How do I fix my raw SD card that won’t format?

Having an SD card that won’t format can be very frustrating. Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to try and fix your raw SD card so you can format it and use it again.

Quick Overview of Solutions

Here is a quick overview of some solutions you can try to fix your raw SD card:

  • Use diskpart to clean and create a new partition
  • Use SD Card formatter tools to overwrite the card and create a new filesystem
  • Check the SD card for errors using CMD chkdsk command
  • Try formatting the SD card on a different device like a camera or phone
  • Update your computer’s card reader drivers
  • Use a USB SD card reader instead of built-in reader
  • Replace the SD card if it’s damaged and cannot be fixed

What Causes an SD Card to Become Raw?

There are several potential causes for an SD card becoming raw and not allowing formatting:

  • Corruption – Files system corruption makes the card unreadable
  • Improper ejection – Removing the card without properly ejecting can cause issues
  • Bad sectors – Damaged areas on the card that cannot be read/written to
  • Viruses or malware – Malicious software can sometimes infect the card
  • Card reader issues – Problem with the hardware card reader in your device
  • Physical damage – Dropping or bending the card can break it

When an SD card has serious errors or corruption, the operating system may detect it as being “raw”. This means it is no longer detected as having a standard file system that can be read from or written to.

Use Diskpart to Clean and Create New Partition

One method to fix a raw SD card is to use the diskpart command line utility on Windows to completely clean and recreate the partition table. Here are the steps:

  1. Insert the RAW SD card into your computer’s card reader
  2. Open the Command Prompt as Administrator
  3. Type diskpart and press Enter
  4. Type list disk to identify the disk number for your SD card
  5. Type select disk X (replace X with your disk number)
  6. Type clean to completely wipe the card
  7. Type create partition primary to create a new primary partition
  8. Type format fs=fat32 quick to quickly format FAT32 filesystem
  9. Type assign to give the volume a drive letter
  10. Type exit to close diskpart

After using diskpart to clean and recreate the partition, you should now be able to format the SD card through File Explorer or Disk Management in Windows.

Use SD Card Formatter Tools

There are several free SD card formatter tools available that can be used to permanently delete all data on the card and build a new filesystem.

SD Formatter is a utility by the SD Association that specifically formats SD cards. It will overwrite the entire card and recreate the filesystem from scratch. This can fix many corruption issues.

Other general purpose formatter tools like HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool or Rufus can also overwrite the entire SD card and build a new FAT32 or exFAT filesystem. These tools work similarly to the SD Formatter utility.

The advantage of using a dedicated formatter tool is that it will ensure the SD card is formatted properly according to the SD specification and optimize it for best performance.

Steps to Use SD Card Formatter

  1. Download and install the SD Formatter tool
  2. Insert your RAW SD card into the computer
  3. Open SD Formatter and select the drive letter of your SD card
  4. Click “Format” to permanently delete data and reformat card
  5. Choose Quick format or Full format
  6. Click “Yes” on the warning prompt to begin formatting

After the SD Formatter has rebuilt the filesystem, you should be able to use the SD card again. Be sure to test it fully before adding any important data.

Check for Errors with CHKDSK

Using the CHKDSK command on Windows is a good way to check for drive errors and bad sectors. It may help identify any underlying problems preventing the SD card from being formatted.

To use CHKDSK, follow these steps:

  1. Insert the RAW SD card into your computer
  2. Open the Command Prompt as Administrator
  3. Type chkdsk X: /f (replace X with drive letter)
  4. Type Y and press Enter to proceed
  5. Wait for the scan to complete. This can take some time.
  6. Type exit when finished to close Command Prompt

Running CHKDSK will scan the drive for bad sectors and attempt to repair them. If it is able to fix corruption errors, this may make the disk readable again so it can be formatted.

Try Formatting on Another Device

If your computer is unable to format the SD card, try using a different device like a digital camera, phone, or tablet that supports SD cards.

Insert the RAW SD card into the other device and check if you are prompted to format it. The device may be able to create a new filesystem that your regular computer cannot.

Some devices like cameras may have lower level formatting tools that fix SD cards through the SD standard interface. This type of hardware level formatting may repair it.

If you have a USB card reader, try plugging the SD card into that and connecting it to your computer. The card reader may work better than the built-in reader if there are hardware problems.

Update Card Reader Drivers

Outdated, corrupt, or missing drivers for your computer’s built-in card reader could potentially prevent an SD card from being formatted properly.

Try updating your card reader drivers to the latest available version from the manufacturer. This may resolve compatibility issues.

Steps to update card reader drivers:

  1. Open Device Manager in Windows
  2. Expand the Disk Drives section
  3. Right click on the Card Reader device and select Update Driver
  4. Search automatically for updated driver software
  5. Restart your computer after the updated driver installed

With the latest card reader driver from your computer manufacturer installed, check if you are now able to format the RAW SD card.

Replace the Damaged SD Card

If you have tried all other steps to fix the raw SD card error and it still will not format, the card is likely physically damaged or permanently corrupted.

Some signs your SD card may be damaged:

  • Visible scratches on the contacts
  • Bent or crooked shape
  • Cracks in the casing
  • SD card reader unable to detect it
  • Card gets very hot when plugged in

In this case, you will need to replace the SD card. Unfortunately once an SD card has become corrupted to the point of being raw, there is usually no way to repair it.

Some tips when replacing your card:

  • Buy from a reputable brand like SanDisk, Samsung, or Kingston
  • Choose a Class 10 card for better performance
  • Get a high capacity card for more storage
  • Select a high endurance card if writing a lot of data
  • Be careful handling the card to prevent physical damage

How to Avoid SD Card Errors

To prevent your new replacement SD card from having problems in the future, here are some tips:

  • Safely eject the card before removing it from your computer
  • Regularly backup your SD card data to your computer or external drive
  • Protect the SD card with a properly fitting case when not in use
  • Avoid exposing the card to liquids, heat, and debris
  • Store the card in a cool dry location away from direct sunlight

Following best practices for handling and caring for your SD card will help extend its lifespan and avoid corruption issues.

Recover Data from Raw SD Card

Before formatting a RAW SD card, you may want to attempt to recover any files and data that were on it previously. Formatting will completely erase the card, so data recovery should be done first.

SD card recovery software scans the raw drive and extracts recoverable photos, documents, and other file types.

Some popular SD card recovery tools:

  • Recuva – Free damaged file recovery utility from Piriform
  • EaseUS – Data recovery wizard with deep scan features
  • Stellar – Advanced paid recovery with repair options
  • Disk Drill – Scans inside lost partitions to find lost files

To recover data from a RAW SD card:

  1. Connect the SD card to your computer
  2. Download and install recovery software
  3. Select the RAW SD card to scan
  4. Choose a folder to recover files to
  5. Click Scan and wait for completion
  6. Preview and recover needed files from the card

Data recovery should be done before any formatting or partition creation is attempted on the RAW SD card.


Dealing with a RAW SD card that refuses to be formatted can be frustrating. But in many cases it is possible to repair and recover the card using the techniques outlined in this article.

Tools like diskpart, SD Formatter, CHKDSK, and recovery software provide different methods to attempt fixing SD card corruption issues.

If your card cannot be repaired through software, replacing the SD card is necessary. Always handle cards with care and backup your data to prevent problems.

With patience and by safely trying out the various solutions covered here, you should hopefully be able to regain access to your RAW SD card in order to save your photos, videos, and files.