How do I fix a corrupted SD card recovery?

Dealing with a corrupted SD card can be incredibly frustrating. Important photos, videos, documents and other files may suddenly become inaccessible, leaving you wondering if they can be recovered. The good news is that in many cases, it is possible to fix and recover data from a corrupted SD card if you take the right approach.

What Causes an SD Card to Become Corrupted?

There are several potential causes of SD card corruption:

  • Improperly ejecting the SD card from your camera or device
  • Exposure to moisture, heat or physical damage
  • Power outages or device crashes while writing data to the card
  • Malware or viruses infecting the SD card
  • Too much data written to the card, exceeding its storage limits

The most common cause is improperly ejecting or removing the SD card before it has finished writing data. This can lead to file system errors or interruptions in data writing that corrupt the card. Fortunately, SD cards contain spared memory blocks that can be used to replace corrupted ones.

Can You Recover Data From a Corrupted SD Card?

Yes, in many cases it is possible to recover data from a corrupted SD card. How successful recovery will be depends on the extent and type of corruption. Logical corruption involving the card’s file system is easier to repair than physical corruption of the card’s memory hardware.

Recovering Data from Logically Corrupted SD Cards

If the corruption is logical, the actual data on the card is likely still intact. This occurs when the card’s file system becomes corrupted, making it impossible for the operating system to access the files. However, data recovery software can scan the raw memory of the card, find and extract available data outside of the file system. This makes it possible to copy data from a logically corrupted SD card.

Recovering Data from Physically Corrupted SD Cards

Physical corruption that damages the memory hardware is trickier to recover from. However, if only certain sectors of the SD card are affected, recovery software may still be able to extract data from unaffected areas of the card. The likelihood of recovery depends on the severity of the physical memory damage.

Steps to Recover Data and Repair a Corrupted SD Card

Follow these key steps to recover data and attempt to fix SD card corruption:

  1. Stop using the SD card immediately to avoid overwriting data.
  2. Try the SD card in another device to see if it is readable elsewhere.
  3. Connect the card to a PC and run the CHKDSK utility to detect and repair errors.
  4. Use data recovery software to extract recoverable files from the card.
  5. Format the SD card and test to see if this clears the corruption.
  6. As a last resort, initialize or low-level format the card to wipe and reformat it.

1. Stop Using the Corrupted Card

It is essential to immediately stop recording photos, videos or any data to the corrupted SD card. Continuing to use it could overwrite your existing data, making it harder or impossible to recover. Eject and properly disconnect the card from any device it is in.

2. Try the Card in Another Device

Insert the supposedly corrupted SD card into another camera, phone, tablet or computer. Occasionally, the issue is with the device rather than the card. If the card shows up normally and files are accessible on another gadget, then the data is likely intact.


On a Windows PC, insert the SD card and open a Command Prompt window. Type “chkdsk /F x:” replacing x with the drive letter of your SD card. CHKDSK will scan for file system errors and attempt to repair them. This may fix the corruption so your card is readable again.

4. Use Data Recovery Software

If CHKDSK is unable to get your card working again, the next step is data recovery software. Programs like Recuva, Disk Drill, EaseUS Data Recovery, RescuePRO Deluxe or Stellar allow you to scan storage devices for recoverable data. They may find photos, videos and documents that you can save from the damaged card.

5. Format the SD Card

After extracting any recoverable data, the next step is trying to format your SD card. This erases all data but also recreates the file system, potentially clearing any corruption. Use the full format option rather than quick format, to better detect and repair errors.

6. Reinitialize the Card

Lastly, you can initialize or low-level format the SD card using the SD Association’sFormatter tool. This erases data and performs a sector-by-sector reformat of the entire card. If no other method fixes your corrupted SD card, this deep formatting offers a final attempt at repair.

Tips to Avoid Corrupted SD Cards

Follow these tips to help avoid SD card corruption in the future:

  • Always eject the card properly before removal.
  • Don’t expose cards to moisture, dust, heat or bending.
  • Power devices down before removing cards.
  • Regularly back up your card data to another storage device.
  • Avoid overfilling SD cards to their full capacity.
  • Buy name brand SD cards from reputable retailers.
  • Handle cards carefully by the edges and store them in cases.

When to Use Professional Data Recovery Services

In cases of significant SD card corruption, or if DIY data recovery attempts are unsuccessful, a professional data recovery lab may be your last resort. They have specialized tools and clean room facilities to repair storage devices and recover data. However, their services can be expensive, often $500 or more.

So the decision depends on how valuable the files are to you. Professional recovery has the best chance of salvaging irreplaceable data like wedding photos. But for other files, DIY attempts or buying a new SD card may be the practical choice.

Can Corrupted SD Cards Be Prevented?

While there is always a risk of SD card corruption, taking certain precautions can greatly reduce those chances:

  • Buy reputable SD cards with warranties from well-known brands.
  • Avoid low quality, counterfeit or used SD cards.
  • Handle cards carefully by the edges and store in cases.
  • Only use SD cards within the compatible specifications of your devices.
  • Eject and unmount SD cards properly before removing them.
  • Don’t expose cards to moisture, dust, heat, or magnets.
  • Protect devices and cards from power outages during writes.
  • Scan new cards for errors and bad sectors.

No SD card is immune to corruption, but taking precautions reduces the risks. It’s still a good idea to regularly back up your SD card data to another device or cloud storage.

Can You Fix a Corrupted SD Card Without Losing Data?

It is sometimes possible to fix an SD card without losing data, depending on the cause and extent of corruption. For example, running CHKDSK can often repair file system errors, restoring card functionality while data remains intact.

Potential Approaches Include:

  • Trying the card in another device, as the issue may be with the original device.
  • Letting the device fully power down before reinserting the card.
  • Checking if the lock/unlock slider switch is properly set on the card.
  • Using disk repair utilities like CHKDSK or First Aid to detect and fix errors.
  • Re-formatting a card after data recovery, avoiding full initialization.

However, any physical memory damage is likely to require data loss. Insufficient memory capacity or file system damage can also prevent data recovery. Fully reformatting or low-level formatting always erases data. So while data recovery is sometimes possible, expect to lose data with serious corruption issues.

How to Recover Photos from a Corrupted SD Card

If your corrupted SD card contains important photos, here are tips for recovering them:

  1. Don’t take more photos after corruption occurs, as this could overwrite existing data.
  2. Use recovery software like Recuva, Stellar Photo Recovery or Disk Drill to rescue photos.
  3. Scan the card sector-by-sector for recoverable image formats like JPG, PNG, RAW, etc.
  4. Try to recover photos manually via TestDisk or command prompt data carving techniques.
  5. Send the card to a professional photo recovery service if needed.

Key things to remember are avoiding anything that overwrites data prior to recovery, using read-only recovery tools, and targeting common photo formats. Restoring an SD card’s file system via formatting should be a last resort, as it will erase your photos.


Corrupted SD cards can seem like an irrecoverable disaster, but there are often ways to get back lost photos, videos and other data. Following the proper steps to stop using the card, running utilities to detect and repair errors, and using data recovery tools can restore important files. Pay attention to handling SD cards carefully, avoiding overfilling them, virus scanning them, and regularly backing them up to maximize your chances of being able to fix them after corruption.