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How To Fix Problem: “SD Card Won’t Format”

Do you often use gadgets that rely on memory card storage instead of the device’s internal memory? No doubt about it, the answer is yes. Owing to their relatively large storage capacities at such miniature dimensions, Secure Digital cards have become widely used in consumer electronics as a dependable means of storing gigabytes of data at a reasonable cost. Today they can be found ubiquitously in smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, video game consoles, compact Blu-ray players, and even numerous smart home/IoT devices, such as surveillance cameras. But how reliable are they actually?

As the global electronics market becomes increasingly crowded with low-quality alternatives which, due to their low price, steadily attract more and more new consumers, search queries like “SD card not showing up” or “micro SD card won’t format” continue to grow in popularity. Meanwhile, even products from reputable manufacturers such as Transcend, SanDisk, or PNY can run into functionality issues and glitches on a case-by-case basis. So, let’s look at some of the most common reasons for SD cards failing to be formatted, as well as the most effective ways to resolve them.


General Causes for the “SD card won’t format” Issue


I have a problem with my SanDisk 64GB Micro SD that I use in my smartphone to store e-books and media files. It looks like the card was infected with viruses, or otherwise corrupted. Now when I connect it to my computer, I get a system message saying that the memory card needs to be formatted, but as I try to do so, an error message pops up reporting that Windows was unable to complete the format.


Since memory cards are one of the most popular and inexpensive means of storing digital data, this scenario can be ranked among the most common customer requests that SalvageData specialists have been regularly dealing with for almost two decades already. The good news is that in the majority of cases no special technical skills or intricate software are required to overcome the SD card won’t format issue. Yet, before moving on to the list of proven workarounds and remedies for the problem, we invite you to do a little digging into the possible reasons behind it — so this information may come in handy later.


Now, here’s four main causes for which one may be unable to format SD card:


  • Device was write-protected. Write-protection is a feature used on SD cards and other types of flash memory to protect the data contained on the media from deletion, as well as to prevent the new information from being added. Whereas the function itself allows to ensure that the critical files on one’s memory card won’t be mistakenly overwritten or wiped, write protection means that the device can’t be read or modified by Windows, and formatted by the user, too. 
  • Bad sectors. Development of bad sectors — which are damaged sections of memory that cannot be used for storing data — on the storage media can lead to the corruption of the device; and if it gets loaded with bad blocks, the SD card won’t format. 
  • Filesystem errors. Another reason behind the storage getting corrupted and the data on the memory card becoming inaccessible could be due to an unsupported file system, or because of the media turning RAW. In turn, in the vast majority of cases the responsibility for unsupported file system errors can be attributed to improper handling of the device that includes frequent removal/interruption of the memory card during operation, or lie upon physical damage to it. 
  • Virus infection. Finally, virus infection from using your portable removable storage across multiple card readers or computers (among which may be machines with poor anti-virus protection), is another possible culprit for you being unable to format SD card. 

As you can see for yourself, none of these problems can be considered irreparable. Note, however, that before proceeding to test the methods for solving the “SD card won’t format” issue presented in the following part, you must ensure that the media storage doesn’t contain any critical data that you don’t have up-to-date backups of. Keep in mind that formatting implies a complete erasure of data from the media — with no possibility of getting it back.


Fast Solutions to Fix SD Card Won’t Format Error on Windows 10/8/7


First of all, remove the malfunctioning memory card from your smartphone/camera/tablet and, after carefully inspecting the connectors for dirt and damage, put it back in. It is unlikely that this step will solve the problem, but it is needed to rule out possible connection problems. If the SD Card Is Blank or Has Unsupported File System problem persists, proceed to the tips listed below.


Solution 1: Disabling write-protection


Enabled write-protection puts your media storage in read-only mode, meaning that Windows is not capable of making any changes to the device; as a result, micro SD card won’t format. To provide users with a convenient way to write-protect data when needed, many storage media manufacturers equip their memory cards with a tiny switch located on the side of the device. It may have happened that you unknowingly enabled write protection — say, while removing or inserting the SD card into your phone or camera.


If your SD card doesn’t have the switch, write-protection can be disabled manually in the following way:


Step 1: Launch Run Window by pressing the Windows + R key combination.


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


Step 3: Expand the Disk Drivers item to locate your memory card in the device list.


Step 4: Right-click on the SD card and pick 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 2: Getting help from a third-party SD Card Formatter


If you have removed the write protection on your media storage but are still unable to format SD card, you may want to try using third-party formatting software. On your first google search, you’ll find tons of options available, including free ones. Some of the most credible are the SD Association utilities, which can help to solve a number of problems with the SD card.


Solution 3: Formatting SD card using Windows Disk Management


If you can’t format SD card in the usual way, you can try to do so forcefully by means of Windows Disk Management, an advanced built-in program designed to format disks.


Step 1: Go to My Computer > Manage > Disk Management.


Step 2: Right-click on the SD card and choose Format from the menu list.


Step 3: Select the appropriate file system (like NTFS, exFAT, or FAT32) and tick the “Perform a quick format” checkbox; then hit OK to close the window.

Solution 4
: Clearing up the SD card via Diskpart


Diskpart is another built-in disk partitioning utility in Windows that may help you quickly solve the SD card won’t format issue by cleaning the storage up. Here are the steps to follow:


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


Step 2: Type in cmd in the Run box and hit Enter to launch the command prompt (cmd.exe).


Step 3: Enter in diskpart to launch the Diskpart utility.

Step 4: Enter drive list to view all drives available on the system.

Step 5: Next, type select disk #, where # is the disk that has the write-protection partition (disk 2 in our case).

Step 6: Enter “clean” to run the utility and erase all data stored on your SD card.

Step 7: Type in create partition primary in order to create a new partition on the memory card.

Step 7: Finally, enter in format fs=ntfs (or format fs=fat32, depending on what you choose) to clear out the preferred file system.

Now wait for the process to be completed, and close the window.


Solution 5: Replacing/assigning a new letter to your memory card


A memory card letter that conflicts with other drive letters or is missing altogether may be the culprit for the SD card won’t format issue, as well as for the storage not being recognized by the system. To fix this kind of error, try assigning a new letter to your media storage, or replacing the existing one in the following way:


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


Step 2: Once located your SD card in Disk Management, right-click it to choose the Change Drive Letter and Paths option.


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


Step 4: Hit OK.


Whereas these five basic methods have proven to be the most effective solutions in situations where you can’t format SD card, at least one should happen to work in solving the error you encountered. If not, our engineers will be happy to help you regain access to your device within no time, so don’t hesitate to contact us at +1 (855) 901-1068, or simply leave an online request so that we can get started resolving your problem as soon as possible.