MicroSD cards are incredibly popular, mainly because they are compact and inexpensive. But they can also be unreliable. So, what happens when your microSD card does go wrong? Are all those photos and documents lost?
The good news is that you can quickly fix many common issues with microSD cards. So, let’s look at the seven ways you can troubleshoot common problems with them.
Common Problems With SD Cards
Before heading to the fixes, let’s first go through the most common errors you might encounter with a microSD card. And to make it easier for you, we’ll also list the applicable fixes below each error arranged in the recommended sequence you should do when troubleshooting. If the first recommended fix does not work, you should proceed to the next step.
If there is critical data on your SD or microSD card, you should recover your data first, as recommended in fix number six, before formatting it.
1. Format Errors
One of the most common problems is a formatting error. This can happen for many reasons, some of which are minor. For instance, removing the card when it was in use can trigger an error. However, it can also be indicative of a more serious error.
Recommended Solution: Fix 1 > Fix 5 > Fix 6 > Fix 3
2. Write Protection Errors
A Write Protection error is frustrating, to put it mildly. In these cases, the card will let you access the data on the card but won’t let you paste or record any further data onto the card.
Recommended Solution: Fix 2 > Fix 1 > Fix 4 > Fix 5
3. File System Corruption
This is similar to formatting errors and is caused by many of the same reasons. Improper ejection when the card is in use, power interruptions, and software glitches can all be behind file corruption errors.
Some of the symptoms that can be attributed to a corrupt file system include:
- Inability to access files
- Wrong capacity displayed
- SD Card Display as RAW
- Error messages such as File system error, Unable to read/write, Unable to access files, or similar errors
- Files or folders with incorrect names or missing altogether
- Slow performance
Recommended Solutions: Fix 1 > Fix 4 > Fix 5 > Fix 6
4. Faulty Card Reader or Adapter
Sometimes the card itself isn’t at fault. Instead, the culprit is the card reader or adapter. This is more common with PC or Mac card readers but is not so prevalent in devices like phones or tablets.
This disparity is mainly attributed to the heavier use that such devices commonly face. Frequently swapping cards can lead to damage or even just dirty contacts.
Recommended Solutions: Fix 1 > Fix 4
5. Physical Damage
Physical damage to the microSD card, such as bent pins or a damaged connector, can cause malfunctions. Often, this can render the card unreadable without professional data recovery services.
Recommended Solutions: Fix 1 > Fix 7
6. Firmware or Driver Issues
Outdated or incompatible drivers or firmware can cause errors when accessing the card. However, this is not likely to be an issue with the card. The main culprit in these instances is likely the card reader or other host device.
Recommended Solutions: Fix 1 > Fix 4
7. Card Not Detected
This is another common issue where your computer or device won’t recognize your microSD card.
Recommended Solutions: Fix 1 > Fix 4 > Fix 7 > Fix 6
Fixes for Common MicroSD Card Problems
It is impossible to list every card error you will encounter. However, most errors lie in one of the above categories. Now, let’s look at the seven ways to troubleshoot and fix your MicroSD card.
Fix 1: Try Another Card Reader or Device
This fix can be tried as a first step in just about every scenario. It is surprising how often the problem is not with the card but with the reader or device. This also applies if you use an SD card adapter to access your data.
Using this as a first step allows you to verify that the problem is with the card.
If the issue is with the card reader, then it may just need its drivers updated. See fix number four for more details on how to do this.
Fix 2: Check the Write Protect Switch
If your card doesn’t allow you to write new files, then it could be that the physical write protection switch has been flicked. Look for a switch or tab similar to the one in the photo below.
Fix 3: Format the Card
If the card has lost its formatting, then simply reformatting it may be all it needs. Be careful, though; you will lose all data on the card after you format it. If the microSD card contains critical data, you should recover it using data recovery apps, as described in fix number six, before formatting your card.
How you format the card depends on the device you are accessing the card from.
Format Instructions for Windows Computers
There are several ways to format an SD card in Windows. Let’s walk through one of the simplest methods.
- Open a File Explorer window, right-click the SD Card, and select the Format option.
- In the Format window, select exFat or Fat32 as the file system; you can also enter a name for the drive in the Volume label box. Several factors can help you decide between exFat and Fat32.
- Make sure the Quick Format box is ticked, then press Start.
The process should only take a few seconds; if it takes longer, there could be an underlying problem with the card.
Format Instructions for Mac Computers
Once again, various ways to format any SD card on a Mac exist. Here, we describe the steps to format your card using the Mac Disk Utility.
- Navigate to /Applications/Utilities you should see the Disk Utility tool.
- Whether you are using an integrated or external card reader will determine where you find the SD card. It will either be listed under Internal or External.
- Name the card, select the appropriate file system, and click Erase.
Your MicroSD card should now be formatted.
Format Instructions for Linux Computers
The format instructions for Linux computers are slightly more complicated. For most users, using a Mac or Windows computer is easier. If you need to use a Linux machine, there are multiple ways to manage and format SD cards in Linux.
If you primarily use the microSD card on your smartphone or camera, you should format it using that device. This prevents potential issues when writing data to the card using your phone or camera.
Fix 4: Update Card Reader Drivers
Sometimes the problem lies with the card reader and not the MicroSD card. This applies to any device that you are using to access the card. This includes devices like:
- Card readers: This applies to both integrated and USB card readers.
- Other devices: This can include devices such as cameras, phones, drones, and printers.
Drivers act as the bridge between the OS and the hardware, and out-of-date drivers can cause card readers and other peripherals to misbehave. There are various ways to update your drivers, but it is always worth visiting the manufacturer’s website.
Fix 5: Repair the File System
Most operating systems will have a built-in tool to scan SD disks to find and repair disk system errors.
Repairing the File System on Windows Computers
- Open an Explorer window, right-click on the appropriate drive, and select Properties.
- Go to the Tools tab and select the Check option.
- Choose Scan and repair drive.
The file checker will scan the drive and will correct any repairable errors.
Repairing the File System on Mac Computers
- Navigate to Applications/Utilities and open the Disk Utility.
- Select the damaged drive from the sidebar (you may have to click Show All Devices if it doesn’t show).
- Click on First Aid.
The disk will now be scanned for errors, and repairs will be made where possible.
Fix 6: Use Data Recovery Software
A vast range of tools can recover photos from MicroSD cards. One of our favorite ways of recovering photos from SD Cards is using Stellar Photo Recovery. You can get the app under a free trial, allowing you to scan and see what data you can recover before buying it.
But if you don’t want to spend, Test Disk is a great free option. It doesn’t have a flashy interface or the ease of use of Stellar, but it is entirely free. And although the lack of a GUI might seem daunting, recovering lost or damaged data with Test Disk is not that complicated.
Download: Stellar (Starts at $49.99 a year, free trial available) | Test Disk (Free)
Fix 7: Clean the MicroSD Card Contacts
If your computer refuses to recognize your microSD card, or there’s visible but slight damage to its contact pins, you might need to clean them carefully. This can be done with a lint-free cloth; isopropyl alcohol can be used if necessary.
Remember to be as gentle as possible, and ensure the card is thoroughly dry before inserting it back in its slot.
Regain Control of Your Storage
Problems with your MicroSD card can be frustrating, but you can overcome many common issues armed with the proper knowledge and troubleshooting steps.
Whether it’s file system errors, corrupted data, or compatibility challenges, our solutions will help you resolve MicroSD card issues.