How to convert/format SD card to APFS & recover lost data from APFS SD card?

By Juno | Posted to Data Recovery, updated on May 29th, 2019 |

Summary: This post includes everything about APFS SD cards. You will learn about what is the difference between APFS and HFS+ and tutorial to convert/format your SD card to APFS. If unfortunately you delete/lose important data from the APFS SD card, no worries! You are able to get lost data back with the best APFS data recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

With the introduction of macOS High Sierra 10.13, people gradually know the new Apple File System. Compare with the previous Mac OS Extended (HFS+), APFS has lots of advanced features and can offer us a better experience. So there are times that you want to apply it on different storage devices, such as SD cards, external hard drives, Macintosh HDs, USB drives, etc. Maybe you have converted your SD card to APFS, but you don't like it and wonder how to convert APFS to HFS+. Perhaps, you have accidentally deleted files from an APFS SD card or mistakenly formatted the card. If you are fed up with one of the problems above, don't panic! You will get answers in this passage.

APFS SD card

This article will focus on the following contents:
1. What is the APFS (Apple File System)?
2. APFS vs Mac OS Extended (HFS+), which one is better?
3. How to convert/format an SD card to APFS?
4. How to recover deleted/lost data from APFS SD cards?
5. Data loss scenarios on APFS SD card
6. Effective tips to prevent SD cards corruption

What is the APFS (Apple File System)?

APFS, the short form for Apple File System, is a new, modern file storage system for macOS, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and other Apple devices. It was introduced at WWDC 2016 with a developer preview of macOS Sierra. Once macOS High Sierra was released, Apple made APFS available for many Apple devices. Until Apple revealed macOS Mojave in WWDC 2018, APFS finally supported fusion drives as well as hard drives. Although APFS is being targeted as a universal file system for any storage device, it is optimized for the physical characteristics unique to flash-based storage, such as SSDs (solid-state-drives), flash drives, USB thumb drives, etc. It offers some fast speed and new features, including cloning, snapshots, space sharing, fast directory sizing and more.

If you use Disk Utility to partition your new hard drive, you will be presented with 4 choices of APFS, including APFS, APFS (Encrypted), APFS (Case-sensitive), APFS (Case-sensitive, Encrypted). What does all this mean? Which should you choose? Basically, there are only three main types: APFS, APFS encrypted, APFS case sensitive.

  • APFS: Uses the APFS format.
  • APFS (encrypted): Uses APFS format and encrypts the volume. By default, macOS is non-encrypted. so if you are concerned about the privacy of your files and user data, you should absolutely use this feature. It's just like turning on FileVault, though being a little bit different.
  • APFS (Case-sensitive): Uses the APFS format and is case-sensitive to file and folder names. The default for macOS does recognize filename.txt, Filename.txt and filename.TXT as the same one. When you turn this feature on, these three files are different.

APFS vs Mac OS Extended (HFS+), which one is better?

It's no doubt that APFS is better than the old Mac OS Extended (also known as HFS+). As the first new file system released by Apple in almost 30 years, APFS addresses the shortcomings of HFS+ and includes new features to provide better support for all Apple products.


  1. APFS has stronger encryption than HFS+. APFS is developed with encryption at its core, which encrypts your data at the file system level. In other words, you can encrypt the whole disk, a single volume, and every file individually with multiple keys. However, HFS+ has no native support for encryption. If you want to secure your data, you can enable FileVault feature. But this feature only enables you to encrypt volume data at the full disk level. That means you can only use the same key for encrypting the entire drive and all data is decryptable when the system runs. Therefore, a hacker can easily access to your sensitive data at run-time.
  2. APFS helps you store data more efficiently. In APFS, every physical disk can be divided into several containers and each container can have multiple volumes inside. All of those volumes in a container share the same pool of free space. Each volume uses only part of the overall container, so the available space is the total size of the container, minus the size of all volumes in the container. While in HFS+, a disk is partitioned into one or more volumes, but volumes have fixed sizes and don't share free space.

Even so, HFS+, as the oldest file system used for decades, can be supported on all versions of Mac OS X and macOS versions. But APFS can only work on macOS High Sierra and later. Moreover, HFS+is the best for mechanical drives and fusion drives. But APFS is the best for SSDs and flash drives. So if you've got a mechanical hard drive and you intend to use it on older Macs, you should absolutely format the drive with Mac OS Extended (HFS+). Otherwise, APFS is better.

How to convert/format SD cards to APFS?

When you upgrade to macOS High Sierra/Mojave/Catalina on the Mac volume of an SSD or other flash-based storage devices, that volume will be automatically converted to APFS. While if you install macOS High Sierra/Mojave/Catalina on a fusion drive or traditional hard disk drive, the conversion is entirely optional. Unfortunately, there is no way to convert an SD card to APFS, you can only format the card if want to. Here are two methods to format your SD card to APFS.

Note: When you format a hard drive, it will erase all the content on your drive. So make sure you are erasing the proper disk. If you have important data on the card, please back up them first.

Erase or format the SD card to APFS in Disk Utility

Disk Utility is a multi-purpose, easy-to-use tool included with the Mac operating system. It can be used to erase, format, repair, and partition hard drives and SSDs, as well as create disk images. Formatting a disk using Disk Utility is the easiest method. Simply follow the steps below:

Step 1: Open Finder and go to "Applications > Utilities" and double-click on Disk Utility.

Step 2: Click the "View" menu at the upper left menu and choose "Show All Devices".

Show all device in Disk Utility

Step 2: Find the SD card that you want to convert/format to APFS and select it. Click "Erase" at the top of the window.

Step 3: Select "GUID Partition Map" at Scheme, then complete name and choose the format (APFS).

Step 4: Once you have everything selected, simply click "Erase" and wait until the process finishes.

Format SD card to APFS in Disk Utility

Erase or format the SD card to APFS with Terminal

If Disk Utility fails to erase or format the SD card, things will be more complicated. You have to force to erase the card with Terminal. This method is also suitable for an experienced user who is fond of using Terminal to do work on their Mac. Follow the steps below to format the SD card:

Step 1: Go to "Applications > Utilities > Terminal".

Step 2: Enter the following command into Terminal: diskutil list

Step 2: You will get a list of all your connected drives to your Mac. What you need to note down is the specific identifier for the SD card you want to format. Once you find the proper drive to erase, just copy the identifier so you can use it for the next command.

Step 3: Type in the following command into Terminal: diskutil eraseDisk APFS diskname diskidentifier. Replace "diskname" to the new name you want to for the SD card. And change "diskidentifier" to the disk identifier of your card.

Step 4: Press Enter and your SD card should be erased and formatted completely.

Forgot to back up important files from your APFS SD card? Mistakenly formatted a disk? Or accidentally deleted some precious photos from the card? You may wonder how to get lost data back. Go ahead to learn about it.

How to recover deleted/lost data from APFS SD cards?

When losing files on an APFS SD card, the easiest way to get lost data back is using a reliable Mac data recovery software. iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is one of a few data recovery software that supports to recover lost data from APFS SD cards.

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is a professional Mac data recovery software that can recover deleted recently deleted files, recover deleted photos, emails, videos, word documents and much more. It also recovers lost files from formatted, unmountable, unreadable, corrupted, encrypted APFS SD cards, etc.

Aside from that, iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can also recover lost data from APFS hard drive, recover lost data from APFS external hard drive, recover lost data from APFS USB flash drive, recover lost data from APFS pen drive, recover lost data from FAT32 drives, exFAT drives, HFS+ drives, no matter the drives are formatted, unmountable, corrupted or unreadable.

Best APFS Data Recovery Software for SD Card

  • Recover deleted or lost videos/photos from SD card which used in mobile phone, camera and other devices.
  • Recover lost data due to accidental deletion, formatted card, virus attacked, and devices system crashed.
  • Supported file systems: documents, videos, music files, emails, photos, ect.
  • Supported mac OS: macOS Catalina, macOS Mojave and macOS High Sierra.

Read-only & risk-free

Video tutorial: How to recover lost data from APFS SD cards?

Tutorial to recover lost data from APFS SD card with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

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

Step 2: Connect your APFS SD card to Mac with a card reader and then launch iBoysoft Data Recovery.

Step 3: Select the APFS SD card where you have lost files and click "Next" to search for all lost files on the drive.

APFS SD card data recovery software

Step 4: Preview the listed files, choose those you want, and click "Recover" button to get them back.

APFS SD card data recovery software

Step 5: Have a check to ensure you have got lost files back.

Data loss scenarios on APFS SD card

APFS is heralded as one of the biggest Mac updates as it comes with many advanced features. But the chance of data loss still can be ignored in this file system. Here are some common data loss scenarios on APFS SD cards.

  • Accidental deletion of files
  • unintentional formatting of the drive
  • Power failures
  • Physical damage of the SD card
  • Black or white screen of death
  • Software failure
  • Operating system upgrade failure
  • Corrupt file system
  • Virus infection

When you are fed up with data loss scenarios above, you should stop using the SD card. As your computer continues to write new files to your SD card, the chances of it overwriting the lost files increases. The best solution is to download iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery on your computer and perform data recovery from SD card immediately.

Effective tips to prevent SD cards corruption

As SD cards are frequently used in various multimedia devices for storing data, they can be prone to corruption and their data will tend to get compromised as well. The following are several useful tips to protect your SD card against damage.

  • When importing photos from the SD card on your Mac, be sure to safely eject the SD card from the device. On Mac, you should right-click the SD card on the desktop or from the left sidebar in finder. Choose "Eject" and plug it out from the USB port.
  • Never use the card if the device battery is low. When the battery power of the device is insufficient, if you take new pictures, it may cause damage to the card.
  • Check the card when getting any errors. If you get the error: "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer" or SD not working/recognized issue, what you should do is to avoid using the card and run First Aid in Disk Utility to repair minor problems.
  • Run anti-virus software on your SD card regularly. Virus and malware can destroy the system of the device. So never store any infected data on your card and use anti-virus software routinely.
  • Don't use or placing the memory card in high temperature and high humidity environment. This will result in physical damage to your SD card.


Juno is a technical expert @iBoysoft. She has over 5-year experience in data recovery/repair technology. She loves to write data recovery tips and tutorials.