How to fix SD card not working/recognized on Mac? (Complete guide)

By Katrina | Posted to Mac Data Recovery, updated on August 6th, 2019 |

This passage explains symptoms and causes of SD card working or recognized issue and provides 6 solutions step by step to fix it and retrieve lost data from corrupted SD card with free Mac data recovery software.

SD cards are the most popular type of storage media widely used in a variety of handhold device, including digital cameras, smartphones, and tablets.

Obviously, SD cards can be the most important piece of gear on a shoot. It always stores photos, videos, music files, and more, which you should keep safe to avoid data loss issue.

However, accidents happen at any time. What if your SD card is not working or recognized on Mac? As a result, all files stored on the SD card are inaccessible.

Why is my SD card not reading or working on Mac? How do I get my Mac to recognize my SD card? How to do SD card data recovery? No worries! This passage will show you complete guides to fix SD card not working or recognized and recover 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 on SD card not showing on Mac?
7. Conclusion

What is the meaning of SD?

SD cards (Secure Digital Card) are ultra-small flash memory cards which 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.

In addition, SD cards use non-volatile memory which keep 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, handhold 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 card on Mac and how to open it?

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.

But if your Mac don'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 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.

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

However, there are times when you plug SD card into Mac computer, it can't appear in Finder or on desktop, even worse, the SD card is not showing in Disk Utility as well. You must have experienced the similar situation. Don't be panicked, 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 SD card is not recognized by Mac? Want to know how to fix this issue? Go on, please.

Why is my SD card reading/working on Mac?

SD cards are prone to damage, accidental formatting, and corruption, leading to loss data loss situation. Here are 7 common reasons why SD card not reading/working on Mac:

  • The USB port not working or incorrect
  • SD card reader is not working
  • SD card formatted incorrectly (the file system is not compatible with macOS)
  • SD card driver not updated or lost
  • SD card is corrupted
  • Bad sector
  • SD card is physically damaged

In a word, SD card faults can, broadly, be put into two groups - logical and physical. You'll need to determine whether it's a logical problem that can be solved at home or physical problem that needs a trained expert to repair.

To figure out, you could be able to go to Finder > Application > Disk Utility. After launching Disk Utility, if you can see your SD card on the left side bar, that means the SD card has logical problems. Otherwise, the SD card is physically damaged.

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 for the connection issue

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 need to verify the connection. You should plug the SD card out from USB port after removing securely form your Mac. Then you can test your SD card on a different USB port or use another card reader. If you can access the SD card then, there is definitely a problem with an earlier USB port or card reader.

Solution 2: 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 in 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 3: 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. 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 4: Set to show SD card on the desktop

On Mac, you can choose to show connect items on the desktop, including hard disks, external disks, connected server. Therefore, if you don't set the preference to show your SD card on the desktop, it is won't appear on Mac. Easy to understand, huh? Let's see how to show SD card 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 Sidebar tab on the top, make sure the "External disks" option under Locations is also ticked.

Show SD card on the desktop

Solution 5: 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 6: Mount SD card in Disk Utility

After resting NVRAM/PRAM, your SD card is still not showing up on Mac. You should go to Disk Utility 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 it is not mounting. Simply select the Mount option to see if the SD card will be mounted in Finder and desktop.

Solution 7: 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 8: 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. Thankfully, macOS has 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 9: Recover 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 your 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. Even if your SD card is not showing up, not recognized, not mounting, not working or not reading, this powerful program has a very good chance of detecting it and getting 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 10.14 Mojave and 10.13 High Sierra.

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, FAT 16, exFAT drives.

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

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

1. Download and install iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery.

2. Launch this program. Select the SD card that not showing up on Mac and click "Next". The program will start scanning this SD card for recoverable files.

Recover 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 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 10: Send SD card to an expert for reparation

If your SD card can't be seen in Disk Utility, it means the card has some hardware problem that Mac machine can't detect it. In this situation, you can try to iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery at first. Because when Mac computer fails to recognize the disk, some data recovery software like iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery can detect it. If iBoysoft Mac Data Recovery cannot list your SD card, 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 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 on SD card not showing 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 not showing on your Mac. You plugged out the SD memory card from the computer and insert it again but are still unable to view any files.

Why is SD card not showing pictures on computers? 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 that 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 picture or videos on your SD card that is not showing 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 pictures or videos on your SD card that is not showing 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 10.14 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 not showing up on 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 has the ability to 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.


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

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