What to Do If SD Card Won’t Format on a Windows PC?

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sd card won't formatFormatting is often regarded as the solution to fix many problems relating to SD cards and other forms of storage media. After all, it’s basically a factory reset for your SD card. But, what are you supposed to do if the process of formatting is what’s giving you grief?

If your SD card won’t format, there are a few telling signs that could point towards why this is happening. In this article, we’ll look at the causes and fixes behind why your SD card won’t format.

What Prevents an SD Card From Being Formatted

Before we discuss how to fix your SD card, let’s look at a few reasons why Windows can’t format the SD card all the time:

  • ✂️ Logical corruption – Severe corruption can manifest itself in many ways. One such possibility is that your SD card is so corrupted that the standard process of formatting just won’t cut it.
  • 🦠 Virus infection – Malware can do a number of devious things to your SD card. If your SD card has been infected with a virus, it can prevent you from performing certain actions, like formatting.
  • 📂 File system error – File system errors can appear as a result of improper device removal. Removing your device before ejecting safely can cause the file system to become damaged, resulting in the SD card not working properly.
  • 💾 Faulty hardware – If your SD card has been physically damaged, it may prevent you from formatting it. The same is true for a faulty SD card reader or SD card slot. Consider testing the card in another reader to confirm.

Now that you’re aware of the causes behind an SD card failing to format, the next section will show you how you can recover your data from the SD card to ensure it’s protected when we finally get to fixing it.

How To Recover Data From an SD Card That Won’t Format

If you’re unable to format the SD card, chances are it’s in a vulnerable state. Therefore, before you implement a fix, you should recover what data you can from the SD card to avoid accidentally deleting it.

Disk Drill is a data recovery tool that we’ll use to make a copy of the SD card’s contents for recovery. Recovering data from a copy of the SD card further reduces the chances of data loss, as you won’t be working on the actual card.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Connect your SD card, then click Drive Backup.
  3. Select your SD card, then click Byte-to-byte Backup.Starting the SD card backup.
  4. Name the backup, choose where you want to store it, then click OK.Completing the backup.
  5. Click Done. Then, go back to the Data Recovery section.Accessing the data recovery section.
  6. Click Attach disk image, then choose the image file we just created. While it’s selected, click Search for lost data.Searching for SD card data.
  7. Click Review found items.Reviewing SD card data.
  8. Select the files you want to recover from the SD card. The preview panel can be used to see what the file contains, and the Recovery chances column is useful for seeing your chances of recovering each file. When ready, click Recover.Recovering SD card data.
  9. Choose where you want to store the recovered files. Click OK.Completing recovery.

How To Fix an SD Card That Won’t Format

Now that your data is safe and sound, let’s look at various solutions you can use to fix your SD card that won’t format.

Solution #1: Try Another Computer or Device

As soon as your data is safe, the first thing you should do is isolate the problem. When Windows can’t format an SD card, there’s no indication whether the problem resides with the SD card, the SD card slot, or the computer itself.

Try formatting the SD card in another device to see if the problem persists. For instance, if your camera won’t format the SD card, maybe you’ll have more luck doing it on a computer or mobile device. This way, you can quickly confirm where the problem resides.

Solution #2: Unlock Write Protection

It’s common for SD cards to include a write-lock switch on the side. When enabled, this switch prevents any write actions from being performed on the card to protect it from things like accidental deletion. Therefore, you should remove SD card write protection by ensuring the switch is in the up position instead of down.

Since formatting the SD card involves writing a new file system (or refreshing the existing one), make sure this lock is disabled to complete formatting.

Solution #3: Change the Drive Letter

Windows has always worked with drive letters. It may seem unusual, but changing the existing drive letter attached to your SD card has a chance of fixing your problem. The same is true if a drive letter hasn’t been assigned to your SD card automatically.

Follow these steps to change or add a drive letter to your SD card:

  1. Right-click Start and click Disk Management.Opening Disk Management.
  2. Right-click the partition of the SD card, then click Change Drive Letter and Paths.Changing the drive letter.
  3. Select the existing drive letter and click Change. If there is no drive letter, click Add instead.Choosing to update the drive letter.
  4. Select a drive letter from the dropdown list, then click OK, then OK again.Confirming the new drive letter.

Solution #4: Fix With CheckDisk

If Windows continues to tell you that your SD card cannot be formatted, it’s time to try fixing the file system associated with it. A damaged file system can cause a number of problems, and fixing it using CheckDisk may be enough to get it sorted.

Here’s how you can use CheckDisk to repair your SD card’s file system:

  1. Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).Opening Windows Powershell.
  2. Type chkdsk D: /f /r. Replace D: with your own drive letter. Press Enter.Running the CheckDisk command.

Solution #5: Scan and Remove Viruses

Viruses are always a huge pain to deal with. If your SD card has been unfortunate enough to contract a virus, you need to scan and remove the virus to restore proper functionality.

These steps will show you how to scan for viruses using Windows Defender:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and search Windows Security. Open the first result.
  2. Click Virus & threat protection.Opening Windows Security.
  3. Click Scan options and select Full scan. Click Scan now.Running a full scan.

Solution #6: Clean SD Card With Diskpart

Finally, if Windows was still unable to format the SD card, you can run the clean command on your SD card using Diskpart. The clean command goes across every sector of the SD card and replaces it with zeros, essentially deleting all data on the card.

Here’s how you can clean your SD card using Diskpart:

  1. Right-click Start and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).Opening Windows Powershell.
  2. Type diskpart and press Enter.Initializing diskpart.
  3. Type list disk. Make note of your disk number.Running the list disk command.
  4. Type select disk 1. Replace the 1 with your own disk number. Press Enter.Running the select disk command.
  5. Type clean all. Press Enter.Running the clean all command.
  6. Once cleaned, format the SD card with a file system.

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