What Does 'Format SD Card' Mean | How to Format & Unformat SD Card

Tracy King updated on Oct 12, 2020 to Data Recovery Resouce | How-to Articles

Many of you may want to know how to format an SD card properly and how to undo the format without losing data. On this page, we will show you how to format an SD card in Windows File Explorer and Disk Management, and to unformat SD card without losing data using data recovery software or CMD.

What Does 'Format SD Card' Mean
How to Format SD Card
How to Unformat SD Card and Restore Data
Bonus Tips: Protect SD Card Data

What Does 'Format SD Card' Mean

Generally, formatting an SD card means to destroy the entries of all the existing data, disallowing you to find and use any files on the card. It will assign a new file system - FAT32, exFAT or NTFS to the SD card, preparing the device reusable to store data. 

Based on this, you will know what will happen after your format an SD card - the existing files on the device will all get lost. In most of the cases, when you get a new SD card, it is pre-formatted and you can use it to store files directly.

However, along with the process of using it, you may accidentally format the SD card or have to format it to meet some special needs. For example, the SD card becomes unreadable, the file system of SD card turns to RAW, SD card becomes inaccessible, you will need to format the device.

To back up SD card before formatting in advance will effectively protect your data. If you have formatted the memory card already, follow how to unformat SD card to recover your lost files. Here are several ways for you to choose and format the memory SD card.

How to Format an SD Card

There are four recommended ways you can try: format SD card with CMD, format utility, Windows Explorer and Disk Management. The latter two methods are more applicable and recommended for Windows users to apply and format the card with ease.

Method 1. Use Windows Explorer

Step 1: Insert your SD card into a card reader and connect the card reader to your computer.

Step 2: Go to "This PC" and open Windows Explorer, right-click your SD card and then choose "Format".

Step 3: Specify the file system and set a new label to your SD card. Click "Start" and "OK" to confirm the formatting. (FAT32 for SD within 64GB, exFAT for SD over 64GB)

Format SD with Windows Explorer

Method 2. Use Disk Management

Step 1: Insert your SD card into a card reader and connect the card reader to your computer.

Step 2: Right-click "This PC", choose "Manage", enter "Disk Management".

Step 3: Locate and right-click on your SD card, choose "Format".

Step 4: Click "Yes" to continue, set a new label, file system - exFAT, FAT32 or NTFS to the card. Then click "OK" to format your SD card.

Format SD card with Disk Management

How to Unformat an SD Card and Restore Data

Formatting a memory card does not really erase the data on it and they still exist in the data area. If the data area is not overwritten by new content, you can successfully unformat the SD card. However, if you've saved new data to the formatted SD card, the old data have been overwritten and there is no way to retrieve the lost data. 

Thus, to ensure the maximum chance of recovering your files, stop using the device and perform data recovery immediately with either way below.

Method 1. Run Format Data Recovery Software

An effective way to unformat an SD card is to use professional hard drive data recovery software such as EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard to undo the format. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard can scan your formatted device thoroughly and recover all your lost files according to your needs. Download the software and restore files from your formatted SD card immediately.

In addition to performing formatted file recovery, EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard also enables you to:

  • Recover files after reinstalling Windows, OS crash, virus attack and many other tough data loss situations
  • Recover files that are permanently deleted by using Shift-Delete or emptying recycle bin
  • Retrieve lost photos, videos, audio files, Microsoft Office files, Adobe files, emails, and more (200+)

Now, follow the video tutorial or detailed steps provided below to unformat your SD card with three steps safely and quickly.

Detailed Steps to Unformat SD Card and Restore Data

Step 1. Launch EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard, select the SD card and click "Scan".

select the SD card and click scan

Step 2. Wait until the scan is over. If you are looking for a specific file type, click "Filter" to find a specific file type. You can also search for wanted files at the top-right corner.

select wanted files

Step 3. Select the wanted files to recover. A double click allows you to preview the files before recovery. Next, click "Recover" after making the decision.

recover files from the formatted SD card

You can apply this software to get things done and restore all lost files on the memory stick, USB flash drive, hard drive, or other conventional storage devices.

Do You Need Specialized Data Recovery Services?
You may need further help for tough data loss situations like reformatting drive, RAW disk, partition loss, repartition failures and system boot error. Consult with EaseUS Data Recovery Experts for cost-efficient one-on-one manual recovery service. They could offer the following services after FREE diagnosis:
1. Unformat the drive
2. Repair the RAID, RAW disk or operating system
3. Recover lost partition (the one that cannot be recovered by software)

Method 2. Undo the Format with CMD 

As mentioned above, you can format an SD card using CMD. Similarly, you can also unformat the SD card with it. Here is the way.

Step 1: Press "Win + R" keys or go to Search, type: cmd and hit "Enter". Open the Command Prompt window.

Step 2: Type: chkdsk F: /f and hit "Enter". (Replace F with the drive letter of the formatted SD card.)

Step 3: Type: Y and hit "Enter" to continue.

Step 4:Type: F and hit "Enter" again.

Step 5:Type: F:\>attrib -h -r -s /s /d *.* and hit "Enter".

  1. Unformat SD Card

After this, you shall be able to view and check all data on the formatted SD card. If command prompt is not working on your computer, use method 1 instead.

Bonus Tips: Protect SD Card Data

Besides knowing what does 'format an SD card' mean, how to format an SD card, and how to unformat the SD card to recover your data. It's also important to know common causes of data loss on storage devices and grab some useful tips to avoid further data loss.

Common Causes of data loss on storage devices:

  1. 1. Formatting
  2. 2. Deleting
  3. 3. Erasing
  4. 4. Virus attack

Luckily, after formatting or deletion, you can still retrieve your files. However, if you erase data, the chance to get back your lost files is rather slim. Thus, be careful when you do these operations. 

Here are some useful tips and tool that you can grow as a habit to protect your data:

  1. 1. Backing up your important content regularly with professional file backup software.
  2. 2. Turn to professional data recovery software like EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard when data loss occurs to your device.

With provided methods and tips on this page, you should be able to effectively format SD card, unformat and protect the SD card data with ease.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why choose EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard?

"EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is the best we've seen. It's far from perfect, partly because today's advanced disk technology makes data-recovery more difficult than it was with the simpler technology of the past, but it's fast and efficient..."PCMag

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"Recover lost files, even after deleting a partition or formatting your drive."Macworld

2. Why cannot I recover 2GB data for free?

It is recommended to check the version installed is Free or Trial because they are different versions.

Trial has data preview function but cannot save any files, while the Free version enables to recover 2 GB files. The default free space is 500 MB and you may share the product on social media to get another 1.5 GB.

3. Why cannot the recovered files be opened?

A file is saved as 2 parts on the storage device: directory info (which is comprised by file name, time stamp and size info, etc.) and data content.

If the files with original file names and folder structures cannot be opened, one possible reason is the corrupted directory info. There is still a chance to recover the data content with the RAW Recovery method in our software.

4. Why isn't it suggested to recover the files back to the original drive?

The storage structure of the lost files would be altered or damaged by any changes on the drive. If you save the recovered files back to the same drive, the original data structures and data content would be corrupted or overwritten, which causes permanent data loss. So you should prepare another disk to save the files.

5. How can I check whether my data is recoverable or not before purchase?

The Free version helps you save 2GB files, so verify the recovery quality of our product before purchase.

6. How long does it take to scan the drive?

It strongly depends on the capacity of your hard drive and the performance of your computer. As reference,most drive recoveries can be completed in around 10 to 12 hours for a 1-TB healthy hard drive in general conditions.

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