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Also known as memory cards, SD cards are more resistant to physical damage than other external data storage devices. A memory card has a better chance of surviving extreme conditions like dust, water, shocks, and even drops from great heights than, for example, a USB flash drive. Yet, you can face a corrupted SD card at any time.
Severe physical damage can extend beyond the visible connectors. So, even if the SD card still looks normal after an accident, there is a chance that it is damaged. And that can cause partial or complete data loss.
For this reason, make sure to back up the data on it immediately after the incident to minimize potential losses.
Also, memory cards will not alert you about malfunctions with distinctive sounds like beeping or rattling, but it’ll give you other signs.
Signs your SD card is corrupted
- You can’t find it in File Explorer
- Doesn’t show media in Disk Management
- Shows up empty, or the files are missing
- Displays as RAW
- Became locked, write-protected, or read-only
- Is undetectable or unrecognizable
- Error messages pop up when you try to use it
Slow performance can be a sign of physical damage to the card as well as corruption. If you notice your memory card gets stuck or freezes during operation, or if the data transfer takes an unusually long time.
Once the problem is determined, you can proceed with suitable solutions to repair your memory card.
Important: Repairing the SD card on your own is risky since it can lead to irreversible memory loss. If your memory card contains important data, it is better to ask for a data recovery specialist to help with it.
15 top ways to fix SD cards on Windows 11/10
1. Reconnect your SD card
Sometimes, a memory card may become unreadable as a result of power supply issues or connection problems. Take a few steps so you can exclude external factors.
- Unplug your SD card, then reconnect it to the PC.
- Switch the SD card lock key. It might be locked and therefore you can’t access it.
- Clean the memory card and the slot, then reconnect it.
2. Try a different slot or adapter
If there is an issue with your computer’s memory card slot, it might show the SD card as corrupted. Try a different slot or use a USB card reader adapter to connect it to the computer.
3. Connect to another computer
You can also discard problems with the SD card slot or reader adapter by inserting it into a different computer.
If it still shows as corrupted, then you have to check for logical issues or internal damages.
4. Reinstalling the SD card driver
Although Windows automatically updates the drivers, errors can happen. If this is the case, then you must update the SD card driver manually.
To do it, you must open Device Manager and find the SD card. You might see it under the Portable Devices menu. Right-click it and select Update Driver. Choose the option Search automatically for updated driver software.
5. Assign a new drive letter
Your SD card may not show up in Disk Management due to a conflict with drive letters. As a result, your microSD may become unreadable, or act as corrupted.
To solve it, follow these steps:
Step 1. Press the combination of Windows + X keys, then click on Disk Management.
Step 2. Find your SD card, right-click on it, and choose “Change Drive Letter and Paths”.
Step 3. Choose Add/Change and select a new drive letter for your memory card. Hit OK to confirm.
If your SD card doesn’t show any files on it or has missing files, you can try to show hidden files to fix it.
To do it, connect the memory card to the computer and then go to File Explorer > Tools > Folder options > View Tab.
Select the Hidden Items box and check if your files are back and working.
7. Run CHKDSK to repair a corrupted SD card
Like any other removable storage device, memory cards can develop bad sectors over time. The CHKDSK command will check your SD card’s file system for corruption or errors, and then repair it by removing the bad sectors.
Step 1. Insert your memory card into the card reader and plug it into the PC.
Step 2. Type cmd in the search box.
Step 3. Right-click Command Prompt and choose “Run as administrator”.
Step 4. Type chkdsk F: /f /r /x, where F: is the letter of the corrupted SD card you’d like to repair, and press Enter. The other letters in the command line stand for the actions that will be performed to repair your memory card’s file system: /f is to fix any found errors, /r is to detect bad sectors and restore any readable data, and /x is to forcibly dismount the volume you are going to check before the utility starts scanning.
Wait for the message “Windows has made corrections to the file system” in the command window. The errors on your SD card should be successfully fixed.
8. Fix corrupted SD card with the Windows repair tool
Running Windows Error Checking is another helpful feature to fix the corrupted SD card.
Step 1. Connect your SD card to the computer.
Step 2. Open Windows Explorer and find the memory card in This PC folder.
Step 3. Right-click the SD card. Open its Properties.
Step 4. Navigate to the Tools tab, then click the Check button.
Once the scan process is finished, you should be able to access the data on your SD card.
9. Run the Windows troubleshooter tool
Windows Troubleshooter is designed to help you troubleshoot hardware and driver problems. If your memory card has a similar problem, this one must work.
Step 1. Connect your SD card to the computer.
Step 2. Head to Windows Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot.
Step 3. Click “Run the troubleshooter” under the Hardware and Devices block.
Wait until the troubleshooting is complete, then restart the computer.
10. Run Diskpart to unlock the SD card
In case your SD card became locked, write-protected, read-only, or was encrypted with third-party software, running DiskPart to clear the read-only command is a fast way to deal with this kind of issue.
Step 1. Connect your SD card to the computer.
Step 2. Press Windows + X, and click “Command Prompt (Admin)”.
Step 3. Type diskpart in the command prompt window, then press Enter.
Step 4. Type the command lines listed below, pressing Enter after each one:
- list disk
- select disk 1 (where 1 is the disk number of your memory card)
- attributes disk clear read-only
Step 5. Wait until the process is complete, then type exit.
11. Reformat the SD card to FAT32 or exFAT
If your memory card is showing as RAW in Windows Disk Management, as well as if its file system is not supported by your camera or computer, formatting the SD card to NTFS, FAT32 or exFAT is the best way to solve the issue.
Step 1. Connect your SD card to the computer, then go to File Explorer.
Step 2. Right-click on the SD card you need to repair, and select Format.
Step 3. Choose a proper file system: NTFS, FAT32, or exFAT.
Step 4. Tick “Quick Format” and press Start.
Important: While formatting itself may fix a dozen of logical issues to the failing memory card, it will result in complete data loss. If you can’t afford to lose the data your memory card stores, we recommend that you seek help from the SD card recovery service.
12. Formatting the corrupted SD card
Formatting any device is a drastic solution. Although it fixes errors and bad sectors, formatting also deletes all data on the memory card.
To format a corrupted SD card, insert it into the computer and go to This PC.
Find the memory card and right-click on it to select Format.
On the dialog box, select the File System you want to use and uncheck the option for Quick Format if it’s selected. Click on the Start button to format the card.
13. Creating a New SD Card Partition
When the memory card becomes empty and appears as unallocated space, it won’t show up in Windows File Explorer. To fix it, you’ll need to manually create a partition for Windows to recognize it.
Step 1. Connect your SD card to the computer, then open Disk Management.
Step 2. Right-click the unallocated space on the microSD and choose “New Simple Volume”.
Step 3. Follow the steps to assign a new drive letter, and set the volume size, FAT32 or exFAT to the SD card.
Step 4. Hit OK to confirm and Finish to complete the process.
14. Use data recovery software
You may find several recovery software online. SalvageData recovery software is available for all operating systems and is free.
Download and install the software to start scanning your SD card to find and restore any kind of data on it.
15. Contact data recovery service
Unfortunately, if your SD card is bent, burnt, partially broken, or physically damaged in any other way, there’s nothing you can do to bring your storage back to life. You may contact the manufacturer if the device is still under warranty.
However, if the data on the memory card is important, and it has physical damage, your best chance to restore your data is through a recovery service.
How to prevent data loss on a memory card
Protecting your memory card helps you to prevent data loss. These best practices are easy to follow and will guarantee you prolong your SD card usability.
- Always safely eject the SD card from your computer before removing it.
- Be careful with water, fire, and high temperature.
- Make sure you’ve enough battery on your device when writing data to your card.
- Make a backup of your memory card data.
- Avoid using your SD card’s maximum memory capacity.
There are many reasons for SD cards to fail. While you can fix some of them yourself, like minor logical errors or bad sectors, others require in-depth knowledge and, in some cases, specialized equipment.
Contact SalvageData experts for a free in-lab evaluation of your SD card.