What Does Format Mean on an SD Card and Why to Format it?

What does format mean on a SD card and how to format SD card? This page explains what does it mean to format your SD card and shows you the detailed steps to format SD card.


By Kelsey / Updated on April 2, 2024

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I use a 32GB SD card on my Nikon camera to save pictures, and it works well. But today, it prompted me to format the SD card for the next use. What does format mean on a SD card? Will my pictures disappear if I format my card? These photos are very important to me.


I've been using an SD card to save some downloaded movies, but those movies are useless now. I want to delete them quickly. How do I format an sd card?

You may encounter a situation where you need to format your SD for whatever reason. If you are confused about SD card formatting, you have come to the right place. Here we will explain to you in detail what does formatting an SD card do, how to format an SD card, and how to recover photos from formatted SD card if you do it by mistake.

What Does Format Mean On SD Card

Part 1. What does format mean on a SD card?

Simply put, formatting an SD card is a simple process to clean up the data on the memory card. Does formatting a SD card delete everything? Yes, SD card formatting will cause all files to disappear.

What does formatting a SD card do? When you format SD card, you can do the followings:

  • Erase all SD card files. You can free up SD card space after formatting so that you can write new data.
  • Speed up SD card. When your SD card runs slowly, you can format it to improve its running speed.
  • Modify SD card file system. Different devices may use different file systems. By formatting, you can change the file system of your SD card to run and store data on the desired device.
  • Antivirus for SD card. If your SD card is damaged or virus-attacked and unusable, formatting can remove the corrupted files and clean the SD card from viruses and malware.

The above are several roles of what does formatting an SD card mean. Although deleting data can clear the SD card data as well, it does not help to modify the file system, improve the running speed of the SD card, etc. If for some reason, you need to format an SD card, you can proceed with the guides below.

Part 2. Why to format an SD card?

SD cards often require formatting for various specific purposes:

  • Changing File System: When you need to alter the file system format of your SD card, formatting is the way to go. This process allows you to transition from one file system to another to meet your specific requirements.
  • Fixing Corrupted SD Cards: In cases where your SD card becomes corrupted and data retrieval seems impossible, formatting can often be the solution. It clears the card of any issues and makes it usable again.
  • Erasing Data to Reclaim Space: If your SD card is running out of space, formatting is a convenient method to wipe the card clean, giving you a fresh start and ample storage space for new data.

So, whether you want to change the file system format of your SD card or repair a corrupted one, formatting the SD card is a versatile solution to address these needs effectively.

Part 3. How to format SD card properly

In the previous section, we covered the topic - what does it mean to format an SD card. After formatting, all SD card data will be erased. It is not easy to recover data from SD card after format. Therefore, we recommend that you check if there is any important data on the SD card before formatting. If so, please make a backup of your data. Here are 2 ways to format your SD card.

Way 1. Format SD card through Windows Explorer

For Windows PCs, you can easily figure out how to format SD card on computer from File Explorer.

Step 1. Use an SD card reader to connect your SD card to computer, and make sure it is recognizable.

Step 2. Press Windows + E at the same time to open “This PC”, right-click the SD card, and tap “Format”.

Format In File Explorer

Step 3. Specify the SD card file system and set a new volume label to it. Then, click “ Start” > “OK” to begin the formatting.

Start SD Card Format

Way 2. Format SD card from Mac Disk Utility

On a Mac, you will format your SD card from Finder.

Step 1. Insert the SD card into your USB card reader or Mac SD card slot.

Step 2. Open Finder, click on the “Go”, and select “Utilities”. Then, choose “Disk Utility” on the pop-up screen.

Disk Utility

Step 3. On the Disk Utility screen, locate the connected SD card in the View list, and click on “Erase”.

Step 4. Name your SD card, and choose the right file system (exFAT for SD cards over 64GB; MS-DOS (FAT) if it’s 32GB or smaller). And, click “Erase” > “Done”.

Erase SD Card

Part 3. How to unformat SD card with professional recovery software

What to do if you formatted the SD card by mistake and did not back up the data? Don't worry, as long as the erased data in your SD card is not overwritten by new data, you can use the professional SD card data recovery software - MyRecove. It can help you recover data from formatted hard drive directly.

Powerful SD Card Recovery Software
  • Support all brands of SD card like Kingston, Toshiba, SanDisk, and so on.
  • Offer 2 professional scanning methods Quick Scan and Deep Scan.
  • More than 200 types of files can be recovered, like recovering photos, Word documents, Excel, PPT, JPG, GIF, 3FR, MP3, MP4, MOV, and more.
  • Available in all Windows operating systems like Windows 11/10/8/7 and Windows Server.
  • You can filter, search, and preview deleted files during the recovery process.
  • Provide a clear graphical user interface and simple operating steps.

How to recover files from formatted hard drives (external & internal) with this powerful software? Click the download button below to install the MyRecover software on your computer and specific recovery steps are listed below.

⚠️Notes: You can follow the tips here to improve the recovery success rate.

  • Stop using the formatted SD card.

  • Do not recover data to the SD card you’re performing recovery on.

  • Recover data from the copy of the SD card if you have created it.

Step 1. Connect the SD card to your PC. Run the recovery tool. Hover the mouse over the drive saved deleted files before, and click Scan.

Select The Formatted Partition To Scan

Step 2. It will start to scan for all deleted and lost files on the memory card. You can wait for the scanning process to finish or use the “Filter” and “Search” features to find wanted items for recovery during the scanning.

There are some different filters to narrow the range of search results:

  • Name: Enter the relevant filename of your desired files to quickly locate them.
  • Date modified: Set the date (today, yesterday, last 7/30 days, etc.)
  • Size: Set file size (<128KB, 128KB~1MB, 1MB~512MB, etc.)

Scanning Formatted Partition

Step 3. Select all needed data that needs to be recovered, and click Recover x files to choose a new storage location for the recovered files to avoid data overwriting.

Select Files To Recover From Formatted Partition


MyRecover can recover data from an SD card for free, up to 500MB. If you need more file recovery, you can upgrade your MyRecover to an advanced edition.


What does format mean on an SD card? We believe that after reading this article, you have a basic understanding of formatting SD cards. If you format the important content on the SD card by mistake, the data recovery expert, My Recover, can help you easily recover the erased files and keep your data safe.


What happens if you format an SD card?
When you format an SD card, several significant actions take place: data deletion, file system reinitialization, freeing storage space.
Does formatting SD card delete everything?
Yes, when you format an SD card, it does indeed delete everything stored on the card. However, it's important to clarify that the data is not permanently erased. Contrary to popular belief, formatting an SD card makes the data stored on it practically inaccessible for further use, but it does not permanently remove the data.
Will I lose my photos if I format my SD card?
Indeed, when you format an SD card, all the files stored on it, including your photos, are deleted. However, it's crucial to note that the deleted photos will persist physically on the SD card until they are overwritten by new data. This provides an opportunity to potentially recover them using specialized SD card recovery software. If you have inadvertently formatted your SD card and need to retrieve your photos, it's advisable to act promptly to increase the chances of successful recovery before the data is overwritten.
Kelsey · Editor
Kelsey is an English editor of AOMEI Technology. She is passionate about helping people find effective ways to deal with all problems in computer. She has great insights into data backup and recovery, disk partition and clone, and other data protection measures. She likes learn computer skills to improve herself and enjoy quality time with family and friends.