Camera Won’t Read SD Card: 5 Methods to Fix It

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camera won't read sd cardSD cards are a staple for modern cameras. However, if you’ve been using SD cards for long, you’ve probably experienced an instance where your camera won’t read the SD card. You might be worried about losing the data on your SD card when you can’t access it, but the good thing is, you can recover those files.

In this guide, we walk you through the process of fixing the SD card and recovering the files so you can ensure you don’t lose personal or client data. The process discussed here works on all camera devices, whether it’s a DSLR or dash cam that’s not recognizing the SD card.

Why is Camera Not Reading SD Card?

Your camera might not read your SD card under several situations. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Unsupported card type and capacity: If you purchased a new large-sized SD card, your camera might not support the type of SD card. Cameras between 4 and 32GB follow the older SDHC standard, while cards larger than 32GB follow the SDXC standard. Devices that read SDHC cards can read SDXC cards, but the reverse isn’t true and that might be why your camera isn’t reading your new SD card.
  • SD card not inserted properly: When the SD card isn’t inserted properly, the card’s terminal won’t align with the camera’s reader properly, which means the camera won’t read the SD card.
  • SD card is locked: SD cards have a lock switch sitting at one of the edges of the card. Make sure the card is unlocked. If it is, slide the switch to lock and unlock again.
  • Dirty terminal or physical damage: A dirty terminal can make it difficult for the camera to read the memory card because of a loose connection. Your terminal may also have been physically damaged, causing the camera to not recognize the SD card.
  • File system errors: SD cards commonly formatted with file systems like FAT32 (used by SDHC cards) and exFAT (used by SDXC cards). These file systems provide a structure for organizing data (among other things) on the disk and can become corrupt for various reasons such as virus infection or abrupt removal when writing data on it.
  • Hardware problems: The SD card port on your camera may have undergone physical damage leading to the camera not reading the SD card.

Note: Regardless of the cause, the first thing you should do upon encountering this problem is stop using the SD card. If you end up overwriting data or damaging the card further, the data might be lost permanently.

How to Fix Camera Won’t Read SD Card Issue

The exact method that will help you fix the SD card depends on what caused the problem. Here are the solutions for the most common causes that can cause the camera to not read the SD card.

Method 1: Reinsert the SD Card

Turn off the camera and remove the SD card. Make sure you reinsert the SD card in the right direction. When inserting, push the edge sticking out of the device at the center until you hear a click to ensure the card is inserted properly.

Method 2: Remove Virus from SD Card

A virus can corrupt the filesystem as well as the files. Your SD card may have been infected when you connected it to your PC for transferring photos and videos. You can generally remove a virus using a robust antivirus software solution. Of course, you’ll first need to connect the SD card to the computer using a card reader.

However, note that the antivirus tool might also end up deleting important files that it views as malicious. Before you perform any action using the antivirus, double-check those actions and the files it will take those actions on to ensure you don’t end up losing important files.

Method 3: Use the CHKDSK Utility

CHKDSK is a built-in utility in Windows that checks a storage device’s file system and file system metadata for logical and physical errors. If your camera is having trouble recognizing your SD because it has become corrupt or has bad sectors, the CHKDSK utility can help fix that, provided your PC recognizes the SD card.

To run CHKDSK:

  1. Connect the SD card with the PC using a card reader.
  2. Search for cmd in the Start Menu, hover your cursor over Command Prompt, and select Run as administrator.launching an elevated command prompt
  3. Type the following in the Command Prompt and press Enter:
    chkdsk F: /x

    (replace F with the drive letter assigned to the SD card)

    running the chkdsk command

CHKDSK will start scanning the drive for errors and fix them if it finds any.

Method 4: Update Camera Software

Camera software updates might be able to help you resolve the issue if the reason for your SD card not being recognized is a firmware bug. The exact method for updating camera software differs depending on the camera brand and model you use. If you use Sony Cybershot, you’ll need to use a different method than someone with a Nikon Coolpix.

However, the process of updating as well as the firmware upgrade file is generally available on the manufacturer’s website. Here are a few general guidelines to get you started:

  1. Go to the camera manufacturer’s website to download the firmware. The process may look different for each website, but here are the most popular camera brands’ support page link to get you started:
  2. Look for your camera model. In most cases, you can search for the model by typing the model’s name in the search bar on the support page.
  3. Beyond this point, you’ll need to explore the website a little. Look for the latest camera software or firmware on the next page. Note that you must download the firmware for your specific model. Firmware typically isn’t compatible with multiple cameras.

The rest of the process should appear on the firmware download page. However, if you’re not fully confident about the process, it’s best to seek help from a technician. If you mess something up, you might need to get the camera repaired anyway.

Method 5: Format the SD Card

Formatting the SD card should be a last resort because you’ll end up erasing all of the data on the SD card. However, formatting can help you solve almost all logical errors on the SD card.

To format an SD card using a PC:

  1. Connect it with your PC using a card reader.
  2. Press Ctrl + E to launch the File Explorer and select Computer (This PC if you’re on Windows 10) from the left sidebar.
  3. Right-click on the SD card and select Format.selecting the format option
  4. Select a file system. Ideally, exFAT for cards with capacity of 32GB or more or for cards on which you want to store files greater than 4GB. FAT32 is another option if you don’t plan on storing files greater than 4GB.
  5. Select a Volume label.
  6. Check the box next to Quick Format.
  7. Click Start.checking the box next to quick format and starting the format
  8. Press OK for confirmation when prompted.

Wait for the process to complete and then reinsert the card into your camera.

How to Get Data from an SD That is Not Recognized by Camera

Once you’ve fixed the SD card, you can start recovering your data. For this, you’ll need to use a data recovery software solution.

You can use your SD card brand’s recovery solution or a third-party app. For example, Sony Memory Card File Rescue can help recover data from Sony SD cards. However, third-party tools offer better performance.

There are various data recovery tools out there, but your best bet is to use a reliable tool like Disk Drill (learn more in our Disk Drill review).

We’ll help you with the process if you’ve never used a data recovery tool before. Here is the simple, four-step process for recovering data from a SD card using Disk Drill:

Step 1. Download and Install Disk Drill

Download Disk Drill and install it on your PC. The free version lets you recover up to 500MB of data.

installing disk drill

Step 2. Scan the SD Card

Connect the SD card to your computer using a built-in or external card reader. Then, launch Disk Drill, select the SD card from the home screen, and click on the Search for lost data button.

starting a scan in disk drill

Step 3. Select Files to Recover

Once the scan completes, you’ll see the files available for recovery. If you previously used the SD card for also storing other types of files, Disk Drill can help you filter the search results by file type and extension.

You can also preview your files before recovering them so you can be sure you’re recovering the right files. To preview a file, hover your cursor over the file and click on the small eye icon.

Then, select all files that you want to recover by checking the box to their left.

selecting files in disk drill

Step 4. Recover Files

Once you’ve selected the files to recover, click on the Recover button at the bottom. Select a location where you want to recover the files and click OK.

recovering files using disk drill

Note: You should always recover files to a location different from the source location (the SD card in this case) to avoid overwriting any data.

Once you’ve recovered the files, you can focus on fixing the SD card.

Conclusion

If your camera suddenly stops recognizing your SD card, don’t panic. First, recover the files using a tool like Disk Drill. Then, try to identify the cause. Typical causes include:

  • Unsupported card type and capacity
  • SD card not inserted properly
  • SD card is locked
  • Dirty terminal or physical damage
  • File system errors
  • Hardware problems

Depending on the cause, use one of the following solutions:

  • Reinsert the SD card
  • Remove virus from the SD card
  • Use CHKDSK
  • Update camera software
  • Format the SD card

In most cases, you should be able to recover data using a data recovery tool and fix the SD card using one of the methods listed here.

Arjun is an Tech ninja, codes HTML and CSS, and has received an honorary mention as the family’s go-to tech help during get-togethers. He has been writing guides for about six years and he’s currently a contributor on major Tech websites like MakeUseOf, HelpDeskGeek and 7 Data Recovery.
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Senior Data Recovery Engineer. Master's degree in Physics, Information Technology for Science Experiments.