How Do I Reformat an SD Card?

by Shea Laverty

Typically, SD cards are formatted and re-formatted using your computer and Windows' built-in formatting tool. SD Formatter, a software tool developed by the SD Association, can also be used to format SD, SDHC and SDXC cards of any capacity. Most devices that employ SD cards also have built-in tools for formatting the card to an appropriate file system.

Tip

  • Formatting removes all data from an SD card. Before you begin formatting, back up any data you wish to preserve on another storage device.

Items you will need

  • SD Card slot

  • SD-to-USB adapter

Windows Format

Windows features a built-in formatting tool for many storage devices, including SD cards. This option is best if you either don't want to or cannot download additional programs onto your computer to perform the format.

Insert the SD card into your computer's SD card slot. If your computer doesn't feature a slot, insert the card into a SD-to-USB adapter and connect the adapter to one of your computer's USB ports.

Press Windows-X and select File Explorer from the Power User menu.

For Windows 7 users, click Start and select Computer.

Select Format.

Right-click the SD card from the Devices and Drives section and select Format.

Choose an option from the File System drop-down.

Click the File system drop-down menu and select the file system to use. In most cases, such as use with your computer, select FAT32. However, some devices use other file systems. Check the documentation for the device with which you plan to use the card to see if a specific file system is required.

Name the card.

Enter a name for your card in the Volume label field, if desired, and click Start.

Tip

  • Click Restore device defaults to revert the card back to its "out-of-the-box" state.

Click OK.

Click OK to proceed, or Cancel if you've changed your mind or want to change some settings.

Click OK.

Click OK once formatting is complete.

SD Formatter

SD Formatter was developed by the SD Association, and the only tool recommended by the group for formatting SD Cards.

Insert the SD card into your computer's SD card slot. If your computer doesn't feature a slot, insert the card into a SD-to-USB adapter and connect the adapter to one of your computer's USB ports.

Click Option.

Start up SD Formatter and enter a name for the card in the Volume Label field if desired. Click Option.

Select a format type.

Click the Format Type drop-down and select a format type.

  • Quick is the fastest option, but it just removes the card's index of your old data. The data itself remains until you overwrite it with something new.
  • Full (Erase) takes longer, but initializes all areas of the card by deleting all data.
  • Full (Overwrite) is potentially the most lengthy choice, as well as the most secure. It initializes all areas of the card by overwriting them with meaningless data and then deleting it, thus completely erasing all information.

Tip

  • If you're reformatting your card for personal use, Quick is usually a fine choice and poses no risks. If you're planning on giving away or selling the card after formatting, however, you should choose one of the Full options to remove any traces of your data.

Click OK.

Click OK.

Click Format.

Click Format.

Click OK.

Click OK to begin formatting, or click Cancel if you've changed your mind or want to change some options.

Click OK>

Click OK once the process has finished and close SD Formatter.

On Other Devices

Devices like smartphones and tablets can also format SD cards. Generally the option to format an SD card is in the Settings, Options or Memory menu for your device. What format your device needs and how you perform the formatting procedure varies from one device to the next, so consult your owner's documentation for specifics.