card become corrupted or unreadable?

Generally speaking, SD card corruption usually results from improper operation by human. It could be:

  • Turning off the camera before the photos are completely written to the SD card;
  • Removing the SD card from a camera or card reader while the writing process is still on, or the image file or folder is still open;
  • Frequently insert and pull out the same SD card on different cameras;
  • Continually shooting and deleting images when the SD card is already full;
  • Sudden interruptions while formatting SD cards, etc.

Besides, logical errors such as the corruption of file system, bad sectors, or virus attacks may also make your SD card unreadable. Usually, a corrupted SD card will prevent you from opening and viewing the files on it. Here comes the question: is it possible for you to fix the corrupted SD card without data loss? Definitely yes.

How to fix/repair a corrupted and unreadable SD memory card?

When an SD memory card becomes corrupted and unreadable, all contents stored on it become inaccessible. For example, you may find that your SD card is not showing pictures on the camera or computer. If you try to open the corrupted or unreadable SD memory card via Windows computers, you may receive certain error messages like 'File or directory is corrupted and unreadable'. If you are using the Mac computers, you may receive the error message: "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer so that SD card is not readable on Mac. Let's take a look at this example.

Hi All, we took tons of pictures on our personal point and shoot camera at my wedding. While taking the pictures, the immediate preview was available and there were never any error messages on the camera. However, none of our wedding pictures are available on the SD card anymore now. Are my photos gone forever? I've already tried Zero Assumption and it doesn't return any more pictures than what I can already see. Is there any other way I can fix this corrupted SD card and recover my pictures from this SD card?

-- From Tom's Hardware Forums

If you find yourself faced with similar issues, the very first thing you should do is to stop using the corrupted SD card immediately. Do not format it directly, or you may lose data forever. Then, you can repair your SD card with these ready-to-use solutions one by one.

Solution 1:Try a different card reader or device

Sometimes, the SD card showing as unreadable or inaccessible isn't the SD card's bad. Instead, it could be the incompatibility issue between the SD card and the card reader/adapter or the device you inserted it in. So, just connect it to a different one and check.

Solution 2:Change the drive letter of the unreadable SD card

Sometimes, your computer may failed to assign a drive letter to the storage device, such as the SD card, thus you'll be unable to access files on it. To solve this problem, you only need to assign a new drive letter to the SD card.

Step 1: Go to Disk Management.

Step 2: Find the SD card and right click on it.

Step 3: Choose "Change Drive Letter and Paths..." from the context menu.

Change drive letter of the SD memory card

Step 4: Click "Change..." and select a letter from the list.

Change drive letter of the SD memory card

Then, you can check if the SD card is readable now.

Solution 3:Repair corrupted/unreadable SD memory cards with CHKDSK command

CHKDSK is a built-in Windows utility that can check the integrity of your disk and can fix various file system errors, such as: bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files, directory errors, etc. Therefore, you can try to repair corrupted SD card by CHKDSK command, especially when your SD card becomes unreadable due to file system corruption. If this process is successful, you will regain access to the SD memory card as well as to all your files.

Note: If the file system of the SD card is corrupted, you may also get error messages like "You need to format this disk before you can use it", or when checking the drive info in File Explorer, you may see RAW showing in the File System section. In that case, you can also fix the RAW SD card using CHKDSK or by converting RAW to NTFS/FAT32/exFAT as introduced later.

Step 1: Plug your corrupted/unreadable SD memory card into your computer with a card reader.

Step 2: Go to the Start menu of your Windows computer, type in "cmd" in the search bar, and press Enter.

Step 3: Right click "cmd.exe" and choose "Run as administrator".

Step 4: Type in "chkdsk volume: /f" in the command prompt, where "volume" is the drive letter of your SD card. (For example, if the drive letter of your SD card is "G", then you need to type in "chkdsk G: /f".)

When you see "Windows has made corrections to the file system" in the command window after several minutes, you have successfully fixed corrupted and unreadable SD memory card via chkdsk /f command.

Solution 4:Fix corrupted SD memory card by reformatting

If your efforts to repair the corrupted/unreadable SD memory card using CMD were unsuccessful, or your SD card was RAW and you received the error message "CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives", this likely means that the file system of your SD card is severely corrupted beyond the reparation scope of CHKDSK. Thus, the only solution for fixing this issue is to reformat the corrupted or unreadable SD memory card, such as reformating to FAT32/exFAT. By reformatting, the corrupted SD card will be assigned a new file system and work again as good as new.

Warning: Reformatting will erase all data you have stored on the corrupted SD card. Because of this, you should only resort to this solution as a last resort when you have no important data stored on this SD card, or if you have a backup copy instead. Otherwise, you will first need to recover lost data with iBoysoft Data Recovery by following the tutorial in the next section.

If you have already formatted the SD card, don't worry, iBoysoft Data Recovery can still help you recover data from the formatted SD cards.

Step 1: Connect the corrupted SD card to your Windows computer.

Step 2: Right-click on "This PC" or "My computer" on the desktop and choose Manage.

Step 3: Choose "Disk Management" in the left sidebar when you enter into "Computer Management".

Step 4: Locate your SD card by the disk information and right-click on it.

Step 5: Choose "Format" and then you can select the file system and set the cluster size in the wizard.

Step 6: Click "OK" to finish reformatting.

Solution 5: Check SD card warranty period

When your SD card is corrupted, it is worth checking to see if the warranty of your corrupted SD memory is still valid or not. If so, providing you don't have any important files stored on the SD card, it may be easier to simply seek a refund or replace the card with a brand-new one.

Solution 6: Ask the professional for help

If your corrupted SD card is not showing up in Mac Disk Utility or Windows Disk Management, please ask the professional for help.

How to recover data from corrupted SD cards?

For most people, the data stored on their corrupted SD card matters more than the card itself. Because of this, many users are looking for reliable solutions to fix SD card corruption errors without formatting. When you don't have a backup copy of the important files on the unreadable SD card, you can still recover your data with SD card data recovery software.

iBoysoft Data Recovery is a perfect example of a tried and tested SD card data recovery tool. It is particularly useful when dealing with deleted/lost data recovery issues affecting different memory cards, including: SD memory cards, memory sticks, micro SD cards, as well as hard drives and USB flash drives. This software is fully compatible with Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2019/2016/2012/2008/2003, where you can recover emails, photos, music, audio, and other types of files with ease.

How to recover data from corrupted/damaged SD memory cards?

Infographic tutorial: How to recover data from corrupted SD cards

Recover data from corrupted/unreadable SD memory cards

Text tutorial: How to recover data from corrupted SD cards?

Step 1: Download and install iBoysoft Data Recovery on your computer.

Step 2: Connect the unreadable SD memory card to the computer with a card reader.

Step 3: Launch iBoysoft Data Recovery and select the corrupted/unreadable SD memory card in the interface.

Recover data from corrupted/unreadable SD memory card with iBoysoft Data Recovery

Step 4: Click "Next" to search for lost files on the corrupted/unreadable SD memory card.

Step 5: Double-click the found files to preview and then click "Recover" to get them back.

How to avoid SD card corruption in future?

As SD cards are so frequently used in our daily life, it's worthy mentioning the tips to prevent SD card corruption again in future.

First, you should always eject an SD card on computer by Safe Removal.

Second, use different SD cards on different devices.

Third, handle it gently.

If unfortunately your SD memory card got corrupted and there were important files on it, such as wedding photos, toddlers videos, work files, etc., you can follow the tutorial on this page to recover lost photos from SD cards with iBoysoft Data Recovery.

Finally, the most economical and fool-proof method to avoid data loss is to back up your files regularly.

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Katrina is a data recovery expert @iBoysoft who loves to help readers solve various data recovery problems.

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