A corrupted SD card can be very frustrating. You may suddenly find that your phone cannot read the SD card, or files on the card appear missing or damaged. In many cases, formatting the SD card may seem like the quickest solution. However, formatting will erase all data on the card. So before you format, it is worth trying to fix the corrupted SD card without losing your files.
The good news is that it is often possible to repair a corrupted SD card without formatting, using the tools built into your Android phone. This article will walk you through the steps to attempt to fix SD card errors, recover lost files, and repair a corrupted SD card – all without formatting.
Reasons for SD Card Corruption
There are a few common causes of SD card corruption on Android phones:
- Improperly removing the SD card without unmounting
- A sudden loss of power to your phone while writing data to the card
- Faulty or low-quality SD cards that fail over time
- Too many read/write cycles causing the card to wear out
- Malware or rogue apps on your device corrupting data
- Physical damage to the SD card
Corruption can affect the file system of the SD card, individual files, or even make the full card unreadable by your phone. Before looking at solutions, we need to diagnose the type of corruption.
Diagnosing SD Card Errors
When you insert a corrupted SD card into your Android phone, you may see errors like “SD card blank or has unsupported file system” or “SD card damaged. Try reformatting it”. However, don’t reformat yet! These errors don’t necessarily mean the data is unrecoverable.
First, try removing and reinserting the SD card. Restart your phone if the card still isn’t recognized. If the phone detects the card but certain files are corrupted or missing, don’t worry – there are still ways to recover data without formatting.
To further diagnose, open your phone’s Settings app, then tap Storage. Look for the SD card details:
- Blank or unsupported file system – The card cannot be read due to file system errors. This is recoverable.
- No SD card – Physically damaged and unreadable by your phone.
- SD card working – Any file errors are likely recoverable.
If your phone detects the SD card with errors, or says it is blank/unformatted even though it has files on it, this means the file system is corrupted – but there is still hope for file recovery.
How Android Repairs Corrupted SD Cards
Android has built-in tools that can check and repair SD card errors without losing data. Here’s an overview of what Android can do to fix various SD card problems:
- Mounting errors – Android will attempt to re-mount the SD card cleanly so it is recognized properly again.
- File system errors – Checks integrity and repairs errors in the file system structure
- Corrupted system files – Ability to extract data from corrupted system files like photos and documents.
- Scan and fix bad sectors – Checks card for physical defects and marks bad sectors as unusable.
This is done automatically in the background when you insert an SD card. However, Android also gives you some tools to manually scan and fix SD card errors too. We’ll cover how to use these next.
Scanning and Fixing SD Card Errors Using Android
Here are the steps to try and fix a corrupted SD card using Android’s built-in utilities:
- Insert your SD card into your Android phone. If the phone recognizes the card, move on to step 2. If the card is not detected at all, your SD card likely has physical damage and you may need a data recovery service to extract the data.
- Open your phone’s Settings app and tap Storage. You should see the SD card listed. Tap on it.
- Tap Storage settings. This opens the management menu for your SD card.
- Tap Migrate data. This will prompt Android to try and read data from the corrupted card and migrate readable data off it.
- Tap Repair SD card. This runs a scan over the card, identifies any errors, and tries to fix them while preserving your data.
- Wait for the repair process to finish. This can take some time. Don’t remove the SD card during repair.
- Check if data on the card is now accessible. Open your phone’s Files app and navigate to the SD card. Try opening photos, music and documents. If data is still missing or corrupted, move on to data recovery software.
Following this process will allow Android to automatically detect and fix any filesystem-level errors on your SD card. However, it doesn’t guarantee full recovery – some individual files may still be corrupted if the card has bad sectors. For recovering these lost files, continue reading.
Recovering Lost Files from a Corrupted SD Card
If Android’s built-in repair couldn’t salvage all your files, don’t panic! There are still ways to recover lost documents, photos, and more from the SD card without formatting. Here are some file recovery options:
Use Android App like DiskDigger
There are specialized file recovery apps for Android like DiskDigger that can scan your SD card, identify recoverable files even if they aren’t detected by your phone, and restore them to your device storage or cloud storage for backup before you try to fix the card.
The steps to recover files with DiskDigger:
- Install DiskDigger from the Play Store on your Android device.
- Run DiskDigger and grant it permission to access your SD card.
- Select your corrupted SD card as the disk to scan.
- Check boxes next to file types you want to try recovering – pictures, videos, audio etc.
- Tap Start Recovery. DiskDigger will scan and fetch recoverable files.
- Preview found files, select those you want to recover, and save them to your phone storage or cloud drive.
This allows file recovery without relying on the SD card’s corrupted file system.
Connect SD Card to PC and Scan
You can use recovery software like Recuva or Stellar Phoenix on a Windows or Mac PC to interface directly with your SD card and restore data. This offers more advanced scanning than mobile apps.
The steps are:
- Use an SD card reader to connect your corrupted card to a PC.
- Download and install a data recovery app like Recuva.
- Run the recovery app, select your connected SD card as the disk to scan.
- Once scanning completes, select files to recover and restore them to your PC or an external hard drive.
- Copy the recovered files back to your now repaired SD card later.
This leverages the power of desktop software for better SD card file recovery.
Send to Professional Recovery Service
For extreme SD card corruption where DIY solutions couldn’t recover data, you may need to use a professional recovery service. They have specialized equipment to physically repair cards with failed components and recover data at a very low level before copying it to a new card or drive.
However, professional SD card recovery can cost hundreds of dollars. Try free methods first before thinking about this route.
Tips to Avoid Corruption in the Future
After you’ve successfully repaired your SD card, here are some tips to avoid corruption happening again:
- Safely eject the SD card before removing it from your phone.
- Don’t remove the card when actively transferring files.
- Buy name brand SD cards rather than cheap low quality cards.
- Handle the SD card carefully and store it in a case.
- Don’t save files directly to the SD card in recovery situations. Copy them off first.
- Regularly back up important files from the SD card to other storage.
- Scan your SD card occasionally using the Repair utility to identify bad sectors.
Following these best practices will help prevent avoidable SD card corruption in the future and make recovery easier if it does happen again.
With the right tools and techniques, you can often fix a corrupted SD card without losing data. First use Android’s built-in utilities to repair the file system. Then leverage data recovery software or services to restore lost files. Avoid common pitfalls that lead to corruption. And make regular backups.
While a corrupted SD card can be stressful, in most cases you can recover your valuable photos, videos, documents and other data without formatting the card. So don’t rush to format – first explore fixes and file recovery options. With some time and patience, you can resolve SD card corruption and save your memories.