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How to Format SD Card on Mac

Wondershare Recoverit Authors

Jan 15, 2024 • Filed to: Solve Mac Problems • Proven solutions

Sometimes, you'll have to format your SD card because, like any other storage device, SD cards are susceptible to being corrupt.

With that out of the way, can your Mac effectively format an SD card? Well, duh! Macs are some of the most powerful computers in the modern world.

In all seriousness though, your Mac is the perfect tool you can use to safely format your SD card, and this article will show the many ways you can do it.

Part 1: Situations When Formatting SD Card on Mac

It's not always advisable for you to constantly format your SD card. Then again, in certain situations, that's the only way to save the SD card from damage and guarantee you won't lose your files in the coming future. But what does it mean to format an SD card? It is the same as deleting?

No, there's a stark difference, though you might not be aware. Formatting an SD card is a considerably more thorough way of getting rid of files in your SD card. Formatting cleans the SD card of any potential errors that could lead to data corruption and loss of data in the long run.

As reluctant as you may be to format your SD card on Mac, there's a wealth of reasons why it's a good idea. Don't shy away from doing it, and the list below will explain why.

Each time you use your SD card on a different device with unusual file structures, the card's file structure is inadvertently modified, which of course can damage the card.

But when you format the SD card, the actual file structure is preserved, nullifying any errors that could stem from a damaged file structure.

Someone who knows his way around computers can utilize third-party tools to recover your deleted files (which could be sensitive and private). Format your SD card and that same computer geek can do little but give up and walk away.

Part 2: Overview of SD Card and SD Card Format Types

SD cards could be likened to a technological revolution. Their compact size makes them convenient, and their capacity to store extremely large amounts of data at affordable prices make them a basic necessity for any device capable of utilizing external data storage.

With the newer and faster SD cards, their more advanced encryption capabilities mean greater protection for your content too.

Little wonder why SD cards are universally accepted in devices like camcorders, Android smartphones, digital cameras, tablets, phablets, music players, and a host of other devices. They can be read by computers too, regardless of whether the operating system is Windows, macOS, or Ubuntu.

Although the operating system doesn't matter as much as the slot of the computer, because that's what determines whether the computer will accept some or all of the SD cards available in the market. This is true for all Mac computers too, which feature SD or SDXC card slots. Here's a question you're probably asking yourself right now: Do the physical sizes of the SD cards matter? Yes, they do. Fat memory cards won't fit in your Mac, so it's best you know that right now.

The specification your memory cards should conform to is 32mm by 2.1mm, but it's ok to use thinner cards like MMC (MultiMediaCards). Once again, DON'T tries to shove in any memory card with a thickness greater than 2.1mm into your Mac. You could end up damaging both the card and your Mac's SD card slot.

When it comes to the types of SD card compatible with your Mac's slot, there are 5 main ones: The standard SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, and UHS-II. A file system is a manner in which storage is organized on devices like drives and SD cards. The various types of SD cards and their sizes each have a unique file system or share a file system. FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, and exFAT. Refer to the table below for clarification.


SD 2GB FAT12/16





This is the basic format of the SD card, with a size measuring 32mm by 24 mm. It's also 2.1mm thick. Your Mac can use this card with a capacity ranging from 4MB to 2GB.

sd secure digital

This card was initially developed to cater to the demands for HD video and photography. In terms of physical size, it has the same dimensions as the SD card, but in terms of the standard your Mac uses, anything above 4GB to 32GB should suffice.

Again, this card is the same physical size as SD and SDHC, but starts from 4GB capacity all the way to 2TB (yes, that's 2 TERABYTES! Welcome to the future).

This card is used for solid-state storage but can come in a size from as low 16MB up to 512GB. Its physical dimensions are 32mm by 24mm; then 1.4mm thick. It's slightly smaller than the SD cards listed up there, but it will still easily fit into your Mac's slot. It's one of the older cards on this list, developed way back in 1997.

sd secure digital 512 gb

This card can transfer large amounts of data at incredible speeds (think 245MB/s). To put it in perspective, you can transfer 32GB in a little over 2 minutes. Its dimensions are the same as the standard SD card. There is a 2TB variant of it but it's only compatible with iMac Pro.

There are several types of passive adapters that you can use to make MicroSD and MiniSD cards conform to the thickness and width of a standard SD card, making them compatible with your Mac.


Part 3: How to Format SD Card on Mac Securely

There's a big difference between simply formatting an SD and securely formatting it. In the former, your files are gone but, in the latter, those files are gone for good. They're beyond recovery; utter erasure of the files.

Can you think up any credible reasons why you would want your files permanently gone? What if you're selling your SD card; or you want to replace it with a newer type, or you're giving it out to a friend?

In each case, there will a potential breach of your privacy if you let the SD card leave your possession without making sure the files it once contained can't be recovered by anyone again.

One sure way you can prevent anyone from peeping through your SD card's encryption to see your files is securely formatting it. Do that by following these steps:

1. Slot in the SD card into your Mac and go to your Mac's "Applications."

2. Open up the "Utilities" folder.

3. And select the SD card from the left column. It will be under the "Internal" category of the Disk Utility.

4. Click the "Erase" button at the top of the Disk Utility.

erase button

5. Once the SD card has been erased, a prompt will ask you to name the SD card and how you wish to format it. You can either leave the default settings as they are or type in a new name.

6. Click on "Security Options" located at the bottom.

security option

7. Once more, you'll see a prompt asking you just how thoroughly you want the SD card to be formatted/erased. Pull the slider all the way to "Most Secure."

8. Click on "OK." That's the last step. Your SD card is now clean of all files and the "invisible spaces" they occupy.

invisible spaces

Part 4: How to Recover Formatted SD Card on Mac

From the get-go, this article has just been mentioning getting rid of files; now, you're going to do the exact opposite of that. Don't despair if you lose your files because your SD card suddenly decided to go on strike.

Recoverit Mac Data Recovery is ready to get all your files back. You don't need to know much about the software other than it's very efficient and effective at recovering lost data. It's compatible with all types of SD cards too so that's something else you don't have to bother yourself about. Use by doing these:

Step 1: Choose a Location

mac data recovery

Step 2: Scan the Location

mac scanning lost files

Step 3: Preview & Recover Formatted SD Card Files

mac photo recovery

Recoverit Data Recovery is a software that excels in data recovery on both Windows and Mac. Factors like the file system or capacity of your SD card have little effect on how powerful Recoverit's data recovery feature is. So, whether your SD card is 2GB or 2TB, and regardless of how strong the encryption of the formatted files is, the software will easily get your data back.

Part 5: Tips for Formatting and Format Recovery on Mac

Formatting SD cards is a tested and proven way to purge them of any errors before they can attack your files. The tips below will thus come in handy before and after formatting.

Part 6: How to Fix SD Card Format Errors

Fixing your SD card doesn't necessarily require you to take a trip to an expert. It's something you can do on your own. But each error might require a different approach, so pay attention.

Solution 1: SD Card Switch

There's a tiny switch on some SD cards that can be used to prevent them from saving files. This means the cards have been locked into "read-only". You can't write to the card while it's in this state, so your solution could be as simple as you switching the slider on the card from "locked" to "unlocked."

Solution 2: Properly Insert the Card

Insert your SD card merely halfway into the slot and you can expect to face problems. It can even damage the card, or show you errors you've never seen before. Push the card so it's snug, but don't push too hard or too far in.

properly insert the card

Solution 3: Use Disk Utility

Disk Utility can be used to format SD cards as well as repair their errors. That is why Mac users the world over regard it as an indispensable tool for them.

1. Click "Go" from the "Finder" menu, then click 'Utilities."

2. Choose your SD from the list of hard drives to the left.

3. Select "First Aid" located at the top of the Disk Utility window.

4. Click "Run." Any errors found will be automatically fixed.

use disk utility

Part 7: How to Use an SD Card on a Mac

Using an SD card on Mac is a little different from using it on any other operating system. The one thing that might seem new to you will be the icon of the SD card because it looks different from what you see on Windows. The icon will be displayed on your Mac's desktop Conversely, it's even easier to recognize this icon on Mac for what it is. This is so because it's a more faithful interpretation of the real thing than what you see on Windows. Have a look below.

how to use an sd card on  mac

1. Insert the Sd card into your Mac. Your macOS will recognize it and assign a drive to it. Open up "Finder."

2. On the left, you will see a list of the devices connected to your Mac. Your SD card will be one of them (it will also appear on your desktop). Click on it.

3. The contents of the SD card will be displayed on a large pane/window to the right.

4. Use the SD card however you want to. Copy files to it or copy files from it. The choice is yours.

how to use an sd card on mac

Ejecting the SD Card

This is quite easy. It's just like deleting files on Mac. Just drag the SD card icon you see on your desktop into your "Trash." After that, you can safely remove the SD card from the slot. Easy as pie.

 use an sd card on mac

Closing Words

SD cards are great, but convenience doesn't equal invulnerability, so you can't expect them to be free of the many issues which storage devices suffer. Physical damage, accidental formatting, and corruption can all render an SD card ineffective.

The worst part is not the damage to the SD card, though that's still unsavory; rather the loss of the files on the card. You can buy new cards to replace the damaged ones but once certain files are lost, money can do very little to get them back.

Recoverit steps in to solve this problem. It discards complicated data recovery procedures for a simple 3-step solution that always gets the job done. You can wrong with many things, but never with Recoverit.

Recoverit author

Eleanor Reed

staff Editor

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