Published on
Last update:

What to do if your computer doesn't read a sd card


A common problem: computer / laptop doesn't read a flash memory and its content is unavailable. In this guide you will find the problem types and some suggested variants of how to fix it.

Table of Contents

Wrong sd card formatting (the file system is incompatible with Windows)

You have formatted the sd card on Linux or Mac OS X and then connected it to PC. Windows cannot read sd card files if the file system format of the sd card is not supported.

How to fix it

We suggest formatting the sd card in a universal FAT32 format. It can be easily done with the help of a standard Windows utility and also with the help of special programs: Such as SDFormatter, JetFlash Recovery Tool, USB Disk Storage Format Tool, etc.

if computer not reading sd card try to format it

Please read the step-by-step guide to avoid making  mistakes:

How to format a sd card or usb flash to NTFS and FAT

The damage of the file structure of the flash memory with a virus

Some viruses hide the data and replace it with the exe-files having the same name without actually deleting the data.  One of the relatively harmless viruses of such type is Trojan-Downloader.Win32.VB.hkq. As a result of its actions, the Windows operating system hides files of the sd card. You will not be able to see the files without removing the protection and deleting the virus from it.

What to do. Any antivirus program will help you to resolve the problem and correct the errors. One of them is Dr. CureIt. Besides deleting Worms, Spyware, Hacktools from the PC, the utility will help to heal usb drives and sd cards.

1. Download and install Dr Web Cureit on your computer.

Download Dr. CureIt for free

2. Click "Select objects for scanning" and select the desired media drives and folders.

3. Run a search scanner by pressing 'Start Scanning'.

kars 01

Bad sectors and other read / copy errors

The computer won t recognize sd card with read errors and bad sectors. Characteristics:

  • the sd card has stopped working
  • the device is recognized by the system incorrectly
  • not all the files can be opened / copied correctly.

What to do

Install Flash Memory Toolkit on your computer. The program will perform a series of quick tests and check the sd card for errors. The report will point out the errors while reading / writing information. Possibly, it won't solve the problem, but you will see a true picture of the sd card state.

Flash Memory Toolkit screenshot

The sd card is broken

Never eliminate the risk of a sd card mechanical failure: as a result of an improper operation of the device, by accident or simple inadvertence. The main causes of failure:

  • the physical damage of internal components,
  • the damage of a memory chip,
  • the closure of an electronic circuit card,
  • the deformation as the result of temperature rise.

A sd card damage can be detected by sight:

  • the casing is deformed,
  • there are signs of melting or other damage of a mechanical nature,
  • the breakage of the plug connecting the electronic circuit board and the card-reader connector.

What to do

Most likely, it's impossible to repair the sd card or it will cost a lot of money. Not every expert in your city will dare to resolder the chip: donor components have to be ordered from suppliers. Therefore, if the sd card didn't have extremely important information, it is advisable to replace it with a new one.

The usb port is incorrect or damaged (not attached to the PC motherboard)

If an external card-reader is used to connect a sd card to PC, the connection is established via usb cable. Hence, the problem may be related to a non-working usb port of the computer or the cable.

How to fix it.

  1. Remove the sd card from the usb socket and try to read it via another ports. If everything goes well, you will hear a distinctive “winning” Windows sound and / or an icon in the system tray: which means that the sd card has been connected to the PC.

  2. A card reader may be broken. If possible, use another card-reader, for example, the one embedded in the laptop.

  3. It makes sense to replace the usb cable connecting the cardreader to the PC.

The sd card drivers are missing or outdated

In most cases modern operating systems сan easily identify the sd card model and spot the connected card reader. But in rare situations, Windows can cause a conflict, due to which the sd card will not be recognized as a storage device.

What to do. Make sure that the sd card is compatible with the current operating system. The information on the supported OS can be found in the documentation on the device manufacturer website. If the manufacturer recommends to install the driver, do it.

USB connector is clogged

Sometimes the conditions the sd card is under aren't the most favorable. Problems may arise also due to proper maintenance. Because of the careless storage and constant use, the sd card contacts accumulate dust interfering with the connection of the sd card to the computer.

What to do.

  1. Carefully clean the sd card contacts, making sure there are no husk, dust or any other foreign objects which got into the sd card slot from your pocket.

  2. the PC usb port also can be clogged with dirt and dust. Take a stick or a match and clean the slot.

SD card not showing up: answers to the questions

I took my friend's sd card. After "cleaning" it with an antivirus it can't be spotted by any PC or any program. When you uninstall drivers through the "Device Manager", after reconnecting the driver, a window saying "Drivers Download" appears but the driver is not installed because of the failure. Why wont my computer recognize my memory card?

The file table may be damaged thus Windows can't see the sd card. Try to format it with the signature software (if it's available on the manufacturer website). Or use HDD Low Level Format Tool which is a low-level formatting program.

If there is no physical damage of the drive then there are no other variants. Plus formatting is the only method of effecting the storage device with the help of a program.

When you connect a flash memory the software installs. Windows shows that the device is ready for access but the PC still does not recognize it. Why wont my computer read my memory card?

Open "Disk Management" and check whether the flash memory is recognized as a file volume or an unallocated space. Then you have to:

  • assign a new letter to the usb drive via "Disk Management Windows"
  • create a new file volume
  • format the flash memory to FAT32 or exFat

I have a Silicon Power flash drive with 32 GB capacity but the computer does not see it. It appears in "Disk Manager" as an unallocated space but when I try to create a simple file volume an error appears. As the result, the computer not recognizing sd card and Windows Explorer says "Please insert the drive".

You can create a new partition through the "Disk Management" via Control Panel. A file space can be marked as RAW, but it is necessary to create a new partition on it. Besides there are specialized programs for working with partitions and formatting.

Also read the manual on how to format a usb flash drive.

>Windows Explorer does not see the sd card after it has been formatted. When you try to enable it to the phone it says "unable to safely remove the device sd card sandisk" and when you try to format it via the phone nothing happens at all. How to cope with it?

  1. Possibly the sd card model is not supported by your mobile device which happens quite often.

  2. If Windows doesn't recognize exFAT try Fat32.

  3. Test the card on any other Android device: can it be read? If Windows Explorer does not see the card you should open "Disk Management" via Control Panel and check if there is an unpartitioned space. If there is than the sd card has to be formatted and the drive has to be assigned with a letter (see the answer above).

I'm trying to recover deleted photos via Recuva program but my laptop wont read my sd card after it has been connected to it via usb and the phone appears as a portable device. USB debugging icon is enabled but at the same time so is the connection through MTP. What is better to do in this situation?

When you restore files from the internal memory, you have to create its image (see the instructions) and then connect the copy of the internal memory to the PC as a separate drive. After these complicated manipulations Recuva will be able to detect the phone memory.

When trying to format the sd card the computer shows the message: “the drive is write protected”. I failed to format it and now the card can't be seen by the PC either. The cardreader led is working, but the sd card not showing up on computer.

Check the drive performance through Disk Management (Run diskmgmt.msc). When you connect the sd card to PC a new device should appear in the list. In order for the flash memory to appear in "Explorer", a new and formatted drive should be created on it. All these actions are accessible via Disk Management.

Vlad Brown, USA, Buffalo, WY

Vlad is a professional writer. He has expert knowledge in data recovery with 15 years of experience. He started his career as a journalist by reviewing PC and mobile apps. His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and answer them. 

His current responsibilities are to keep track of users' questions and provide answers to them, write proven manuals, be the website technical support and also run a Youtube channel.

Vlad's recent reviews: