How to Fix SD Card not Working/Recognized on Mac? (Complete guide)

By Katrina | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on April 26th, 2020 |

Summary: Is your SD card not working on Mac? Mac computer won't recognize or read the SD card? In this article, we will walk you through 6 solutions to help you open your SD cards and regain access to the files on Mac. To recover lost data from the unrecognized SD card, you can download iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery for free trial.

SD cards are the most popular type of storage media widely used in a variety of handheld devices, including digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets. Usually, SD cards are used to store photos, videos, music files, and more.

However, accidents happen at any time. When your SD card is not working properly, data on the SD card will not be recognized or read by Mac. And you can't open and access the SD card.

As you see the SD card is not readable by your MacBook Pro, those are possible questions in your mind. Why is Mac computer not reading the SD card and the SD card is not working? How do I get my Mac to recognize my SD card? How to do SD card data recovery? This passage is a complete guide to fix SD card not working or recognized issue,and to recover lost data from SD cards for free.

How to fix SD card not working/recognized on Mac

Table of contents
1. What is the meaning of SD?
2. How to use SD card on Mac and how to open it?
3. Why is my SD card not reading/working on Mac?
4. How do I get my Mac to recognize my SD card?
5. How to prevent SD card corruption?
6. How to fix pictures/videos disappear in SD card on Mac??
7. Conclusion

What is the meaning of SD?

SD cards (Secure Digital Card) are ultra-small flash memory cards that enable you to stores additional amounts of information. Nowadays, SD cards have been preferred by many users in the contemporary era due to its merits. Let's have a look:

What are SD cards

On the one hand, SD cards are so small in size and light in weight that you can take with them all around.

On the other hand, SD cards only require very little power, so it's a good option for the battery-supported device. That is to say, when you use an SD card on your smartphone or computer, it will not waste a lot of power.

Besides, SD cards use non-volatile memory which keeps information stable on the card. It means that data on the SD card isn't threatened by power failure and needn't be refreshed regularly.

Furthermore, SD cards can be used in a variety of small devices, such as digital camcorders, digital cameras, handheld computers, audio players and mobile phones. In other words, these cards allow you to access and move your files from one place to another with ease.

How to use SD cards on Mac and open SD cards on Mac?

Apple dropped the SD card slot in the MacBook Pro starting with 2016 models. While the MacBook Air and 2015 and later MacBook never included an SD slot.

If your Mac comes with a built-in SD card slot, you can insert a compatible SD card, avoiding using cards that have a thickness greater than 2.1mm. When inserting the card, you should make sure that the metal contacts face down and point toward the computer. Then your computer will recognize the SD card inserted into the card slot as a USB storage device. You can mount, read, and write to the SD card just like you can with any other external USB storage device.

But if your Mac doesn't have an SD card slot, you need to buy an SD card adapter. Insert the micro SD card into the slot face up with the gold pins going first.

How to open an SD card on Mac? Click the Finder app, you will see your SD card listed in the left pane and then view the contents of the SD card in the right pane.

After you finish your work on the SD card, you can remove it properly. But before that, you need to make sure that all data transfer to SD media is completed. Then the SD card will work correctly next time. To eject the card, drag its icon on the desktop to the Trash. After the icon disappears from your desktop, you are safe to remove the card from the slot.

You should avoid removing an SD card while your Mac is sleeping. It could lead to data loss. Always wake your computer, save your work, and then safely eject the SD card.

My SD card is not working on my Mac computer, how to fix?

However, there are times when you plug SD card into Mac computer, the SD card won't show up on Mac. Or what's worse, the SD card won't work on your Mac. You must have experienced a similar situation. Don't be panicked, as you are not the only person, many Mac users have met this problem:

I connected my SD card to transfer some necessary files and folders, but my card is not recognized by MacBook Pro. I thought to check my card properly and I connected that SD memory card to my friend's machine but again card didn't get recognized on his Mac machine. Maybe there is a problem with my SD card? Any solution to resolve the issue?

Wondering why the SD card is not recognized by Mac? Want to know how to fix this issue? Go on, please.

Why is my SD card not working on Mac?

SD cards are prone to be damaged. Besides, accidental formatting and corruption could even lead to severe data loss. Here are 7 common reasons why an SD card isn't working on Mac.

  • The USB port is not working or damaged.
  • The SD card reader is not working.
  • The SD card is formatted incorrectly (the file system is not compatible with macOS)
  • The SD card driver is outdated.
  • The SD card is corrupted logically.
  • There are bad sectors in this SD card.
  • The SD card is physically damaged.

In a word, you'll need to determine whether your SD card's error is due to a logical problem or a physical one. For the former, you can try to fix it by yourself, otherwise, you have to ask for help from a trained expert.

How to figure it out:

Go to Finder > Applications > Disk Utility, and launch it. If you can see your SD card on the left sidebar, that means the SD card is healthy physically.

In this case, you can try the following solutions one by one to make it work again.

How do I get my Mac to recognize my SD card?

As below, we have listed some feasible solutions to fix SD card not working/reading on Mac. You don't have to try them all, just work your way down the list until you find the one that works for you:

Solution 1: Check if the SD card reader is working

To access an SD card, you usually need a card reader. When your SD card won't work on Mac, the first thing to check is whether the card reader is working or not. It doesn't matter that you access the SD card by the built-in slot on your MacBook or a third-party one. Simply follow these steps to check if the SD card reader is recognized or not.

Step 1: Simply click Apple Menu > About This Mac > System Report.

Step 2: Find Card Reader under the Hardware list.

check if the SD card reader is working or not

Step 3: If the card reader works, you can see its Vendor ID, Serial Number, and some other product information. When your SD card is inserted, it should also be listed at the right with specifications.

If unfortunately, the card reader is not recognized, it might be an SD card hardware issue. For a broken slot built-in your MacBook, you need to send it to a local Apple store for repair service. Instead, for a malfunctioned external SD card reader, you can simply replace it with a new one.

Solution 2: Check for the connection issue

If the card reader is working just fine, then you should check the connections. First of all, please make sure you insert your SD card properly. (The metal contacts must face down and point toward your Mac). Secondly, you can test your SD card on a different card reader. If you can access the SD card then, it should be the card reader that has a problem.

Solution 3: Check if the SD card is locked

Another case for SD card not working on Mac is that the SD memory card is locked. When you try to write content to the locked card, you cannot modify the files on the locked SD card. To work on the SD card again, you need to safely eject the card and adjust the lock slider tab on the card to unlock the card. Then you can access the SD card after you reinsert it to the slot.

check if the SD card is write-protected

Solution 4: Insert your SD card in different devices

Another very effective strategy that you can implement is to insert the SD card in different devices, such as phones, digital cameras, or other computers. For instance, you can remove the SD card from your Mac and insert it into your Android phone. If your SD card is still not detected or working on a phone, the card might be damaged or you need to try the following solutions.

Solution 5: Restart your computer

Whether the issue is related to networking, graphics, slow performance, or faulty programs, a simple reboot can fix a computer issue 80-90% of the time. It also works when external drives are not recognized by macOS.

When your SD card is not reading on Mac, you can try to remove the SD card and then switch off the Mac. Leave it for a few minutes, turn it back on, and try again.

Solution 6: Set to show SD card on the desktop

On Mac, you can choose to show connected items on the desktop, including hard disks, external disks, connected servers. Therefore, if you don't set the preference to show your SD card on the desktop, it won't appear on Mac. Easy to understand, huh? Let's see how to show SD cards on the desktop?

Step 1: Go to Finder > Preferences > General, make sure the "External disks" option is ticked. This will make the SD card show up on the Desktop.

Step 2: Select the Sidebar tab on the top, make sure the External disks option under Locations is also ticked.

Show SD card on the desktop

Solution 7: Reset NVRAM/PRAM

NVRAM/PRAM is a chip in Intel-based Macs used to remember the setting for your computer, including sound volume, display resolution, startup disk selection, time zone, peripheral devices and more. It's worth resetting whenever you find your computer's hardware acting in unexpected ways.

To reset NVRAM, you should shut down your Mac, then turn it on and immediately press and hold Option + Command + P + R. Keep holding down those keys for about 20 seconds. Then release the keys and allow your Mac to continue starting normally.

Solution 8: Mount SD card in Disk Utility

After resetting NVRAM/PRAM, your SD card is still not recognized on Mac. You should go to Disk Utility again and see whether the SD card is listed. If you can see your SD card in Disk Utility, but the SD card is greyed out, that means the SD card is not mounting. Simply select the Mount option to see if the SD card will be mounted in Finder and desktop.

Solution 9: Update drivers on Mac

If the issue still exists, you can check whether the drivers on your Mac is renewed. If your Mac drivers are outdated, your SD card or other external hard drives will not be recognized by your Mac. Here are steps to update drives on Mac:

1. If you have upgraded to macOS Mojave, you should choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click Software Update to check for updates. If any updates are available, click Update Now to install them.

2. If you are using earlier macOS versions, just launch the Mac App Store, click the Update tab on the top and then choose the "Update All".

Update drivers on Mac

Solution 10: Repair corrupted SD card via First Aid

Still, have no luck to get your Mac to read the SD card? The SD card may be corrupted and needs to be repaired. All portable hard drives have a limited life span, as wear and tear could bring bad sectors on the disk. Thankfully, macOS has a built-in repair tool - First Aid, which allows you to fix corrupted SD card on Mac.

Step 1: Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 2: Select the corrupted SD card and click "First Aid" on the top.

Step 3: Wait until the reparation process finished.

Run First Aid to repair SD card

Solution 11: Recover lost data and format the unmountable SD card

If unfortunately, you receive the error message: "Disk Utility can't repair this disk. Back up as many of your files as possible, reformat the disk, and restore your backed-up files", the file system of your SD card is seriously damaged and you need to reformat it. But reformatting will erase all data on the SD card, so please restore important data from corrupted SD cards. Here recommend free SD card data recovery software for Mac - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery

iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery is the best free SD card data recovery software for Mac that supports recovering deleted photos, videos music files from SD cards in digital cameras, Android phones or iPhone. If your SD card is not mounting, not working or not reading, you can try this powerful program to get the lost data back.

It is designed to recover recently deleted files from different types of SD cards, including SDHC, SDXC, MicroSD, CompactFlash cards, XD cards, Sony Memory Sticks, MMC Cards, and any other card your Mac can read. iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery requires macOS 10.7 and newer to run, including macOS 10.15 Catalina.

More importantly, this tool never writes to your SD memory card during the recovery process, so it's really safe to use. Furthermore, iBoysoft Data Recovery can help you recover lost data from SD cards of different file systems be it APFS, HFS+, HFSX, FAT32, exFAT drives.

Video tutorial: How to recover lost data from SD cards for free

Step 1: Recover lost data from the unrecognized SD card with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

1. Download and install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

2. Launch this program. Select the corrupted SD card and click "Scan". The program will start scanning this SD card for recoverable files.

Recover lost data from corrupted SD cards on Mac

3. After the scanning process finishes, you can click the found files and preview.

4. Choose what you want to get back and click "Recover".

Recover lost data from corrupted SD cards on Mac

Step 2: Format the SD card on Mac

1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

2. Select the corrupted SD card and click "Erase" on the top.

3. Complete the related information (name, format, scheme), then click Erase.

Format SD card on Mac

4. Wait for the process until it completes.

Solution 12: Send SD card to an expert for reparation

If your SD card can't be seen in Disk Utility at all after all measures have been tried, it means the card has some hardware problem that Mac machine can't detect it. In this situation, you have no choice but to send the card to an expert for reparation or replace it with a new one.

How to prevent SD card corruption?

SD cards are easy to be damaged, but using them in the right way, corruption can be avoided to some extent. Read on for 7 effective tips to prevent SD memory card corruption:

  1. Format the new SD card as soon as you get it. When you buy an SD card, you should format it on the device and make sure it is compatible with the device system.
  2. Always safely eject the card from the device. On Mac, click on the Finder icon on the Dock. Locate the SD card from the left sidebar and click on the Eject icon next to the name of the SD card. As an alternative, you can drag the device to the Trash on the desktop to eject it. More specifically, you should avoid removing the SD card from the device when it is still accessed, such as transferring data or reading data, etc.
  3. Keep some space left on the SD card. Keep in mind that you should never run out of the space of your SD card.
  4. Turn off the device before removing the card. If you want to remove your SD card from a digital camera or mobile phone, you should ensure the device is entirely turned off. Otherwise, the SD card can easily be corrupted.
  5. Properly store your SD card in a safe place. Store the SD card in dry, cool space since dirt, moisture, and other factors could damage them.
  6. Stop using the card when getting any errors. As soon as you receive any errors when trying to access the SD card, such as “the disk you inserted is not readable by this computer”, you’d better stop all operations at once in case further damage will be made to the SD card.
  7. Install antivirus software and run it regularly. It’s important to scan an SD card for viruses and running antivirus software to remove any malware on your computer. In this way, you can prevent malware and virus from damaging your SD card.

Bonus: How to fix pictures/videos disappear in SD cards on Mac?

Picture this scene: you had recently taken a few pictures on your new Nikon DSLR digital camera. When you connected the SD card to your MacBook to edit some photos or videos, you were in a shock about pictures or videos disappeared in SD card. You plugged out the SD memory card from the computer and insert it again but are still unable to view any files.

Why are pictures on SD card not showing up on Mac? Well, the reasons for the occurrence of this issue include virus infection, hidden files, corrupt card, bad card reader, etc.

Now, let's check out some feasible solutions to this issue:

Fix 1: Enable hidden files on your SD card

Sometimes, files on your memory card will be hidden by default on Mac computer to prevent novice users from accidentally trashing important docs. Don't worry, there are a few ways to show hidden files on Mac:

1. Show hidden files with a keyboard shortcut

The quickest way to show hidden files is to use a keyboard shortcut. Please note that this method only works on macOS 10.12 Sierra and higher. If you are using a version earlier than macOS Sierra, you should skip seeing hidden files using Terminal.

Step 1: Click the Finder icon at the dock of your Mac to open the Finder.

Step 2: In the left sidebar, click the folder or hard drive where you want to show the hidden files.

Step 3: Press Command + Shift + . key combinations. Then your hidden files will become visible.

Shortcut to show hidden files on Mac

2. Show hidden files in Finder

There is a hidden folder in Finder called Library folder at the root level. By default, it is hidden from view in Mac OS X Lion and above. To access this folder, you can find the hidden pictures or videos in your SD card on your Mac computer and recover unsaved Word files.

Step 1: Open the Finder on your Mac and click "Go" at the upper left of your desktop.

Step 2: Choose "Go to Folder" (or press Shift + Command + G) in the context menu.

Step 3: Type ~/Library into the box and click "Go". Then you will view the invisible Library folder.

3. Show hidden files with Terminal

This method is meant for macOS version older than Sierra, but it will also work in both Sierra and later. Terminal, a Mac command-line interface, is included in macOS by default that allows you to use command prompts to control your Mac, such as recovering deleted files with Terminal. If you are already familiar with Terminal, you can follow this guide below to show hidden files with Terminal:

Step 1: Open Terminal found in Finder > Applications > Utilities.

Step 2: Paste the following in Terminal: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE and press "Return".

Step 3: Now Type in killall Finder to refresh the Finder and the desktop.

Show hidden files on Mac with Terminal

Fix 2: Recover hidden files on Mac

If you fail to show hidden pictures on Mac with the solutions above, the last resort is to recover them with free Mac photo recovery software - iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

With iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery, you can recover the disappeared pictures or videos in your SD card on your Mac, recover files disappeared from external hard drives, USB flash drives, and Mac internal hard drives, etc. It is fully compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina/10.14 Mojave/10.13 High Sierra/10.12 Sierra and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan/10.10 Yosemite/10.9 Mavericks/10.8 Mountain Lion/10.7 Lion.


How to deal with SD card not working or recognized on Mac? No matter what causes this problem, there are lots of potential solutions. You can begin by checking the connection and then try to repair the corrupted SD card. If your SD card is still recognized by Mac, you should format the SD card on Mac to see if this fixes your issue.

If you experience any data loss issues during this process, the good news is that your data can still be recovered with iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery. This free Mac data recovery tool can recover deleted/lost photos from SD cards quickly and easily.

Should you have another suggestion to fix SD card not working or recognized issue on Mac? Or have any questions when you are using iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery? Please feel free to contact us by sending an email.