How to Format an Unreadable SD Card

By Faith Alessio

When your digital camera begins showing distorted picture images or giving you "Corrupt Data" messages, it may be time to format your memory card. Formatting synchronizes your memory card with your specific camera model, causing both the camera and the card to run faster and more efficiently. Formatting also protects the memory card from potentially becoming more damaged later on.

Things You'll Need

  • USB SD card reader
  • Computer

Step 1

Stop taking pictures and turn off your camera at the first sign of corrupted data on the memory card. Symptoms of a corrupted memory card include distorted images being shown in camera playback mode or error messages such as "Memory Card Error" or "Corrupted Memory."

Step 2

Remove the corrupted SD card from your camera and insert it into a memory card reader that is able to read SD cards.

Step 3

Insert the memory card reader into any USB port on your computer. Once the computer recognizes the memory card, go to "My Computer" and then to the "Removable Disk" drive folder that contains the files on your memory card.

Step 4

Copy or move all of the files that you wish to keep from your memory card onto your computer hard drive. This process should take no more than five minutes or so, depending on the number and size of the files that are on your memory card.

Step 5

Safely remove your memory card reader from your computer. Remove your memory card from the reader and insert the card back into the appropriate slot in your camera. Turn your camera on.

Step 6

Press the "Menu" button on the back of your camera. This button is usually below or to the left of the LCD screen. In the menu, find and select the "Setup Menu" or "Settings" menu, depending on the brand of digital camera that you have.

Step 7

Scroll down with the directional buttons until you find the "Format" menu option, and then press the "OK" or "Select" button. If your camera asks for a confirmation before formatting your memory card, press "OK" once more to begin the formatting process, which may take several minutes.

Tips & Warnings

  • When the formatting process is complete, you can take the files that had previously been on your memory card and paste them back onto the card using the SD card reader.
  • Formatting a memory card erases all data on the card, so be sure you back up all desired files before actually formatting your card.