How to fix Mac not recognizing or showing up SD card?

Updated by Tim to Home > Mac Data Recovery Tips on March 25th, 2021

Back from holiday

Picture this: you've just come back from an amazing vacation, and you want to upload all your pictures to your Mac. You put your SD card in, wait for it to appear. And yet your SD Card is not showing up on your Mac.

This can be incredibly frustrating. You take it out, put it back in, and yet it still doesn't show up. What do you do? How do you solve this problem?

How to fix Mac not reading or showing up SD card?

There are actually many different steps you can take when your Mac is not reading your SD card. By troubleshooting the right way, you can fix this problem fast.

1. The easiest fix for SD card not showing up on Mac is restarting

This one might seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't think of restarting their Mac when their Mac is not recognizing their SD card. If you haven't tried restarting your Mac, we recommend that you try out this easy fix now.

Why is restarting your Mac such an effective troubleshooting strategy? This is because modern computers are complex. They are made up of many different individual processes, applications, and services.

When the computer gets too busy, this can get in the way of even the simplest processes, like your SD card showing up on your Mac.

By restarting your computer, every process going on will restart, making it easier for simple processes to work correctly.

2. Check the preferences on your Finder desktop and sidebar

To troubleshoot your SD card, start off by checking the preferences on your Finder desktop and sidebar. Usually, the SD card is supposed to show up automatically on your desktop and in your Finder's sidebar.

However, sometimes preferences change this. To fix your preferences so that you don't have SD card issues with your Mac.

Check the preferences on your Finder sidebar

Launch Finder. Then, go to the top bar and click "Finder". Here, you'll see several options to choose from. Select "Preferences". In "Preferences", go to the tab that says "Sidebar". You might notice that not all items are checked in this list.

Show external drive in Finder

If they aren't check all of them. Now, if this was the problem, your SD card should appear on your desktop sidebar.

Check the preferences on your Finder desktop

If you want it to also appear on your desktop when you put it in, then you have to play around with your preferences, too.

To do this, launch Finder. Then, go to the top bar and select "Preferences". Then, go to the General tab. See where it says "Show these items on the desktop", make sure that all those boxes are checked.

Show external drive on Mac

3. Test your SD card reader

Sometimes, your repaid SD card on your Mac isn't actually functioning. Even though memory card readers are pretty simple devices that are unlikely to break, they do break sometimes. Fortunately, replacing your SD card reader won't be too expensive.

Before you try out other troubleshooting tricks in this article, which deal with bigger issues, test out your SD card reader.

If you have a different memory card reader that can handle SD cards, then you can simply use this reader. All you have to do is connect it to the Mac, after which you insert the SD card into it.

Don't have one? Ask a friend if you can borrow their computer with an SD card reader, or buy a new one.

At least there isn't a bigger issue going on with your Mac that's causing your SD card to now show up.

4. Check for USB connection issues

When you're using a memory card reader, the information is transferring through a Universal Serial Bus (what we ordinarily call a USB). This is a type of data interface that makes it possible for your computer to communicate with external devices.

These external devices could include external drives, USB flash drives, and readers.

The part of this process being carried on your Mac occurs with the help of the USB daemon, which handles configuration management, device mounting, and any other parts of the process of transferring information via a USB.

If this daemon isn't working, then this could cause your SD card to not show up on your Mac. To restart the daemon, go to Terminal and type in this command:

sudo launchctl stop; sudo launchctl start

If you restart your Mac, this will effectively do the same thing.

5. Check if your SD card is locked

Did you know that, when you have a full-size SD card, it comes with a lock switch? This switch appears on the left side of the card. When it's activated, it makes it impossible for you to delete or store any of the data that's stored on your SD card.

Unlocked and locked SD card

Usually, this shouldn't cause it to not show up on your Mac. However, it might be the cause, making it impossible for you to even read the SD card's content.

So switch the lock and put it back in. If your SD card is missing the lock, then you need to fix it.

Fortunately, you can do this in your own home with common household objects.

6. Check if the SD card is encrypted by BitLocker

The next thing is to check the incompatibility between the SD card and your Mac computer. If your SD card is protected by BitLocker, then it can't be recognized on Mac. Because BitLocker is developed by Microsoft and macOS doesn't support it.

To make sure of this issue, you can connect the SD card to a PC. If Windows can recognizes it and ask for password, your SD card is encrypted by BitLocker. Under this circumstance, you can use a BitLocker for Mac tool called M3 BitLocker Loader for Mac to read BitLocker encrypted SD card on your Mac.

M3 BitLocker Loader for Mac

7. Put the SD card into another device

Of course, it isn't ideal to try out all these steps and find that your SD card still won't show up on your Mac. However, before spending a ton of money on repairs, there's another way you can put your content onto your computer, even if the SD card doesn't show up.

If you don't have a second computer to put the SD card into, that's okay.

There are many other devices you can use. For example, your smart TV. Many of these additional devices will make it possible for you to transfer the files from your SD card to a USB flash drive or external hard drive.

As a result, you can then connect one of these drives to your Mac. Then you'll have access to your photos!

8. Reset the NVRAM/PRAM chip

In Intel-based macs, there's a chip called the NVRAM/PRAM chip. Your mac uses this chip so it can remember your computer's settings, including peripheral devices, time zone, startup disk selection, display resolution, sound volume, and more.

If your computer's hardware is ever acting a bit funny, it can help to reset the NVRAM/PRAM chip.

There are several steps you need to take to reset the NVRAM/PRAM chip. First, shut down your computer.

Then, turn it on. Immediately as it's powering up, press and hold these keys: Option + Command + P + R. Hold these down for around 20 seconds. Then release these keys.

Your Mac should then turn on and the NVRAM/PRAM chip will have been reset.

9. Mount your SD card in Disk Utility

If you just attempted the above step and your SD card is still not showing up on your Mac, here's the next step to take. Go to your Disk Utility and check to see if your SD card appears there on the list. If you see it on the list, but it's in grey, this means there's a mounting issue.

Basically, the SD card sometimes doesn't mount properly. To fix this, select the "Mount" option. Then, it should appear on both the desktop and Finder.

10. Update your Mac's drivers

Let's say you've just taken the above step, and the SD card isn't showing up on your Mac. This might mean that your Mac's drivers need updating. When they're outdated, this can cause external hard drives as well as your SD card to not show up.

How do you fix this problem? It depends on what type of operating system you have.

If you already have macOS Big Sur, then go to the Apple Menu, after which you should select "System Preferences." After this, click on "Software Update." Click "Update Now" if there are any updates available.

Mac software update

If your Mac is operating with an earlier macOS version, go to the App Store. Then go to the top and click the "Update" tab. Select "Update All".

11. Run First Aid to repair the unreadable SD card

If these methods above fails to fix the unreadable SD card, the SD card may have some file system errors. Luckily, you can easily check disk errors and repair the corrupted file system with built-in First Aid.

Step 1: Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 2: After launching Disk Utility, choose "View" from the upper right menu bar. From the drop-down menu, select "Show All Devices".

Step 3: Choose the unreadable SD card and click on "First Aid".

First Aid

Step 4: Click "Run". This will start the verification and repair process.

When Disk Utility has run its checks, you will see a drop-down window. If Disk Utility reports that the disk appears to be OK or has been repaired, you're done. You can click "Show details" to view more information.

If Disk Utility fails to repair your corrupted SD card, you will be asked to back up as much of your data as possible and then reformat the SD card.

12. Recover data from SD card

Before fixing the unreadable SD card, you should firstly recover data from the unreadable SD card. The good news is that the lost data still remains on the SD card until it is overwritten.

Things you should know before data recovery

When you realize you have lost data on your SD card, stop all write operations immediately, including saving files, deleting files, reformatting the card. These actions will create new files which may write over the original data. If the old data have been overwritten, it's impossible to recover. Therefore, to increase the chance of data recovery, please take the card out of the camera or phone and find a professional data recovery tool.

Recover data from the unreadable SD card

M3 Mac Data Recovery is a professional data recovery software that can recover data from unreadable SD card, recover deleted or lost files from SD card, recover lost data from formatted SD card, recover lost data from unmountable SD card, recover lost data from corrupted SD card, etc.

M3 Data Recovery for Mac can recover many file formats, including JPG, PNG, TIFF, MOV, MP4, and many RAW camera formats. This software performs SD card data recovery on macOS 11/10.15/10.14/10.13/10.12 and Mac OS X 10.11/10.10/10.9/10.8.

M3 Data Recovery for Mac software

Besides, M3 Data Recovery for Mac can also recover deleted or lost photos, files, music files, videos, emails from hard drive, external hard drive, pen drive, USB flash drive, memory card, CF card, etc. It is read-only and safe to use which will never write to your drive during the recovery process.

Steps to recover data from the unreadable SD card on Mac:

Step 1: Launch M3 Data Recovery for Mac.

Step 2: Select the unreadable SD card and click "Next" to scan lost data on it.

Step 3: Preview the scanning results, choose files we need, and click "Recover" to get them back.

Step 4: Check to ensure you have got all lost files back.

13. Reformat the SD card

If Disk Utility fails to repair your SD card, the SD card has been severely damaged. The final fix is to reformat the SD card on Mac. But this operation will erase all your data stored on the SD card, please make sure you have recovered all data with M3 Data Recovery for Mac.

Step 1: Go to Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.

Step 2: Choose View > Show All Devices.

Step 3: Click the icon of the unreadable SD card on the left part of the window.

Step 4: Click "Erase" on the top of the Disk Utility window.


Step 5: Complete related information (name, format, scheme), then click the "Erase" button.

14. Send the SD card to a local repair shop

If the SD card can't be formatted, it means the SD card has been physically damaged. Unfortunately, there is no software can help you fix the hardware problem. You can only send it to a local repair shop or replace it with a brand-new one.

Need more information?

Now that you know the different fixes you can use when your SD card is not showing up on your Mac, you might need more information.

Or maybe you have another Mac issue you want to fix. Whatever information you need, we're here to help.

At M3 Data Recovery, we're experts when it comes to Macs. We can also help you with data recovery. To learn more about how we can help you, contact our support center now.

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