How to Fully Erase an SD Card

By Dan Stone

SD cards are a common memory storage medium used on computers, phones, cameras and game consoles.
i David Paul Morris/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you've ever wanted to give or to sell someone your extra SD card but didn't want to give them the chance to recovery any of the data you stored on the device, you can fully erase the data by formatting the memory card. Formatting is the process where you set up a new file system on a storage device. A full format has the side effect of deleting all the stored data on the device. Writing over flash memory renders the old data unrecoverable.

Boot the computer and connect the SD memory Card to your computer's memory card reader or adapter.

Launch File Explorer. This can be done by typing "Computer" (without the quotations) on the Start screen and choosing the "Computer" option from the results.

Locate the SD card you want to fully erase under the Devices with Removable Storage subheading in the File Explorer window.

Right-click on the memory card's icon and select the "Format" option.

Choose the "OK" option when the Warning prompt appears. It reminds you that this process will delete everything on the memory card.

Select the largest capacity of the memory card from the "Capacity" drop-down menu, select "FAT32" or "NTFS" from the "File System" drop menu, uncheck the box next to "Quick Format" and press "Start."

Wait for the formatting process to complete and select "OK."

Remove the SD card from the computer.

Items you will need

  • SD memory card reader or SD memory card adapter

  • Computer


Format the SD card in the FAT32 format if it has a capacity of 32GB or smaller with the default Windows formatting tool. FAT32 can be read by almost any device including video game consoles and cellular phones. It also plays nice between PCs and Macs. There are third-party programs like SwissKnife that can format FAT32 partitions larger than 32GB. Otherwise, NTFS is suitable for Windows device to Windows device transfer.

It is important to uncheck the "Quick Format" button when formatting the SD card. Unchecking "Quick Format" will perform a "Full Format" which involves overwriting all the data on the storage device. If you do not uncheck this box, a person skilled in data recovery may still be able to restore the deleted files.

When you delete a file on a memory card or hard drive, Windows just eliminates the file's header information the drive and eventually writes over it. Because of this, the data can be restored unless it is overwritten. Data on traditional platter-based hard drives may be recovered even after it has been written over several times. Flash-based memory only needs to be overwritten once to be unrecoverable.


This process will fully erase the memory card's data. You will not be able to recover the data through an undeletion program.