SD cards (short for Secure Digital cards) are removable flash memory cards that are commonly used in cameras, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices to expand storage capacity. They provide a portable and convenient way to store photos, videos, music, documents, apps, and other data.
Sometimes, an SD card can get “stuck” during a read or write operation, freezing at a certain percentage. This often happens at 20%, but it can get stuck at any percentage. When this occurs, the device is unable to properly access or modify data on the card, rendering it unusable until the issue is resolved.
There are several potential solutions for a stuck SD card that we’ll cover here. These include removing and reinserting the card, trying it in another device, restarting the device, updating drivers, running disk utilities, using data recovery software, formatting the card, and finally – replacing the card if it is damaged.
Try Removing and Reinserting the SD Card
One of the simplest troubleshooting steps to try when an SD card is stuck at 20% is to remove it and reinsert it properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Completely power down the device. Don’t just put it to sleep – do a full power off.
2. Locate the SD card slot on your device. On smartphones, it’s often on the side or bottom edge. On a camera, it may be under a flap on the side. On laptops, the slot is typically on the side or back.
3. Gently press on the SD card to release it, then carefully pull it out of the slot.
4. Inspect the SD card for any signs of damage, like cracks, bends, or corrosion.
5. If the card seems ok, reinsert it into the slot, making sure it is facing the right way.
6. Push the card in until it clicks into place and doesn’t move.
7. Power the device back on and check if the SD card is now working properly. Try viewing files or taking photos if applicable.
8. If the SD card still seems stuck, go to your device settings and try formatting or erasing the SD card.
Often just reseating the SD card makes the connection work again. If the card was slightly loose or dusty, reinserting it can fix the issue. Formatting it also helps reset the software side. This simple fix solves many stuck SD card problems quickly.
Check the SD Card on Another Device
Try inserting the SD card into a different compatible device like a computer, phone, camera, or other device that supports SD cards. This will help determine if the issue is with the specific device or with the SD card itself.
See if the SD card mounts properly and functions as expected when used in another device. Try accessing files, saving new files to the card, formatting the card, etc. If the SD card continues to get stuck or malfunction in other devices, then the problem is likely with the card itself. However, if the card works fine in other devices, then the issue is isolated to the original device that is having problems reading the card.
Testing the SD card in another device is one of the easiest ways to troubleshoot and determine if the SD card is faulty or if there is an issue with the card reader or software on the original device. This quick check can save time and help identify the root cause of the problem.
Restart the Device
Sometimes a simple restart can fix software errors causing the issue. Shut down the device fully and restart. This clears out any memory issues or software bugs that may be preventing the SD card from being read properly. Check if the SD card works properly now. Restarting essentially resets the phone’s memory and starts fresh, which can resolve problems with a stuck or unresponsive SD card.
To restart an Android device, hold down the power button for a few seconds until the option comes up to power off. Then turn the device back on once it has fully powered down. For instructions on restarting other devices like cameras, refer to the manufacturer’s guide.
Restarting the device has resolved SD card issues for many users, as mentioned in posts like this troubleshooting thread. If the SD card still does not work properly after a restart, move on to trying other solutions.
Update Device Software and Drivers
Outdated software and drivers can sometimes cause issues with SD cards being detected properly or becoming stuck or corrupted. It’s a good idea to check whether your device has any pending software updates or driver updates and install them.
Go to the device manufacturer’s website and look up your specific device model. Check if there are any software, operating system, or driver updates available. Download and install any updates that are available. Many updates are released specifically to fix bugs, improve performance, and resolve issues – installing them could potentially fix your stuck SD card problem.
After updating, restart your device and try your SD card again. The software updates may have resolved the issue. As this Microsoft forum post describes, updating to the latest Windows version and restarting allowed the user to repair their undetected SD card and access the files again.
Keeping your system and drivers fully updated is good device maintenance and can prevent or fix numerous issues, including problems accessing SD cards and storage devices.
Run CHKDSK Utility
CHKDSK is a utility built into Windows that scans storage devices like hard drives and SD cards for errors and attempts to fix them. Running CHKDSK on your stuck SD card may help identify and resolve file system issues that are preventing it from being accessed properly.
To run CHKDSK on an SD card:
- Insert the SD card into your computer if it isn’t already.
- Open File Explorer and right-click on the drive letter assigned to the SD card.
- Select “Properties” and go to the “Tools” tab.
- Under “Error checking” click “Check” to run CHKDSK.
If your SD card drive doesn’t show up in File Explorer, you can also run CHKDSK from the command prompt. Type “chkdsk X: /f” where “X” is the drive letter for the SD card, and hit Enter. This will run a scan and attempt to fix any errors.
In some cases, CHKDSK may require reformatting your SD card to fully fix issues, which will erase all data on the card. Be sure to back up anything important on the card before running CHKDSK.
If CHKDSK gets stuck at a certain percentage, it could mean the SD card has bad sectors that are causing the freezing. Unfortunately this typically means the card is failing and will need to be replaced.
Try SD Card Recovery Software
Specialized software attempts to repair corrupt cards by scanning the SD card and reconstructing damaged or deleted data. Some top options include:
EaseUS Data Recovery – A comprehensive data recovery program with a free trial option. It can recover lost photos, videos, documents from SD cards and has specific tools for fixing corrupted cards.
Stellar Photo Recovery – Focuses on recovering photos, videos and multimedia files from SD cards. Works for formatted, corrupted or damaged cards. Free demo available.
Pandora Recovery – Another powerful paid option that recovers deleted files and repairs corrupted cards. Has advanced deep scanning features.
Recovery results can vary depending on the physical condition of the SD card. If the software is unable to repair file system errors or bad sectors, formatting the card may be required. Always scan first before formatting, to attempt recovering data.
Format the SD Card
Formatting the SD card erases all data stored on it, but can fix underlying issues causing the card to get stuck. Before formatting, be sure to back up any important files and data if possible.
To format an SD card on Windows, go to File Explorer, right click on the SD card, and select “Format”. Make sure to choose “Quick Format” and set the file system to FAT32 or exFAT depending on your needs. On a Mac, open Disk Utility, select the SD card, click “Erase”, and choose “MS-DOS (FAT)” or “ExFAT” format.
On an Android phone or tablet, go to Settings > Storage, tap on the SD card name, then tap “Format” or “Format as internal” depending on your device. For cameras, check the manufacturer’s manual for formatting instructions specific to that model.
Formatting deletes all data, so only do this if you have backed up your files and are unable to access the SD card otherwise. This should wipe the SD card clean and may resolve performance issues if there are errors on the card.
SD Card May Be Physically Damaged
If previous solutions like removing and reinserting the card, trying it on another device, updating drivers, running disk utilities, or using recovery software do not resolve the issue, the SD card itself may be physically damaged.
Signs of physical damage include a cracked casing, bent pins, or visible corrosion on the contacts. Damaged cards may fail to initialize, be randomly detected/not detected, or lead to frequent read/write errors. If you notice these issues, it’s best to replace the card.
According to Secure Data Recovery, “Signs of SD card corruption include: Digital cameras or other compatible devices fail to recognize the card.” Data Recovery 47 also lists “Missing files” and “Initialization failure” as signs of damage.
If your SD card is exhibiting signs of physical damage, it’s recommended to replace it. Damaged cards can lead to permanent data loss and other issues. When buying a new SD card, look for models from reputable brands and check reviews.
When to Replace an SD Card
It’s generally recommended to replace SD cards that are exhibiting frequent errors like “Card cannot be read” or data corruption. These issues tend to happen more with older cards as the storage components degrade over time. According to SLR Lounge, well-used cards should be replaced after 2-3 years of use.
Older, worn out cards are more prone to data errors and failures. The Reddit community on r/DataHoarder recommends replacing SD and microSD cards about every 1-2 years, especially for important photos and videos . More frequent replacement intervals may be warranted for cards used in demanding conditions like security cameras.
When purchasing a replacement, look for cards from reputable brands like SanDisk, Samsung, or Lexar. Check the card specifications and get one rated for your device’s requirements and intended use case. For example, cards with high speed ratings and durability are best for 4K video recording. Investing in a quality SD card can help minimize errors and ensure reliable performance.