How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card on Mac

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sd card recovery mac

You’re transferring files from your SD card to your computer when you accidentally delete some valuable footage. Whether it’s a simple photo or a professional video clip, we can recover deleted files from your SD card through your Mac.

Before anything, you should immediately stop using the SD card to increase the chances of recovering your deleted files. In this article, we’ll go through a step-by-step guide to recovering the deleted files and we’ll talk about the common reasons for data loss and how to avoid them.

Types of SD Cards Explained

SD or Secure Digital cards are portable memory cards used to store data in electronic devices.

Here are the different types of SD cards you’ll encounter.

  • SDHC – These are the most common type, with high capacity storage that can hold up to 32GB of data, so they are usually used for digital cameras.
  • Micro SD – These cards are smaller in size and are designed for mobile phones.
  • CF Cards – Compact Flash cards are known to be faster and more durable than SDHC, and are mostly used in high-end cameras.
  • xD Pictures – Extreme Digital picture cards were commonly used with Fujifilm and Olympus cameras, though they were discontinued in 2009.

Even though there are several types, the ways to recover deleted files from SD cards are similar, if not exactly the same. So without further ado, here’s how!

How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card on Mac

Disk Drill is a data recovery software for Mac that can retrieve over 400 file types on different storage devices like iPhones and iPads, Android devices, USB flash drives, and SD cards.

You can download the app, scan, and preview any deleted files from your SD card for free. However, if you found your lost files and want to recover them, then you’ll need to purchase the PRO version for unlimited data recovery for just $89.

To recover your data from an SD card using Disk Drill, follow the steps below:

Step 1. First, download Disk Drill for Mac from the official website.

Step 2. Next, open diskdrill.dmg from your Downloads folder.

open disk drill

Step 3. Then, drag the Disk Drill icon to the Applications folder.

drag disk drill to applications

Step 4. Open Disk Drill from the Applications folder. If this is your first time to open the app, there will be a prompt asking you if you are sure you want to open Disk Drill. Click “Open”.

open disk drill application

Step 5. Disk Drill will now be launched. All the available drives for scanning will be displayed on the Disk Drill homepage, so make sure that your SD card is plugged into your Mac for it to be detected.

disk drill main page

Step 6. Click on the SD card that you want to scan for lost data, and click “Search for lost data” on the lower-right side of the screen.

Step 7. Wait for the scan to finish. This will probably take a while depending on the size of the drive being scanned.

Step 8. When the scan is over, Disk Drill will show the items that you can retrieve. They will be separated according to file type.

show items to retrieve

Step 9. Suppose you are looking to recover photos from your SD card, click the Pictures folder. There will be subfolders. Filter them by file size, date modified, or directly search for the file name.

filters for files

Step 10. Once you’ve found the file, click on it to see a preview of the image.

preview the image

Step 11. Finally, click the “Restore” button located on the lower-right part of the screen and choose a new destination for the file that you want to recover.

select the folder for recovery

Step 12. A message will show up on your screen to confirm that the file has been recovered.

data recovery finished

If you want to revisit the scan, you can always go back to it by clicking Recent Sessions on the left panel of the homepage.

recent sessions

Reasons for Data Loss from SD Cards

There are several possible reasons as to why you’ve lost files from your SD card. The most common reasons are:

🛠️ Corrupted Card

Improper physical handling of an SD card can result in a corrupted card. When your SD card cannot be recognized or cannot show files saved on it, then it may be corrupted. Aside from improper handling or exposure to heat and unsuitable environments, age can also degrade and slowly corrupt an SD card.

An SD card typically has a 10-year lifespan, but it’s a great rule of thumb to prepare backups and think about buying one after 5 to 7 years of use. This is especially true if you’ve used your SD card on a consistent basis, since these cards only have a limited number of reading and writing operations.

🦠 Virus or Malware

If your device accidentally downloaded a malware or virus, then that will also affect the memory card installed. Data stored may become unreadable or inaccessible.

💿 Formatting

Formatting a memory card on Mac, whether intentionally or accidentally, deletes all the data that was stored in it. Unless you are sure that you no longer need the files stored in your SD card, or you have them all backed up, do not format your memory card.

How to Prevent Data Loss on an SD Card

Knowing all that, here are a few tips for you to prevent data loss:

  • Always safely eject your SD card after using
  • Avoid using or placing your SD card in high temperatures to avoid damage
  • Use multiple memory cards for extra security
  • Do not remove your SD card while read/write operation is in progress
  • Regularly backup your files.


Mako Young is an avid enthusiast for any kind of tech. Whether it's the operating systems he's been using for more than a decade or a new gadget that's meant to boost productivity, make your life easier, or recover some deleted files—he's either seen it or eager to read and write about it.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration and hardware repair.