Encrypting an SD card can provide an extra layer of security for your sensitive files and data. However, there may come a time when you need to remove the encryption and access the files on the card. Unencrypting an SD card is possible, but the steps depend on the type of encryption used.
What is an encrypted SD card?
An encrypted SD card uses encryption algorithms to scramble data written to the card so that it cannot be read without the proper decryption key. The key is usually a password or PIN code that the user sets when enabling encryption.
Here are some common ways SD cards can be encrypted:
- Hardware-based encryption using a device like a smartphone or digital camera
- Software-based full disk encryption using a utility like BitLocker or VeraCrypt
- File/folder encryption using encryption capable apps or software
With encryption, all data written to the SD card is securely scrambled and unreadable without decrypting with the correct password first. This prevents unauthorized access to your files if your SD card is lost or stolen.
When would I need to decrypt my SD card?
There are a few scenarios where you may need or want to remove encryption from an SD card:
- You forgot the password and need access to the files
- You no longer need the encryption and want to use the SD card normally
- You need to reformat the SD card and encryption prevents this
- You want to transfer the files to a different device that doesn’t support encryption
If you still remember the password, decrypting the SD card is usually a straightforward process covered later in this article. However, if you forgot the password, decryption becomes much more difficult.
Can I recover my encrypted SD card without the password?
If you enabled strong encryption on the SD card but no longer have the password, you have a few options:
- Use a password recovery tool if available. Some devices and encryption software have built-in password reset options.
- Perform a brute force attack. This tries every possible password combination but can take an extremely long time to work.
- Format the SD card and start over. This will erase all data if you cannot decrypt the card.
Password recovery should be attempted first if available. However, strong encryption algorithms used on SD cards these days may make password guessing and brute force attacks infeasible.
Formatting the card should be a last resort, as it will result in complete data loss. Make sure you have exhausted all other options before considering formatting.
How to decrypt a hardware-encrypted SD card
Many smartphones, cameras, and other devices with SD card slots have built-in options to encrypt cards using device-specific keys. Here are the general steps to decrypt a hardware-encrypted card:
- Insert the encrypted SD card into the device that originally encrypted it.
- Access the encryption settings in the device’s software interface.
- Enter the password or PIN code used to encrypt the card.
- Disable encryption and decrypt the SD card.
- The card will now be decrypted and accessible normally through the device.
The specific steps to access the encryption settings vary across manufacturers and models. Consult your device documentation for exact details.
If you no longer have the device that encrypted the card, you may not be able to decrypt it without formatting and losing your data. Some recovery software exists but has limited success rates.
Decrypting a BitLocker encrypted SD card
BitLocker is a popular full disk encryption program included in some versions of Windows. Here is how to decrypt a BitLocker-protected SD card:
- Insert the encrypted SD card into a Windows PC with BitLocker installed.
- Open the BitLocker Drive Encryption control panel.
- Select the encrypted SD card and click “Turn off BitLocker”.
- Enter the BitLocker password when prompted.
- Wait for decryption process to complete. Status will show in BitLocker control panel.
- The SD card will now be fully decrypted.
The decryption time varies based on the size of the SD card and encryption strength. Be patient and let the process complete fully before accessing the card.
If you lost the BitLocker password, try using the BitLocker recovery key if you have it. Otherwise, your options are limited for data recovery without formatting the card.
Decrypting a VeraCrypt encrypted SD card
VeraCrypt is an open source disk encryption tool that can encrypt SD cards. To decrypt a VeraCrypt encrypted SD card:
- Download and install VeraCrypt on your computer if not already present.
- Insert the encrypted SD card into your computer.
- Open VeraCrypt and select the “Decrypt” option.
- Select the drive letter of the SD card as the encrypted volume.
- Enter the correct password for decryption.
- Wait for the VeraCrypt volume decryption process to finish.
- The VeraCrypt volume on the SD card will now be fully decrypted.
Make sure you have the VeraCrypt password or recovery key available. Without it, decryption is impossible and you will need to format the card to reuse it.
Decrypting an encrypted SD card using EaseUS Partition Master
Third-party programs like EaseUS Partition Master also have SD card decryption capabilities using brute force attacks or password recovery tools.
To decrypt an encrypted SD card with EaseUS Partition Master:
- Download and install EaseUS on your Windows PC.
- Launch EaseUS and click “Partition Recovery” in the main menu.
- Select the encrypted SD card partition and click “Decrypt”.
- Choose a decryption method – key recovery, brute force attack, etc.
- Enter known partial passwords or password hints if prompted.
- Let the decryption attempt run and see if it successfully recovers the password.
- If successful, the software will decrypt the SD card with the recovered password.
This method depends heavily on how much password information you can provide. Without any clues, brute force decryption can take days or longer to complete.
Decrypting an encrypted SD card on Mac OS
Here are the general steps to decrypt an encrypted SD card on Mac OS:
- Insert the encrypted SD card into your Mac.
- Open Disk Utility (located in Applications > Utilities).
- Select the SD card volume in the sidebar.
- Click the “Erase” tab.
- Select a format (APFS or ExFAT are recommended).
- Enter a name for the volume.
- Click Erase. This will decrypt and reformat the card.
This process erases all data but provides a way to strip encryption from a card you can no longer decrypt.
Some Macs may support using the FileVault decryption utility instead to recover an existing encryption password and salvage data. However, this does not work in all cases.
Decrypting specific encrypted files on an SD card
If only certain files or folders on your SD card are encrypted, it is possible to decrypt just those while leaving other data intact. The steps depend on the encryption method used:
- For VeraCrypt encrypted files, open them in VeraCrypt and enter the password.
- For BitLocker or hardware encrypted individual files, decryption may not be possible without the encryption key.
- For encrypted ZIP or RAR archives, unzip them using the archive password.
- For apps like Boxcryptor, open the app and enter the file password to decrypt.
Leaving the rest of the SD card data encrypted, decrypt only the files you need immediate access to. This avoids having to decrypt and re-encrypt the entire card.
Tips for decrypting an encrypted SD card
To summarize the key tips for successfully decrypting an encrypted SD card:
- Use the device or software that originally encrypted the card if possible.
- Have the encryption password or recovery key ready.
- Decrypting and re-encrypting is better than a full format if data recovery is needed.
- Avoid brute force decryption as a first resort due to slow speed.
- Research password recovery options before attempting data destructive methods.
Following these guidelines gives you the best chance of removing encryption without permanent data loss. Always exhaust other options before considering a full format of the card.
While decrypting an SD card is usually straightforward with the password in hand, things become much more difficult when the password is lost. Strong encryption means the data is likely unrecoverable without the key. Still, options like password recovery tools, brute force attacks, and partial decryption can provide hope. Just be cautious before formatting the card, as that guarantees total data erasure. With care and patience, decrypting an SD card to access your data again is possible in many cases.