How to Recover Accidentally Formatted SD Card for Free

Written by

Recover Formatted SD Card 

Help! I’ve recently formatted my SD card by mistake. Is it possible to recover files from it?

Yes. In most cases, it’s possible to recover all files from a recently formatted SD card, and the process is easier than you might think. In this article, we provide step-by-step instructions on how to recover files from a formatted SD card, and we describe in detail three popular SD card recovery solutions, so you have multiple options to choose from. 

What Does Formatting Really Mean?

easily recover sd card after format

Some users may see the word formatting as an intimidating technical term. In reality, formatting is simply a method of preparing a storage device, in our case an SD card, for use with a digital camera, mobile device, or computer. It’s a necessary step in making a storage device available for storing data.

Formatting is the procedure that a computer, camera, smartphone, or other device uses to prepare an SD card so it can store files. When an SD card is formatted, a new file management structure is set up with the appropriate folders to save the files generated by the camera or device. Most devices will not allow you to use an unformatted SD card and will require you to format the card before it can be used. You may have a choice in which filesystem is used or the device may need a specific filesystem for its successful operation.

What Happens During SD Card Formatting?

When you format an SD card, you overwrite the current file structure with a new one. The files and folders that were previously visible on the card are no longer accessible after the card is reformatted. Most operating systems and devices offer the option to perform a Quick or Full format. The one you choose will impact your ability to recover files if you have inadvertently formatted the card before saving its contents to a safe location.

A Quick format just overlays a new filesystem on top of the data previously stored on the SD card. It does not physically erase the data but makes it available to be recovered with one of the methods we will discuss shortly. The logical links to the files and folders are removed, making the data inaccessible to the operating system, but the underlying data remains physically intact. 

A Full format takes longer to perform and does attempt to remove all data from the SD card. Depending on the operating system, this may be done by overwriting the card to obscure the data that was stored on the device. It will be harder, if not impossible, to recover lost data from an SD card that has undergone a Full format.

How to Recover Files from a Formatted SD Card?

Before describing the methods with which you can recover data from a formatted SD card online, there is a very important point that needs to be made. Your best chance of recovering files from a formatted SD card is directly related to the amount of use the card is subjected to after formatting and before recovery. 

As we discussed in the previous section, when you format an SD card, the data is not physically removed from the device. Until it is overwritten by new data, it can be recovered. Once a file is overwritten, you cannot recover it. 

To eliminate the risk of losing your data for good, you need to stop using the SD card as soon as it is formatted if you intend to attempt data recovery. If you have accidentally formatted an SD card, there is a very good chance that you can get all or most of the data back if you act quickly. This means that you should not use the card at all until after you have completed the recovery process. Remove the card from its device until you are ready to perform the data recovery.

Let’s look at some methods that you can use to recover data from a formatted SD card. We will first look at methods that use native operating system functionality and then move on to using data recovery software to perform the recovery.

Recovering Data from a Formatted SD Card with the Command Line on Windows

Windows users can try to recover an SD card after a format through the command line. Use the following steps to try this method of recovering your data.

To repair an SD card using CMD you need to:

  1. Open a command prompt by typing cmd in the Windows search box.
  2. Select run as administrator.
  3. Type this command: chkdsk G: /f/x/r. Replace G with the drive letter of the formatted SD card.
    recover data from formatted sd card
  4. Hit Enter and let the process complete.

Recovering Data from a Formatted SD Card using the Terminal App on Mac

  1. Open the Terminal application which is located in your Mac’s Utilities folder.
  2. Navigate to the SD card using the cd command in Terminal.
  3. Enter this command mv filename ../ replacing filename with the name of the file you wish to recover. Then hit Return.Recover files in mac terminal
  4. Type Quit to exit Terminal.
  5. Go to the previous folder and see if your file has been restored.

Recover a Formatted SD Card using Data Recovery Software

The most reliable method of recovering data from a formatted SD card is with data recovery software. Data recovery software repairs the logical links that were removed during formatting which makes the data accessible to the operating system and other applications. 

Using data recovery software is a safe method of recovering your lost data. The recovery applications access your disk in read-only mode and will not harm the disk or its data. Most recovery apps also offer the ability to filter data based on filetype to make it easier to determine if the files you need can be restored. You can search for specific files or restrict the recovery to photos, videos, or any other type of file. Your best chance of a successful and stress-free recovery is with data recovery software.

Best Data Recovery Software to Recover Files from Formatted SD Card

If it makes you feel any better, you’re not the only person in the world who has accidentally formatted and SD card and lost important images, videos, documents, or other data. In fact, SD card-related data loss is such a pervasive issue that there are multiple data recovery software solutions addressing it. 

Every data recovery software solution offers a slightly different approach and a set of features, but they can all help you recover data from a formatted SD card from the comfort of your home. Let’s take a closer look at the top 3 best data recovery software solutions to recover files from a formatted SD card that are currently available.

#1. Disk Drill

how to recover files from formatted sd card

Selecting any best solution is always difficult—except when it comes to data recovery. The release of the first version of Disk Drill in 2010 provided a welcome alternative to the clunky data recovery software applications that were available at the time.   

Even today, Disk Drill still stands out with its unique one-click approach to data recovery. Instead of having to manually configure lots of different settings before you can even begin, you can simply click the Recover button and let Disk Drill take care of everything for you. 

Its advanced data recovery algorithms are capable of reconstructing files in over 400 different file formats from a wide array of storage devices, including SD cards, USB flash drives, internal and external hard drives, and even Android and iOS smartphones. 

Included in both Disk Drill for Mac and Disk Drill for Windows is a data protection feature called Recovery Vault, which runs as a background service and remembers all metadata and properties of deleted files to make their subsequent recovery easier. 

Main features: 

  • Capable of reconstructing files in over 400 different file formats.
  • Can recover data from a wide array of storage devices.
  • Makes it easy to preview recoverable data.
  • Provides enhanced data protection with its Recovery Vault feature.
  • Let’s you create a byte-by-byte disk image.

#2. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

recover sd card after format

Despite being first released in 2005, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard remains one of the more popular data recovery software applications currently available. It works on Windows and Mac and can recover 2 GB of data for free

Just like Disk Drill, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard offers two main data recovery modes: Quick Scan and Deep Scan. Just like their names suggest, the former takes a shorter time to complete, while the latter needs more time because it carefully examines every sector of the scanned storage device. 

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard boasts the ability to recover corrupted photo and video files, including JPEG, JPG, MP4, and MOV. It can also recover most other common and not-so-common file formats and, in most cases, preview them before the actual recovery. Users of the paid version of this data recovery software application can take advantage of free remote assistance and let an EaseUS employee remotely recover formatted SD card free of charge on their behalf. 

Main features: 

  • Has been on the market for over 15 years. 
  • Allows you to recover up to 2 GB of data for free. 
  • Makes it easy to preview recoverable data.
  • Free 1-on-1 remote assistance with the Pro version. 
Read Also
Data Recovery Guide for SanDisk SD Cards and USB Drives
SanDisk is one of the most popular manufacturers of flash memory products, mainly SD cards and USB drives. But just because SanDisk products can be found in …

#3. Recuva

recover formatted sd card

Developed by Piriform (the company behind CCleaner) and owned by Avast, Recuva is a simple but capable data recovery software application for Windows. Its free version can recover an unlimited amount of data from internal and external hard disk drives, memory cards, USB flash drives, portable music and video players, as well as other storage devices with a supported file system. 

Recuva Pro adds virtual hard drive support, automatic updates, and premium customer support for $19.95, which is a fairly affordable price for a data recovery software application. You can also get Recuva Pro in a bundle with CCleaner Professional, Defraggler Professional, and Speccy Professional. 

Just be careful when installing Recuva because it will try to install CCleaner as well. It’s also possible that Recuva will try to install Avast in the future because that’s exactly what CCleaner started doing after Avast acquired its developers. 

Main features: 

  • Affordable price. 
  • Recovery Wizard. 
  • Virtual hard drive support.

Recovering a Formatted SD Card using Disk Drill Data Recovery Software

Here are the steps to use on Windows and Mac systems to recover data from a formatted SD card with Disk Drill. We chose Disk Drill as it has superior recovery capabilities and offers users a simple and effective way of recovering their lost data.

How to Recover Files on a Windows Computer

Follow these steps to recover files on Windows computers using Disk Drill data recovery software.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Windows on your machine. Since you are recovering data from an SD card, you can use your computer’s main hard drive for the download and installation.  
  2. Connect the SD card to the machine through an internal or external card reader.
  3. Launch Disk Drill and select Data Recovery in the left-hand panel. Choose the SD card from the app’s disk list.
    recover formatted sd card with disk drill
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate the scan. Select the type of scan you want Disk Drill to use to identify recoverable data on the SD card. The best results will be achieved by allowing the software to run all its scanning algorithms in the optimal order.
  5. Preview the recovered files by clicking on the icon representing the type of file you are recovering. Found files are categorized as Pictures, Video, Audio, Documents, Archives, and Other files so you can quickly navigate to the type of file in which you are interested. recover formatted sd card with disk drill for windows
  6. Select the files you want to recover and choose a safe location at which to store the recovered data that is not on the affected SD card. This prevents data corruption or overwriting during the recovery process.  
  7. Click the Recover button and let the software retrieve your files to the designated storage location.

How to Recover Files on a Mac Computer

Use the following procedure to recover deleted files on a Mac with Disk Drill data recovery software.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac. It’s safe to perform the download and installation on your Mac’s main disk since you are recovering data from an external storage device.
  2. Connect the SD card that has lost data to your Mac with a card reader or by attaching the camera or device that contains the card.
  3. Launch Disk Drill and choose Data Recovery from the panel on the left. Select the SD card that you will be recovering from the list of available devices.
    Select sd card from the list
  4. Click the Search for lost data button to initiate the scanning procedure. You can select the type of scan you wish to run or let the tool use all of its algorithms in the optimal order which will provide the most complete recovery results.Select the recovery method
  5. Preview the files found by Disk Drill by searching in the Scan Results which are categorized according to file type.
    Select the files for recovery
  6. Choose the files you want to recover and designate a new storage location at which to save them. Avoid using the original SD card or you risk overwriting the data you want to restore during the recovery process.Recover deleted sd card files
  7. Click the Recover button to complete the recovery procedure and restore the selected files to your new storage location.


Many people assume that learning how to recover files from a formatted SD card is just as difficult as deciphering the Enigma machine. In reality, SD card file recovery has been made simple thanks to modern data recovery software solutions like Disk Drill, which presents a very accessible one-click approach to data recovery. By following the step-by-step instructions provided in this article, you should be able to get back all accidentally deleted files in no time, but you must act quickly and begin recovery before the files become overwritten.