In this post from MiniTool, you can see how to fix the “SD card not formatted” error message and how to quickly and safely recover photos from SD card without formatting with the free data recovery software - MiniTool Power Data Recovery.

Recently, my friends often ask me some questions about SD cards. For example: 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!

Now, 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: SD Card Not Formatted

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

Or, when attempting to access the card in Windows, you may see a message: You need to format the drive before you can use it. Do you want to format it?

disk needs to be formatted

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 it.

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Part 2: How to Recover Photos From SD Card Without Formatting

To recover photos from SD card without formatting, you need to use professional file recovery software.

MiniTool Power Data Recovery is the best data recovery tool that can help you easily recover lost files (photos, documents, emails, videos, and so on) without affecting the original data because of its high security as well as excellent performance.

It can recover deleted photos (and other files) from different types of digital cameras and various storage devices including hard disks, external hard drives, USB drives, etc. in Windows 11/10/8/7.

Step-by-Step Guide to Recover Photos From SD Card Without Formatting

Before you do, you need to:

1. Download MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free Edition and install it on your computer according to the instructions on the screen.

MiniTool Power Data Recovery FreeClick to Download100%Clean & Safe

2. Connect your SD card to the computer.

Step 1. Launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery to get its main interface.

Step 2. Under the Logical Drives section, find and select the SD card that Windows asks to format to click the Scan button.

scan the target drive


Tip: If you cannot see the SD card in the main interface, you need to reconnect it to your computer and click the Refresh button to refresh the devices list.

refresh the devices list

Wait for the scan process to complete for the best scan result. Now you can see all the files of the SD card are listed. To quickly find the desired files, you can make use of the Filter feature. As shown in the picture show, you can filter files by file size, file type, file category, and date modified.

filter needed files

Step 3. Preview and select all needed files. Then click Save to choose a storage path for them (Do not save them in the original location to prevent data overwriting).

save all wanted files

See! By using MiniTool Power Data Recovery, you can easily and quickly recover photos from unformatted SD cards without damaging the original data.


Tip: You may receive the following message while saving recovered files: "You have reached the file saving limit for the selected files”. This is because the unregistered edition allows you to save no more than 1 GB of recovered files. To save unlimited data, you can upgrade MiniTool Power Data Recovery to the full edition.

Great! I quickly and safely recovered lost photos from SD card without formatting by using MiniTool Power Data Recovery! You can download this data restore tool to have a try.Click to Tweet

MiniTool Power Data Recovery FreeClick to Download100%Clean & Safe

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 a virus or malware, you may get the error message “You need to format the SD card before you can use it”.

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2) File System Corruption

If the SD card has a damaged file system that shows RAW, unknown or unsupported, you need to format it before using it. 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 the operating system doesn’t support an SD card, you will face incompatibility issues. In such scenarios, you will encounter the “SD card not formatted” error if you force to access the SD card data.

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4) Improperly Removing the SD Card

In general, if the 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 the SD card from the camera while you are working on it, you may also encounter the not formatted error.

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

Solution 1. Using Another Device

Sometimes the “SD card not formatted” error appears only because of mechanical problems. The problem may not be with your SD card, but with the SD card reader, USB port, or computer. So, before trying advanced ways, you need to change an SD card reader, USB port, and computer to check whether the issue has been fixed.

Solution 2. Run CHKDSK Command to Check for Errors

If the method above doesn’t work, you can try scanning your SD card using the CHKDSK command line to find and fix file system related issues.

Step 1. Press Windows + R key combinations.

Step 2. Type cmd in the text box and press Enter.

Step 3.  In the new window, type chkdsk X: /f (Replace X with the actual drive letter of your SD card). Then press Enter.

run CHKDSK command

Solution 3. Format the SD Card

To fix the unformatted error, you can format your SD card to FAT32 (Here, you may be interested in this post: What’s the Difference Between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS).


Note: Formatting the SD card will erase all of the data on it. Make sure that any pictures or other files stored on the SD card have been properly recovered.

The most common way to format an SD card is to format it in File Explorer or using Disk Management. Here we take Disk Management for example.

Step 1. Right-click the Windows logo key and choose Disk Management.

Step 2. Right–click the unformatted SD card and choose Format.

format a drive

Step 3. Set up the volume label and file system. Then check Perform a quick format and click OK.

However, some users received a warning message during the formatting process: “The format did not complete successfully“. In this situation, you can use a piece of free partition manager – MiniTool Partition Wizard to format your SD card.

Now, let’s 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 the Format Partition feature from the left action panel.

format a partition

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

Finally, click the Apply button to perform all changes.

Related post: SD Card Formatter | How Do I Format SD Card Quickly

Useful and Important Tips

  • Do not format the unformatted SD card before you get back the data inside.
  • Do not save found data to the same SD card in case of any data recovery failure.
  • Unplug the SD card in safe mode using the “Eject” or “Safe Remove Hardware” 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.

Bottom Line

After reading this post, I believe you will not be troubled by the unformatted error of the SD card anymore. And you must know how to recover photos from SD card without formatting.

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

Recover Photos from SD Card Without Formatting FAQ

How can I repair my SD card without formatting?

  1. Running the CHKDSK command line to check and fix file system-related errors of the SD card.
  2. Download a new SD card reader driver.
  3. Update the SD card device driver.

Is it possible to restore data from an SD card?

Yes. When an SD card becomes inaccessible, you can recover data from it using data recovery software.

How can I recover data from SD card before formatting?

  1. Connect your unformatted SD card to your PC.
  2. Launch MiniTool Power Data Recovery.
  3. Select the target SD card and click Scan.
  4. Preview files and select all needed files to store them in a safe place separate from the original path.

Why is my <a href= target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >SD card not showing</a> up?

  1. The drive letter of the 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 the SD card is not recognized by Windows.

<a href= target='_blank' rel='noopener noreferrer' >Can you fix a corrupted Micro SD card</a>?

  1. Check the file system.
  2. Format SD card.
  3. Perform a surface test on the SD card.
  4. Change drive letter.
  5. Remove write protection.

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