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SD Card Not Showing Up: Fast Solutions That Should Help Get Back Access to Your Data

After weeks (if not months) of carefree photo and video shooting with your smartphone or digital camera, you decide to transfer your footage to your computer for further editing or backup purposes.  You insert your memory card into the adapter, connect it to the laptop or PC, go to the default file manager on your machine expecting to see the familiar icon… and realize that the SD card not showing up. What could be the reason for this to happen, and how likely is it to regain access to the lost data? Let’s run it down.


SD Card Not Showing Up: Photographers’ Biggest Nightmare

Whereas for the average user SD card is more of a portable storage for cherished memories, e-books, notes and other personal data, in the world of professional photography memory cards are commonly used as a primary storage medium for holding hours of video footage and full-scale photoshoots. For this reason, any difficulties associated with an SD card not showing up carry the potential of turning into a real disaster, the consequences of which often include complete loss of data and significant material costs.

The good news is that despite the relatively fragile design, memory card failure isn’t as prevalent as it might seem at first glance. According to a poll of 4,344 photographers conducted by Tony & Chelsea Northrup, nearly half of those surveyed (47%) have experienced an SD card failure at some point in their career. Given that most photographers use at least two memory cards on a consistent basis, it would be reasonable to conclude that the majority of memory cards available on the market today do offer a high level of reliability. 

Along with that, a correlation was found between the total amount of captured images and the chance of failure, which is presented in more detail in the graph below:

Intense exploitation of the memory device thus is considered one of the most significant factors directly contributing to the risk of errors and/or mechanical damage that can result in the SD card not showing up, or important data becoming corrupted.


Causes of SD Card Not Recognized Error

SD card not showing up is one of the most common hits that SalvageData technicians come across on a regular basis — and chances are that at least one such episode can be found in your own user experience as well. While there is a fistful of possible causes behind this problem, the most common factors that may lead to logical or mechanical corruption to the storage include the following:


  • Physical damage. Such as damage to the plastic shell of the SD card (which often makes it impossible to insert the memory device into the card reader), immersion in water, exposure to open flame, etc. Mechanical damage or factory defects can also be the culprit for an SD card reader not working as usual.
  • Connection issue. Bad connection due to a damaged USB port, faulty adapter, or SD card reader not working properly may be the reason your SD card not recognized.
  • Improper handling. Although many SD cards are hot-swappable, meaning that you can plug or remove them during operation, frequent use and mishandling may potentially cause damage to the metal wires, or lead to file system corruption.
  • Lost partition. The memory card may be full of unallocated space because of a deleted partition that is the culprit of your SD card not showing up in the system.
  • Driver corruption. If the SD card is not showing up on the system and isn’t accessible from Windows File Explorer, but is still seen in Device Manager with a yellow mark, it’s most likely that there is something wrong with its drivers.
  • SD card lock. Your computer may be struggling to recognize or read the storage device because it is write-protected.
  • Lost drive letter. Since the partition without the letter cannot be detected by Windows Explorer, your memory card will not appear on the system in case its letter gets lost.

It is important to understand that finding a suitable solution to the problem of an SD card not showing up, or an SD card reader not working properly, first of all requires a correct diagnosis to be made. If you aren’t sure which of the above instances matches your situation, we recommend that you try the simplest methods on the list before moving on to tampering with the logical components of the storage.


Best Solutions to the Problem of SD Card Not Showing Up


Solution 1: Rule out connection issues / SD card not showing up Windows 10


When you encounter an issue of a hard drive or SD card not showing up, the first thing to do should be to test the storage media on a different USB port (if there is more than one on your PC), or check it on another computer/laptop. Physical damage to the port, dust contamination, or debris in the slot may obstruct the normal connection to the device and cause it to be unreadable by the system.


If no problems occur when you connect any other device to the USB port, the reason for a poor connection could be an SD card reader not working properly. Since older devices may not work with newer OS versions, be sure to verify that the memory card reader is compatible with your storage media as well as the current operating system on your PC. Carefully inspect the device for damage and dirt that may interfere with the memory card reading; if it looks okay, try testing your SD card with another card reader, if such is available.


Remember that the problem of an SD card not showing up in Windows 10 when using a brand new memory card reader can also be brought on by incompatibility between device and  operating system/media specifications, so be sure to double-check this factor.


Solution 2: Enable memory card reader / SD card not showing up Windows 10


The card reader is enabled by default in Windows 10, but we can disable it and then re-enable it manually. Although it may seem like a silly thing to do, this method has been proven effective by many users in cases where the SD card reader not working as expected, so here are the instructions:


Step 1: Right-click the Start menu and choose Device Manager from the menu list to open Device Manager.


Step 2: Expand the Memory technology devices item, then double-click the card reader.


Step 3: In the window that appears, select the Driver tab and press the Disable button.

Step 4: Hit Yes as prompted with the message “Disconnecting this device will cause it to stop working. Are you sure you want to disable it?”


Step 5: Double-clicking the card reader again will open the Properties window. Click “Enable Device”.


At the end of the day, the culprit of a SD card reader not working as intended may be common factory defects. If you are using a newly purchased device, make sure to test it with some other memory cards to see if the problem remains; and if it does, there is nothing you can do about it other than returning the device under warranty.


Solution 3: Update or reinstall SD card reader driver


In many cases the source of the SD card reader not working problem can be found in an incorrect, outdated, missing or corrupted device driver, so reinstalling it should be the next step. Here’s how to do it:


Step 1: Open Device Manager: while on your desktop, right-click on Computer icon and select the Manage option, then click Device Manager on the “Computer Management” window.


Step 2: Expand the Memory technology devices item, then locate the card reader and write down its brand and model. You’ll need these details to download the latest driver from the card reader website later.


Step 3: Right-click on the card reader, and choose the Uninstall device option on the context menu.


Step 4: Click on Delete the driver software for this device and hit the Uninstall button. Once the driver has been removed, reboot the computer.


Step 5: Go to the card reader’s website to download the latest driver from and install it in compatibility mode:


      I. Right-click the driver installer and select Properties on the context menu.

      II. Locate the Compatibility tab on the Properties window and choose “Run this program in compatibility mode for” under the Compatibility Mode section. Select the suitable Windows version        from the drop-down list, then hit Apply and OK buttons.

      III. Run the installation file and follow the instructions on the screen to complete the installation. Restart your computer as soon as the installation is complete.


Solution 4: Turn off write protection / SD card not showing up Windows 10


The problem with the SD card not showing up in Windows 10 or other operating systems can also be a result of your storage media being locked from writing. In some cases, it is also possible that the memory card remains recognizable by the system, but you cannot modify or make any changes to it. The most likely reason for this issue is write protection.


Some SD cards are equipped with a tiny switch-like thing on one of their sides that is used to put the device into write-protect mode. Examine your device to see if it has such a toggle: you may have unknowingly changed the switch position while removing the card from the camera or smartphone. In this scenario, switching the device back to normal mode will be sufficient to solve the problem with the SD card not showing up.


If your SD card doesn’t have the switch and is still write-protected, follow these steps:


Step 1: Press the Windows + R key combination to launch Run Window.


Step 2: Type devmgmt.msc in the command box and hit OK.


Step 3: Locate and expand the Disk Drivers option; find your SD card in the device list.


Step 4: Right-click on your memory card and select Properties.


Step 5: On the General or Policy tab, look for the option related to writing a policy. Turn the tab off and press OK.


Solution 5: Change/assign a drive letter for your SD card


As mentioned before, an SD card without a drive letter will not appear in the system. The other reason for your SD card not showing up on Windows 10 can be a conflict between the hard drive letter and the letter of the storage media. In this case, even if your card reader is assigned a drive letter, you may encounter the message “Please insert a disk into removable disk”. The solution to either of these issues is to assign a new drive letter.


Step 1: Right-click on the Start button. Choose the Disk Management tab from the menu list.


Step 2: Once you found your SD card in Disk Management, right-click it to select the Change Drive Letter and Paths option from the drop-down menu.


Step 3: Press the Change button, then choose a drive letter from the drop-down menu.


Step 4: Hit OK.


Solution 6: Time to format / SD card not showing up Windows 10


Warning: formatting the memory card will completely erase all the files stored on it, so this method is the last resort for fixing an SD card not showing up. It only makes sense to use this option if, for some reason or another, you care about the device itself and not the data it contains.


Now, if your SD card not showing up in Windows 10, here are two easy steps to formatting it:


Step 1: Insert the SD card into a card reader, then connect it to your machine.


Step 2: Once in Computer, right-click on the memory card, and select Format from the menu list.


A Few Words In Conclusion


As you can see, most issues leading to an SD card not showing up, or SD card reader not working correctly, can be solved by updating the appropriate software, or by a simple procedure of cleaning the device connectors from dirt. Besides, most logical problems will be accompanied by error messages when the memory card is on the verge of failing, thanks to which you have the opportunity to make a timely backup of important data.


At the same time, not all solutions for the problem of an SD card not showing up are safe in terms of the data contained on the media. Say, some of the seemingly harmless tips for fixing the problem with the SD card not showing up on Windows 10 that you might find in abundance on the Internet can have the most unpredictable consequences, including partially or completely overwriting the data on your memory card. 

If you’re facing the problem of an SD card not showing up and can’t afford to risk the data on it by testing questionable tips and instructions, SalvageData’s knowledgeable technicians will be there to help you retrieve your important files safely and in full. Don’t hesitate to call us at +1 (855) 901-1068, or simply leave an online request so we can get back to you as soon as possible.