How to Fix a Corrupted SD Card without Losing Data?

Updated by Tim to Data Recovery Tips on November 3rd, 2020

You rely on your SD cards to store important information, music, photos, and other files. Imagine that one day you insert your SD card into the slot, and all of these memories are missing.

SD cards are a convenient and inexpensive means to store media for DSLRs, phones, tablets, and other portable devices. However, they're prone to damage, accidental formatting, or corruption. This corruption leads to a loss of data with a small window for recovery.

SD card

Don't let your memories disappear. If you have a corrupted SD card on your hands, keep reading to learn how to fix a corrupted SD card.

How to Fix a Corrupted SD Card on Windows computer?

Don't go through the trouble of fixing a corrupted SD card without asking yourself a couple of questions first.

Is your SD card working on other devices?

Try to connect your SD card to another computer or a different SD card reader. If it works, this means you have an incompatibility or driver-related problem. In this case, reformatting the SD card won't work.

Is your SD card write-protected?

If your SD card is write-protected, you can't edit or save any files on the SD card. Most SD cards have a switch on the left side. Make sure to slide it up to disable write-protection.

So, if you've made these checks and you're sure you have a corrupted SD card on your hands, how do you fix it? There are several methods to repair the corrupted SD card.

Work through the following methods, and chances are, you can fix the corrupted SD card and get data back.

Option 1: Unhide Hidden Files from SD Card

If your PC is infected by a virus, it may hide all of your photos, videos, and other files on a SD card. The disk size will remain unchanged, but you won't be able to access your data because their attributes are changed to "hidden and read-only".

Follow these steps to unhide files from a SD card:

  • Connect the SD card to your PC.
  • Open Windows Explorer, click "Tools", "Folder Options", and "View".
  • Check "Show hidden files, folders, and drives".
  • Uncheck "Hide protected operating system" option, if checked.
  • Click "OK".

If this worked, you should see your hidden files and folders in the SD card.

Option 2: Fix a Corrupted SD Card without Formatting via CMD

Next, you can try the "chkdsk" command to check for SD card errors and repair them.

To start, insert your SD card into the PC or SD card reader and follow these instructions:

  • From the Windows taskbar, click "Start" and then "My Computer" or "This PC".
  • Search for your SD card under the "Devices with Removable Storage" option. Then, note the drive letter assigned to your SD card.
  • Click "Start" again and then type "cmd" in the search box.
  • Right-click on "cmd" and select "Run as administrator".
  • A command prompt window will open. Type "chkdsk" and then the drive letter corresponding to the SD card. Then add a colon and and /f (e.g., chkdsk D: /f).
  • Hit "Enter". Chkdsk will then check for possible errors and try to fix the corrupted SD card. Follow the subsequent message prompts when the check is complete.

Option 3: Assign a New Drive Letter to Your SD Card

If your Windows PC doesn't assign a drive letter to your SD card after inserting it, the SD card is not recognized. In some cases, your PC may attach a drie letter, but you'll receive a message stating "Please insert the disk into drive A:". This means that your PC isn't reading the SD card correctly.

If your Windows computer is not recognizing the SD card, try assigning a new drive letter with the following steps:

  • Connect the SD card to your PC or card reader.
  • Using the "Windows+R" key, open the "Run" dialogue box.
  • In the box, type "compmgmt.msc" and then hit "Enter".
  • Under "Storage" select the "Disk Management" option.
  • Right-click on the SD card.
  • Choose "Change Drive Letter and Paths".
  • A dialog box will appear, then click "Change".
  • Check "Assign following drive letter".
  • Choose a new letter from the drop-down box, then click "OK".
  • Close the "Computer Management" window. Then, restart the computer.

Your SD card should be readable after your PC reboots.

Option 4: Reinstall the Driver of SD Card

Did assigning a new drive letter not solve the problem? You can try to reinstall the SD card driver by following the steps below:

  • Right-click on "My Computer" or "This PC". Then, click the "Manage" option.
  • Click "Device Manager" on the left side.
  • Double-click "Disk Drives" from the list. Then, right-click on your SD card in the menu.
  • Click "Uninstall" and then "OK"
  • Disconnect your SD card before restarting your computer.
  • Once the computer reboots, connect your SD card again. 

Your PC should now detect your SD card. If not, try using the Windows Troubleshooter. 

Option 5: Use Windows Troubleshooter

The Windows Troubleshooter option is for finding problems related to your PC hardware and drivers. You can use it to fix corrupted SD card errors by following these steps:

  • Connect your SD card to your PC or card reader. 
  • Select "Start" and then "Settings", "Update and Security", then "Troubleshoot". 
  • Restart your computer. 

Now, the issues with your SD card should be resolved. If it is still not working, it's time to look into solutions provided by the card manufacturer.

Option 6: Check-in with the SD Card Manufacturer

Manufacturers such as SanDisk, Samsung, Kingston, and others, provide solutions to repair corrupted SD cards. Check their resources and tools to recover lost photos, videos, and other files.

Visit the SD card manufacturers website to download their tool or contact their customer service team for help.

Option 7: Use the "Error Checking" Feature

For internal and external drives, Windows offers an "Error Checking" feature. It scans for errors and then repairs them, if able. 

To repair a corrupted SD card using "Error Checking", follow these steps: 

  • Connect your SD card to your PC or card reader.
  • Click "Windows+E" to open Windows Explorer.
  • Right-click on the SD card and open "Properties".
  • Click on the "Tools" tab, then click the "Check" option.
  • Then, the scanning process will begin. If errors are found during the scan, you can fix them by following the on-screen instructions.

Option 8: Use the "Diskpart" Command to Fix Corrupted SD Card

If you’re still having issues accessing files on your SD card and you’ve made sure it’s not write-protected, try using the "diskpart utility" in Windows’s CMD command. To try this method, perform the following steps:

  • Connect your SD card to your Windows PC.
  • Recover data from corrupted SD card with M3 Data Recovery first.
  • Click "Start", then "Run" and enter "cmd".
  • Type the command "diskpart", then press "Enter".
  • Type "list volume". This will list all drives connected to your PC. 
  • Type "select volume X". "X" represents the drive letter of your SD card.
  • Type the attributes "disk clear read only", and then press "Enter".
  • Restart your PC. 

Hopefully, the problem should be fixed when you reconnect your SD card.

Option 9: Recover data from SD card

If none of these methods work for you, it might be time to try SD card recovery software. If your SD card is still corrupted, all hope is not lost.

You can use a SD card data recovery software as long as the SD card is not physically failed or has not been overwritten.

M3 Data Recovery, as a professional data recovery software which can recover data from corrupted SD card and other storage devices on Windows PC and Mac.

Steps to recover data from a corrupted SD card on Windows:

Step 1: Download and install M3 Data Recovery on your computer.

Step 2: Insert the SD card into your computer via the SD card reader and then launch M3 Data Recovery.

Step 3: Choose "Data Recovery" module.

Free data recovery software

If the SD card is BitLocker encrypted, choose "BitLocker Recovery" module to recover data from SD card.

Step 4: Select the corrupted SD card, check deep scan option and click Next to scan the lost data.

Recover lost files from corrupted SD card

Step 5: Click Recover to start the recovery process.

Option 10: Format the SD card

If your SD card is corrupted, formatting it usually fixes those issues related to the file system. This fix will enable you to reuse your SD card.

Formatting is excellent for repairing the corrupted SD card, but note that this process will delete all of the data stored on your SD card. It's still possible to recover data from a formatted SD card by using a professional SD card data recovery software.

To format an SD card on a Windows PC, follow below steps:

  • Connect your SD card to your PC or SD card reader.
  • Double-click on "My Computer" or "This PC" to open the Windows Explorer.
  • Right-click on your SD card and then select "Format." This will open the "Format" window.
  • Click the "File System" box. You will then get three options: NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. Select the one that you want to format. 
  • Finally, click "Start" to format.

If this doesn't work, try using the professional SD card repair tool. These SD card repair tools can fix the corrupted SD card problem and make it usable once again.

Option 11: Consider a Replacement

Now that you know how to fix a corrupted SD card, check to see if the warranty of your card is still valid. If it continues to give you problems, it's most likely time to invest in a replacement or ask for a refund.

If you're working through these methods to fix a corrupted SD card, there's a chance your SD card is permanently damaged and will not work again. It's not advisable to keep putting your faith into a SD card that's proven unreliable again and again.

Have you been successful with one of these methods, or have another one to share? Contact [email protected] to let us know what has worked for you.

Signs of a corrupted SD card

It all starts with a dreaded error message. If you don't heed this message, your SD card may fall victim to permanent damage and data loss - which makes a recovery difficult.

If your SD card is corrupted, you won't be able to access your important files from it. In the worst-case scenario, it erases your data. Other possible situations include a SD card that won't open or SD card isn't recognized by your Windows or Mac computer.

Here are several common indicators of a corrupted SD card, signaling that you're close to losing data:

  • Your PC will not let you format the SD card, or you get the error message: "SD card is damaged. Try reformatting it."
  • A black screen appears, along with the error message "SD card is not accessible", or "the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable".
  • You notice that all or some photos on your SD card are missing.
  • You receive the error message "Read/Write error on SD card."
  • You receive an error message containing "SD card error" or "corrupt SD card".
  • Inserting the SD card prompts the message: "SD card is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?"
  • You can see the files from your SD card in-camera, as well as on a computer, but you're unable to add, delete, save, or copy them on your SD card. You may get an error message saying "SD card is write-protected".
  • You suddenly get an alert saying "SD card unexpectedly removed".
  • You receive an error messages stating that the SD card is blank or has an unsupported file system.
  • In Disk Management, SD card is showing RAW file system, not accessible.
  • SD card not showing up in Disk Management and Device Manager.

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