Here, this post will tell you how to effectively, quickly and safely recover photos from SD card without formatting with the professional photo recovery software - MiniTool Photo Recovery. 

Recently, I've often asked myself this question: "how can I recover photos from SD card without formatting?"
I just returned from my trip last month after a great 15 days in China. A few days ago, I found the attached camera SD card could not be accessed when trying to access photos taken in China. And, it would pop out a message saying: "Card not formatted. Format card with this camera." However, I don't dare to format the memory card because I don't want to lose any data on it. Now, in such cases, what should I do to recover lost photos effectively? Please help! It would be horrible to lose all of the photos from this wonderful trip!

Have you ever encountered the same error? Want to know how to effectively recover photos from unformatted SD card? Want to know how to fix the "SD card not formatted" error without losing original data?

Now, in today's post, I am going to show you how to effectively and quickly recover data from a memory card when it says it needs formatting, as well as how to fix the "SD card not formatted" error with ease.

Part 1: Unformatted SD Card Photo Recovery

Sometimes, when trying to access your SD card on camera, you may get the following messages. Card not formatted. Format card with this camera.

Or, when attempting to access the card in Windows you may see a message asking you to format the drive.

You need to format the drive before you can use it. Do you want to format it?

you need to format

Another error that you may see when trying to access the memory card in Windows is

This volume does not contain a recognized file system. Please make sure that all required file system drivers are loaded and that the volume is not corrupted.

Attempting to run CHKDSK in an attempt to repair the problem will give an error

The type of the file system is RAW.

CHKDSK is not available for RAW drives.

the type of the file system is RAW

In general, when receiving the not formatted error, you had better NOT FORMAT THE SD CARD IMMEDIATELY, for formatting may overwrite the original data saved on this drive. It is recommended to recover photos from the memory card that keeps asking to format before formatting. HOWEVER, how to recover photos from unformatted SD card? Can we recover photos from RAW SD card with ease? What's more, I wonder if I can recover SD card photos without bringing any damage to the original data.

As a matter of fact, you don't need to worry about unformatted memory card photo recovery, for MiniTool Photo Recovery, developed by famous software development company based in Canada, can help you easily, effectively and quickly recover lost photos. This easy-to-use photo recovery software is specialized in recovering deleted photos, pictures and images without affecting the original data because of its high security as well as excellent performance. It can recover lost/deleted photos from different types of digital cameras and various storage devices including hard disk, SD card, USB disk, etc. What's more, this professional photo recovery software supports Windows 10/8/7 along with Windows Server 2003/2008/2012, etc.

"Free Recover Lost/Deleted Photos from Memory Card, Phone, Camera, Etc" is recommended here.

Here, you can watch the following video to know more details about this professional photo recovery software for Windows.

Part 2: How to Recover Photos from SD Card without Formatting

In general, before recovering lost photos, you should download MiniTool Photo Recovery Unregistered edition and install it on computer according to prompts.

Free Download

Step 1: Start Photo Recovery.

  • Connect your memory card to computer.
  • Launch MiniTool Photo Recovery to get its main interface as follows.
  • Click Start to continue.


See! MiniTool Photo Recovery, a read-only, reliable, simple and excellent photo recovery software, is able to recover photos from digital camera, memory card, computer hard drive, USB hard drive, and other removable drives. More importantly, this professional photo recovery software is able to directly recover photos from digital camera.

Step 2: Scan the Unformatted SD Card.

  • Select the SD card that Windows asks to format.
  • Click Scan button at the lower right corner to begin scanning on the card.


If you have scanned the SD card, you can choose the first option from the devices list to directly load the scanning results. Here, for instance, you can choose "Previous Recovery Result, Result for Partition: '(L: other)'" and then click Load button, as shown below.


Step 3: Save Needed Photos.

  • Preview photos.
  • Choose all needed photos you like to recover.
  • Click Save button.
  • Click Browse to choose a safe place to store selected photos.



Warning: It's recommended to save the selected files on another drive! Otherwise, the lost/deleted data could be overwritten.
Tip: If MiniTool Photo Recovery finds and lists a lot of files in this window, you can make use of the Filter feature to quickly find desired photos by filename/extension and file size. To be specific, since you only want to recover pictures, you can choose "*.jpg,*.gif,*.png,*.psd,*.tif" from the drop-down list of By Filename/Extension.


See! By using MiniTool Photo Recovery, we can easily and quickly recover photos from unformatted SD card without damaging the original data.

Tip: According to a survey, we find some users might receive the following message: "You have reached the file saving limit for the selected files" while saving files, as shown below.

saving limit

This is because that the unregistered version allows you to save 200 MB recovered files. Now, to save the unlimited data, you can upgrade your copy of MiniTool Photo Recovery.

If you are a Mac user, you can try using MiniTool Photo Recovery for Mac Free to recover your photos from SD card that Windows asks to format.

1. Connect SD card to Mac, and then Launch MiniTool Photo Recovery for Mac, and click Start.

iniTool Photo Recovery for Mac Free

2. Scan the SD card where photo loss appears.

3. Store needed files in a safe place.

Here, you can read our previous post "See! I Can Free Recover Mac Photos with Ease" to know more information about this professional Mac photo recovery software.

Great! I quickly, safely and effectively recovered lost photos from SD card without formatting by using MiniTool Photo Recovery! You're worth it.Click to Tweet

After completing the task of unformatted SD card photo recovery, let's see why SD card becomes unformatted and how to remove the not formatted error.

Part 3: Why My SD Card Keeps Asking Me to Format It

1) Virus or Malware Infection
If your SD card is infected by virus or malware, you may get the error message "You need to format the SD card before you can use it."

2) File System Corruption

If the SD card has a damaged file system which shows RAW, unknown or unsupported, you need to format it before using. And, this can happen in many ways such as power failure, improperly unplugging the SD card from the card reader, and so on.

3) Incompatibility Issues

If the portable digital device or operating system doesn't support an SD card, you will face incompatibility issues. And, in such scenarios, you will encounter the "SD card not formatted" error if you force to access the SD card data.

4) Improperly Removing the SD Card

In general, if SD card is disconnected from a computer without using the "Safely Remove Hardware" option, you will receive the "SD card not formatted" error. Besides, if you remove SD card from the camera while you are working, you may also encounter the not formatted error.

Tip: Always use the Safely Remove Hardware icon and eject your device before unplugging it. Or, you can right-click your SD card in the Computer window and select Eject. Then, Windows will tell you when it's safe to remove the device, eliminating any changes of data corruption.

Part 4: How to Fix the "SD Card Not Formatted" Error

To fix the not formatted error, you can format it to FAT32. (Here, I guess you might be interested in this post: What's the Difference Between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS?)

Note: Formatting SD card will erase all of the data on it. Make sure that any pictures or other files that are currently stored on the card have been properly backed up to another location if you wish to save them.

And, the most common ways to format SD card is either format it in Windows Explorer or format it under Disk Management. For instance, we take Disk Management for example.

Right-click My Computer (Note: in Windows 8/10, we might right-click "This PC"), then choose Manage and click Disk Management.

Right–click the unformatted SD card and choose Format

right–click the unformatted SD card

Then, we'll be given detailed operating prompts. Just do as told.

Tip: According to a survey, some users failed to format their unformatted SD card. And, most of them received a warning message: "The Format Did Not Complete Successfully" during formatting.
Sometimes, users are unable to format the not formatted SD card and get an error message that disk is "write-protected." Maybe, the write-protection switch is turned on before SD card runs into the not formatted error. When SD card says it is write-protected and cannot be formatted, you can check if you have put the write-protection switch to off side, and then check the SD memory card for virus scanning. Finally, you can open Registry Editor on PC to reset the value.

In general, if both of methods cannot successfully format your SD card, you may try to format the SD card to FAT32 by using MiniTool Partition Wizard.

Want to know the best way?

Now, let' see the detailed steps.

First, download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard. After that, launch it to get its main interface.

Second, choose the unformatted SD card, and click Format Partition feature from the left action panel.

Third, specify needed partition label, file system, cluster size and then click OK button.

format partition
Finally, click Apply button to perform all changes.

This post "SD Card Formatter | How Do I Format SD Card Quickly" is strongly recommended here, and you can find 4 solutions to format your SD card.

Bottom Line

Useful and Important Tips

  • Do not format the not formatted SD card before you get back the data inside.
  • Do not save found data to the SD card in case of any data recovery failure.
  • Unplug SD card in safe mode using "Eject" or "Safe Remove Hard ware" options.
  • Make sure that your operating system is free from viruses before connecting the SD card.
  • It is highly recommended to make a backup of your important data in case of data loss problem happen.

When it comes to backing up important data, you can try a professional, simple yet free cloning software. MiniTool ShadowMaker, an all-in-one data protection and disaster recovery solution for PCs, can back up your Windows Operating System, computer hard drive, even SD card, USB drive, etc. With a copy of backup, you are able to restore lost data immediately and effectively.

Are you still troubled by the not formatted error of SD card? Now, after reading this post, you will know that you can perfectly solve this issue as long as you do the following 2 things.

First, use MiniTool Photo Recovery to effectively and safely recover lost photos from SD card without formatting.

Second, format the SD card.

If you have any questions or suggestions about unformatted SD card photo recovery, you can send us emails to [email protected] or leave us comments in the comment zone.

Recover Photos from SD Card without Formatting FAQ

How can I repair my SD card without formatting?
  1. Fix SD card by checking and fixing Errors
  2. Fix SD card with CMD
  3. Update device driver
Can you recover files from a corrupted SD card?
  1. Connect your corrupted SD card to PC.
  2. Launch MiniTool Power Data recovery, select Removable Disk Drive.
  3. Select SD card, click Scan.
  4. Preview files, select all needed files, and store them in a safe place.
Why is my SD card not showing up?
  1. The drive letter of SD card is missing
  2. SD card is hidden
  3. SD card becomes unallocated
  4. SD card is not recognized
  5. The file system of SD card is wrong
Can you fix a corrupted micro SD card?
  1. Check file system
  2. Format SD card
  3. Perform a surface test on SD card
  4. Change drive letter
  5. Remove write protection
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