How to Unformat an SD Card on Windows/Android/Camera

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unformat sd card on windowsIt’s very common to unintentionally format your SD card while fixing errors or repairing a failed SD card. In some cases, you might format the SD card to a different file setting. Either way, formatting wipes out all your data from the card.

The good news is that you can recover data after a format and essentially “unformat” SD cards. This article will show you how to unformat an SD card on Windows, Android, or a Camera.

Is it Possible to Unformat an SD Card?

Note that there is no “unformat” or reverse format function available on any device. However, you can attempt to restore the formatted data by employing various techniques. First, you need to determine the method used to format the SD card.

A quick format leaves the actual partitions containing your data untouched and marks the storage space as available for writing new files. Thus, you can use the period between the quick format and saving new files to your SD card to recover data from it.

📜 However, when you perform a full format, your PC erases all data permanently. Unlike a quick format, the full format writes and overwrites zeroes to the drive and scans for bad sectors to exclude them from being used as storage space. In such cases, the SD card unformat becomes impossible. Devices like cameras usually perform a full format by default – thus making data recovery impossible.

How to Recover Data from a Formatted SD Card?

The most efficient method to unformat (nullify the format’s effect) or recover data from a memory card is to use professional data recovery software. These tools are designed to recover your lost data efficiently. While several tools are available on the market, Disk Drill is a reliable option to recover data from your SD card.

Disk Drill is an industry-leading data recovery tool with an intuitive interface that first-time users can adapt to quickly. Moreover, it can help retrieve about 400+ file types. What’s more, the Windows version offers up to 500MB of data recovery for free!

If you’ve ended up formatting your SD card and want to retrieve data, remember to stop using the SD card immediately. If you continue using the formatted SD card, your deleted files will get overwritten – complicating data recovery and making it impossible.

Here’s how to unformat SD card for free using Disk Drill on Windows:

  1. Download and Install Disk Drill for Windows.
    disk drill installation
  2. Connect your SD card to the computer, and launch Disk Drill.
  3. Select the formatted SD card from the list of devices. Then, click Search for lost data to begin the scanning process.
    selecting sd card on disk drill
  4. Disk Drill’s advanced algorithm may take some time to scan your SD card properly. Once the scan is complete, click the Review found items button to check for recoverable data.
    scan page on disk drill
  5. You can filter through the search results for specific files via the search bar at the top-right corner or by file type. You can also preview the file by hovering over it and clicking the eye button.
    selecting files for data recovery
  6. Once you’ve selected the files you want to recover from your formatted SD card, click the Recover button. Alternatively, you can leave all boxes unticked and click Recover all.
  7. You will be prompted to choose a storage location where the recovered data can be saved. We strongly recommend saving them in a separate location to avoid overwriting the existing data. Finally, press Next to unformat the SD card and recover your data.
    selecting destination for data recovery

How to Reformat an SD card?

Since you’ve recovered the lost data, try to reformat the SD Card to ensure compatibility with portable devices (smartphone, camera, etc.) Reformatting reverts the SD card’s file system to the previous state – thus facilitating smooth read/write cycles.

You can reformat the SD card on Windows, your Android phone, or in-camera:

How to Format an SD Card on Windows

There are two methods to reformat the SD card for free on Windows. Let’s take a look at both of them.

File Explorer

You can use File Explorer to reformat the SD card to change the file system type and perform a high-level format. Just follow these steps:

  1. Connect the SD card to your PC or laptop via the SD card slot or an external memory-card reader.
  2. Open Windows File Explorer. Now, select This PC.
  3. Right-click the SD card and select Format.
    formatting sd card from file explorer
  4. In the Format SD Card dialog box, select the File System dropdown arrow and choose the suitable format. If you decide only to use the memory card on Windows systems, select NFTS, and if you’ll be using it on multiple types of devices, select FAT32.
    performing a quick format on sd card
  5. Now, select the ‘Quick Format’ checkbox, and click Start.
  6. When the warning dialog box appears, click OK.
    format warning

Disk Management

You can also use Disk Management to reformat the SD card seamlessly. Just follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start Menu and choose Disk Management.
    accessing disk management on windows
  2. Once the dialogue box opens, select your SD card from the list of drives/partitions.
    using disk management to format
  3. Right-click the SD card and choose Format.
  4. Choose a file system and allocate the unit size. Ensure that you have checked the ‘Perform a quick format’ box. Now, click OK.
    performing a quick format on disk management
  5. When the warning appears, press OK again to begin the formatting process.
    format warning

How to Format an SD Card in Android Phone

Several Android phones have an external microSD card. While you cannot choose a specific file system in these cases, you can reformat the SD card on the phone after backing up your files. Just follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Device care.
  2. Tap Storage. Then, tap Advanced.
    storage settings on android
  3. Under Portable storage, select your SD card.
  4. Tap Format.
  5. Finally, tap the Format SD card option.
    formatting sd card on android

How to Format an SD Card on Camera

The steps to format a camera SD card vary depending on the camera brand. For this article, we are formatting using a Canon camera:

  1. Turn on the camera with the SD card inserted. Now, press Menu.
  2. Select the wrench icon, and then choose the card you want to reformat.
    formatting on camera
  3. Now, select Format. To perform a quick format, select OK directly. But to perform a full format, press the INFO button to checkmark ‘Low-level format‘ and then choose OK.

Conclusion

Although there is no native unformat option available on any device, you can attempt to recover lost data from an SD card using data recovery software like Disk Drill.

To prevent significant data loss, you must create backups of your files before formatting. You can do this using cloud storage, storage devices, or byte-level backups from Disk Drill and keep your data safe.

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Joshua is a technology content writer for 7Data. He's been in the content world long enough to understand that less is more. Joshua consistently attempts to deliver complicated technical information in concise and digestible chunks. His hobbies include sports betting, listening to Drake, and re-watching the Office like a hundred times.
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12 years experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair.