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How to Delete Pictures From an SD Card

by Shea Laverty

All files, including pictures, can be deleted from an SD card in two ways: by using File Explorer to manually delete files or by formatting the card to erase everything on it. Each option may be better suited to different situations, especially depending on your personal security concerns. Both can be performed without downloading any extra software.

Tips

Most SD cards come with a write-protection switch, which prevents files from being deleted or added to the card. Check the card and make sure the switch is set to the Unlock position before trying to delete files from your card.

Deleting From File Explorer

Your SD card can be managed through File Explorer just like any other connected drive or file folder and with many of the same options. Deleting files using File Explorer is the quickest and easiest method, but it may leave some data behind which can be used by recovery experts to restore the file. This is only a concern if you are planning to give away or sell the card in the near future and need to make sure that all files are permanently deleted.

Items you will need

  • SD Card reader port

  • SD-to-USB adapter

Insert your SD card into your computer's SD card reader port. If your computer doesn't have an SD card port, 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 if you're using Windows 8.

The Windows 7 Start menu with Computer highlighted.

For Windows 7 users, click Start followed by Computer.

File Explorer, with the SD Card highlighted.

Double-click the SD card in the Devices and Drives menu.

The context menu with Delete highlighted.

Right-click the image you want to delete and select Delete.

Warnings

Unlike files saved on your main hard drive, deleting files from your SD card doesn't send them to the Recycle Bin, but deletes them outright. Be sure you don't want to keep the picture before you click Delete.

Formatting Your SD Card

If you're going to give away or sell your SD card or want a more secure erasure of the card's contents, formatting is a better solution. Formatting completely erases and overwrites all data, making it much harder to recover even for a data recovery professional. However, it can be a bit more time consuming depending on the options you select.

Tips

Most digital camera manufacturers recommend formatting your SD card in-camera to optimize compatibility. As format operations vary from one camera to the next, consult your owner's documentation for formatting instructions specific to your camera.

While formatting with Windows is often fine, the SD Association recommends using its proprietary SD Formatter tool to format SD cards. Free downloads of both SD Formatter and its user guide are available.

The SD Card context menu with Format selected.

Right-click on your SD card in File Explorer and select Format.

The Format SD Card dialog with Start highlighted.

Select FAT32 from the File System drop-down menu if it isn't selected by default and un-check the Quick Format check box. Click Start to begin formatting. Allow the computer some time to complete the formatting procedure.

Tips

If you're just using the format option to delete everything on the card at once, using the Quick Format option is fine. This method is quicker than fully formatting the card, but isn't as thorough about overwriting the data. If security is a concern, always use the full-format option.

Removing the Card

When you're done, properly eject the SD card to finalize any data-writing procedures. Failure to do so may result in data corruption.

The SD Card context menu with Eject highlighted.

Right-click the SD card in File Explorer and select Eject. Wait for the pop-up declaring it's safe to remove the card and then remove it from the card reader or USB adapter.

The Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media option in the System Tray, with Eject SD Card highlighted.

Alternatively, click the ^ arrow in the system tray and find the Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media icon. Right-click the icon and select Eject SD Card. Wait for the pop-up message declaring it's safe to remove the card.

Items you will need

  • SD card reader (external or internal)

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