RAW SD card recovery: How to fix RAW SD card and recover data?

Updated by Tim to Data Recovery Tips on April 25th, 2021

Memory cards, including SD cards, micro SD cards, CF cards, etc., are frequently used in digital cameras, mobile phones, laptops and media players. Among these storage media, the SD card is the most widely used one. However, they are so fragile that SD memory cards errors and problems easily make the card corrupted. RAW SD card is one of these problems.

Therefore, we write this article to help users fix the RAW SD memory card issue on Windows, troubleshooting this problem which has been bothering many people.

RAW SD card overview

RAW format is a state of the SD card which doesn't have the known Windows file system: FAT32 or exFAT. In this situation, Windows cannot read SD card and prompts you to format it.

SD card not formatted

Although Windows offers a way to format a RAW SD card, but you should know that, formatting will erase all data from SD card. So how do you repair a RAW SD card without losing any data? What do you do in such a situation?

Why SD card showing RAW file system?

File system, as you may know, controls how data is stored and retrieved in SD cards, external hard drives, or USB flash drives, etc. Some common file systems recognized by Windows include NTFS, FAT32, exFAT, etc. However, a RAW file system is a state that the file system is unknown for Windows OS. That's to say, Windows OS is unable to recognize the type of the file system of your drive, or there is no file system at all.

As a result, you can't open this drive, nor access the files on it.

You may be curious about why it becomes RAW, even though it just worked well last time you used it. Well, the reasons could be varied and here are some of them.

The SD card is aging after long-term usage.
The SD card has bad sectors after improper operations. For instance, you abruptly unplugged the SD card without safe ejection, or interrupted the disk formatting process, etc.
The SD memory card is infected with some viruses that corrupt the file system of this drive.
Partition table or some other internal files of this card get lost or damaged.

Also, some other factors also can damage your drive and make your disk become inaccessible. Then how can you tell if you encounter the RAW SD memory card problems?

How to tell if an SD memory card becomes RAW?

Usually, you will be able to read and write to files on an SD card when you plug it into your computer or camera. But once you meet a "RAW" error, things will not go that way.

Here is a real case from Tom's Hardware:

It's a 32 GB SD card. I recently got it from a friend, and there were issues while I tried to copy files from a Windows computer to it. There was a lot of freezing and failing. And after I removed it once, my computer wouldn't recognize it. It says this SD card is not formatted and needs to be formatted. So, I tried to access it on my android phone, which apparently failed too. It says "blank SD card or has unsupported filesystem" now. How can I recover my SD card now? I mean, there are some photos that I can't lose, so I want to get it working again.

Actually, the user above is facing one of the RAW SD memory card problems.

How do you know if you are confronted with the RAW file system issue? Most of the time, the system will inform you with an error message or display an abnormal information on the screen as below.

You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it.

One of the most common error messages is "You need to format the disk in drive before you can use it. Do you want to format it?" when you try to access this SD card in Windows Explorer.

Do you want to format it? Probably not.

If you know that "format" means wiping files out of the SD card, you would not click "Format disk" when you have loads of photos, videos, songs, etc. on this card.

SD cards show 0 bytes space in Properties

If you check the property of your SD card in Windows Explorer, you will find another performance of RAW file system. The SD memory card will show 0 bytes storage capacity, both used and free spaces. Moreover, there is no recognizable file system type is indicated, just as the below image appears.

SD cards show RAW file system in Disk Management

If you are an experienced Windows users who regularly use Disk Management, a built-in disk management tool for Windows, you will find the file system of this SD card is RAW or without a filesystem type. But in a normal case, it is supposed to be NTFS, FAT32, or other Windows supported file system.

As a matter of fact, there are some other error messages you may receive when you facing the RAW external drives problem.

For example: This volume does not contain a recognized file system. Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.

No matter what message you may receive, once your SD card becomes RAW, you will be unable to access the files stored on this disk. Furthermore, you would not want to format this disk directly when you have precious photos, videos, or other important files on this SD memory card.

How to fix RAW SD card and recover files

Different RAW SD card situations need the different solutions, the following are 6 options to fix a RAW SD card and recover files.

Solution 1: Connect SD card to another computer

Have you tried this simple trick? It's claimed to be one of the most simple but efficient ways to repair corrupted SD cards. You can either re-plug this SD card into a different hub or access it through another card reader. What's more, you can also try to connect it to a Mac computer and see if it works.

Solution 2: Run Antivirus software to fix RAW SD card

If you have no issues with the connections, it is possible that the file system of this SD memory card is corrupted by some malware or viruses. Therefore, if you have anti-virus software installed, you can simply eliminate the malware or virus by using your anti-virus tool.

Solution 3: Change drive letter to reload file system

If your computer still can't recognize the file system of this SD card, you can change the disk drive letter to repair RAW file system. Why this could be helpful? It's because when you change a letter of an external drive, the OS will reload the file system of this disk as well as repair some minor internal errors.

Therefore, you can try this way out.

Step 1: Right-click on This PC/My Computer on the desktop and choose Manage to open Computer Management.

Step 2: Find Disk Management in the left sidebar and open it.

Step 3: Locate the RAW SD memory card in the right column and right-click on it.

Step 4: Choose Change Drive Letter and Paths… to open another dialogue box.

Step 5: Choose the letter of your SD card and click on the Change button.

Step 6: Select a drive letter in the drop-down menu and click on OK.

Note: When you see the message "Some programs that rely on drive letters might not run correctly. Do you want to continue" pops up, you can just click Yes as long as you have no program installed on this SD card.

Solution 4: Uninstall the driver

Sometimes, the Windows OS won't read your SD card probably because the disk driver fails to work. In this case, you can try to uninstall or update it to fix the "unrecognizable file system" on your computer.

So, let's get it.

Step 1: Right-click on This PC/My Computer on the desktop and choose Manage to open Computer Management.

Step 2: Find Device Manager in the left sidebar and open it.

Step 3: Expand Disk drives and choose the name of the RAW SD card.

Step 4: Right-click on its name and choose Uninstall and click OK.

Step 5: Disconnect your SD card, reboot your computer, and then re-connect your SD memory card.

In this process, the system will reinstall the disk driver or remind you to update the outdated disk driver.

Solution 5: Fix RAW SD card without formatting using CMD

Chkdsk is a Windows built-in command line tool which can fix the file system errors on the SD card. With chkdsk command, you can recover RAW SD card without formatting.

However, mostly chkdsk doesn't work on RAW drives (including RAW SD card), but it is worth to try.

Steps to repair RAW SD card with chkdsk command:

Step 1: Type cmd in the search bar of Windows Taskbar.

Step 2: Right click on cmd.exe from the search results and then choose "Run as administrator" from the menu to allow Administrator privilege.

Command prompt

Step 3: Type the command: chkdsk X: /f and then press Enter.

Replace X with the drive letter of your SD card, you can find the drive letter in Disk Management.

If you are lucky, CMD will help you fix RAW SD card successfully while keeping all your data after finishing all the steps.

If you receive "The type of file system is RAW. chkdsk is not available for RAW drives SD card." error message, you can fix the RAW SD card with next solution.

Solution 6: Repair RAW SD card with RAW partition recovery software

This solution is used to fix RAW SD card which is caused by the corrupted file system.

M3 Data Recovery is a professional RAW SD card recovery software which can fix RAW SD card and convert SD card RAW format back to FAT32/exFAT without data loss.

M3 Data Recovery can also fix and recover files from RAW external hard drive, RAW USB flash drive, RAW USB stick, RAW CF card, RAW hard drive, etc. on Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP and Windows Server 2016/2012/2008/2003.

Tutorial to fix RAW SD card with M3 Data Recovery:

Step 1: Connect the RAW SD card to your computer through the SD card reader.

Step 2: Download, install and launch M3 Data Recovery. After that, choose RAW Drive Recovery module in the main interface.

RAW SD card recovery software

Step 3: Choose the RAW SD card and click Next to scan the data.

Step 4: Check the files in the RAW SD card before fixing RAW SD card.

Fix RAW SD card

Step 5: Click "Fix Drive" to fix RAW SD card.

If your RAW SD card cannot be fixed, try next solution to recover data from RAW SD card.

Solution 7: RAW SD card data recovery

When your RAW SD card cannot be fixed, try M3 Data Recovery to recover data from RAW SD card.

M3 Data Recovery is an easy-to-use and professional SD card data recovery software to recover lost data from SD card, hard drive, external hard drive, CF card, USB flash drive, etc.

Tutorial to recover data from RAW SD card with M3 Data Recovery:

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

Step 2: Connect RAW SD card to your computer and then launch M3 Data Recovery Free.

Step 3: Choose the Data Recovery module.

Free data recovery software

Step 4: Choose RAW SD card and click Next to scan, All files will be found in minutes.

Scan lost files from RAW SD card

Step 5: Select the files you want to recover and click Recover to start SD card data recovery process.

Recover lost files from RAW SD card

After ensuring all recovered files can be opened, it is time to format the RAW SD card and make it working again.

Solution 8: Format RAW SD card

Formatting will erase all data from SD card, so before formatting, make sure there is no important data stored in SD card or you have recovered all data.

How to format a RAW SD card, follow below solutions:

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Step 1: Open My Computer or This PC.

Step 2: Right click the RAW SD card and select "Format..." option.

Select format

Stpe 3: In the new window, select FAT32 or exFAT file system and then click "Start".

Start format

Step 4: In the warning window, click "OK" to start formatting your RAW SD card.

Confirm format

When the format is complete, you can use your SD card to store files again.

If you get "Windows is unable to format SD card" error message, it means your RAW SD card won't format. In this situation, SD card is write-protected or physically damaged, try the SD card formatter or SD card production tool.

Solution 9: Seek for help from a local specialist

If your RAW SD card has physically failed, send the SD card to a local service provider for data recovery.

The common symptom of the physically failed SD card is wrong detect capacity by Disk Management, for example, SD card total capacity is 16GB, while Disk Management detects SD card total capacity as 31MB.

Corrupted SD card

Solution 10: Replace it with a new SD card

If your SD card has physically failed and you don't have any important data needed to recover, please purchase a new SD card to replace it.

How to avoid SD card RAW file system again?

Usually, a new SD card wouldn't have RAW file system problem. When a SD card has been used for a long time, SD card can show 0 bytes, RAW file system problem due to various causes. Therefore, in order to avoid SD card 0 bytes, RAW file system, you can do following things:

1. Avoid connecting SD card to the public computer: Public computer may be infected by virus attack, if you connect SD card to a computer which has been attacked by virus, the SD card will also be infected by virus. When the SD card is attacked by virus, it may stop working properly and shows RAW file system, 0 bytes.

2. Eject SD card properly: SD card is easy to be corrupted if you eject SD card inproperly. If you remove SD card from your computer when SD card is still in use, SD card can also be corrupted and shows RAW file system, 0 bytes.