How to Recover Data from a RAW SD Card and Fix It

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recover raw sd cardWe often use SD cards to back up important files and information that we need on the move. So it can be frustrating to find out that your computer is refusing to let you access the card because it has gone into a RAW state. It might seem like you’ve lost all your data, but there are ways to successfully execute a RAW SD card recovery. 

We’re going to get into all of the steps involved in that process in this article. Before that, let’s understand the problem a little better. 

What Is a RAW SD Card?

A RAW SD card is one that appears unreadable by a computer. Essentially, you have the experience of not being able to access the files that you’ve stored on the SD card. 

Internally, a RAW SD card is one whose file system has become damaged. This can happen due to a whole host of reasons. Whatever the cause might be, the operating system of your computer will be unable to read its contents. 

SD cards in this state are called RAW because they’re in a state where the file system is in a completely raw or unusable state. You need to take some action to restore it to a readable format like FAT32 or NTFS. 

How SD Cards Become RAW

If you find that your SD card is RAW, then there are a few common culprits behind that. That includes: 

  • The file system has become corrupted due to improper startup or shutdown, hardware failures, etc. 
  • The file system of your SD card is missing entirely due to the effects of a piece of malware, hardware issues, etc. 
  • The SD card’s file system is not compatible with the computer that you’re working on. This can be the case if either the card or computer are an old device. 
  • The file system formatting of the SD card is not done properly. This usually occurs due to bad formatting procedures and improper updates. 

If you find that your SD card is in this condition, your operating system will usually give you the option of formatting it. That will make the card readable again, but you will lose all your data. The good news is that there are ways to fix a raw SD card without formatting it. Let’s find out what they are. 

How to Recover Files From a RAW SD Card

Before you fix a RAW SD card, the smart thing to do is to back up the data in it. That way you still have access to all your files even if the procedure doesn’t go to plan. Disk Drill is a dependable RAW data recovery software which comes in a free version. Use this guide if you have a Sandisk SD card. 

Here are the steps you can follow to recover files in a RAW SD card. 

Step 1.Download the free version of Disk Drill at this link and install it on your computer. You will need to grant administrator-level access to the software so it can perform the recovery.

Step 2.Connect the SD card to your PC. You can do this either by inserting it in a card reader or by connecting a device containing the SD card to the computer.

Step 3.Now, open Disk Drill. You will see a list of the drives on your computer in the home screen. Select your SD card from that list. 
Disk Drill list of drives
Step 4.When you click on the All recovery methods drop down, you’ll see a few options for the kind of recovery you want to choose. In this case, choose the Deep Scan since you want to recover all of the files on your SD card, whether they were put there recently or have been in there for a while. 

Step 5.At this stage, Disk Drill will start scanning for all the files on your SD card. Once that process is complete, it will show you a list of the files it has found. You can review all of the found items by clicking the blue button on the top right corner. 
Reviewing the data that Disk Drill found. Step 6.Once you review them, click on the Recover button to start recovering the files on your SD card. The software will throw up a prompt where you can choose a location to safely store all the files. Select the location to complete the recovery. 
Disk Drill recover button

At this point, all of the data on your SD card is safely available at a different location. So you can access them from your computer if you please. That said, you still want to fix your RAW SD card so you can use it in the future. Here’s how you can do that. 

How to Fix a RAW SD Card

There are a few ways you can go  about fixing an SD card that is in a RAW state. We go over how each of them work and the process you can follow to fix your card. 

Method 1: Windows Error-checking Tool

Windows has a built-in tool check disk tool that you can use to identify issues with an SD card and fix them. Here’s the process you can follow to repair a RAW SD card using the Windows error-checking tool. 

  1. Open Windows File Explorer and right click on your SD card drive. Select Properties
  2. On the screen that follows, go to the Tools tab. Here, you will see a header titled Error checking. Click on the Check button there. 
    Windows error checking tool
  3. On the next screen, check the Automatically fix file system errors option. Now press Start

Windows then kicks off the process of correcting your SD card’s file system. You will see a progress bar visualizing the length of the procedure. Once it’s completed, your SD card will be good to use again. 

Method 2: Command Prompt

Another in-built feature you have access to when fixing a RAW SD card without formatting is the command prompt. More specifically, we will be using the check disk command that’s available via the prompt. 

Below are the steps to follow to fix your SD card using the command prompt. For the sake of this tutorial, we will assume that your SD card is named as the S drive. 

  1. Connect your SD card to your computer. 
  2. Open the command prompt by searching for it in the Windows search bar. 
  3. Enter the command chkdsk S: /f /r
    chkdsk command Windows

When you enter the command, Windows will begin to check the file system, listing the records, and fixing any issues that it may spot. At the completion of that process, you will get a message letting you know that “Windows has made corrections to the file system.” You will then be able to use your SD card like normal again. 

Method 3: Formatting the SD Card using Diskpart

If neither of the first two methods work, then your final option is to format your SD card. This will mean wiping it clean, so don’t forget to recover and store all of the data using the process delineated earlier in the article. 

Here’s how you can format a RAW SD card using the Diskpart method.

  1. Connect the SD card to your computer. 
  2. Open the command prompt and enter diskpart. On the screen that follows, type out the list disk command. Your command prompt will look something like this at this point. 
    Windows diskpart list disk command
  3. Let’s say your SD card is the S: drive and you want to format it into an NTFS file system, then you’d type Disk S format fs=FAT32 and hit enter. 

This lets the computer know to format the SD card and reconfigure it into the FAT32 file system. Unplug your SD card once this is done and reconnect it to check whether the process has been completed safely. 

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Prateek is a freelance writer who covers technology and culture for several online publications. He enjoys sports and watching movies when he’s not working.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.