How to Format an SD Card on Windows 10.SD cards are mainly used in mobile devices such as smartphones, game consoles, cameras, and the like. However, we often have to use them on a Windows computer. Either copy the data as quickly as possible or troubleshoot your SD cards that don’t seem to work anymore.
One of the most common reasons for formatting an SD card in Windows is that it has stopped working correctly on whatever device you have used it. Formatting is the usual first step towards deciding whether to throw a card in the trash. Let’s see how this is done.
Danger! Your data will be gone!
Before we go any further, you need to be well aware of the fact that if you format an SD card (or any other disk), all your data will be lost. Therefore, if possible and important, make a backup of the contents of the SD card before formatting it!
What you will need
To format an SD card in Windows 10, you need an SD card! However, you will also need a way to read this SD card, for example with an SD card reader! Most desktops don’t come with one, and not every laptop these days. So you may have to buy it.
Fortunately, they are not expensive and work with USB, so this is a plug-and-play solution.
Why Format SD Card?
The “format” of any disk describes the standard of the organization in which it stores data. This is similar to the system used to organize library books, describing what goes where and what codes to use for different places.
There are many different disc formats. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but any drive needs one to work. An unformatted disk cannot be used because there is no card or data storage rules.
SD cards are usually formatted right out of the box these days, but you can still format them if you need a different format than what is offered.
Formatting an SD card is also a good way to fix it if it is damaged and your data is lost anyway. It will overwrite the new format and if your SD card is not physically broken, that means you can use it again as before.
Choose the right format
On Windows, using its own formatting tools, you have a choice between NTFS and exFAT.
NTFS is the preferred format for hard drives in Windows for various reasons, but it is not widely compatible outside of Windows. exFAT, on the other hand, is compatible with almost all devices and operating systems. So it’s almost always the right choice.
If the device you want to use the SD card on requires a different, specialized format, you are much better off formatting the SD card on that device using the built-in format function.
Format SD card using Windows original solution
The easiest way to format an SD card is to use the built-in formatting utility, which can be accessed from Windows Explorer. Here’s how:
1. Open Windows Explorer. Press Win + E to do it instantly.
2. Insert the SD card into the card reader. It should appear among your other drives.
3. Right click on the SD card icon and select “Format”.
4. Select exFAT as the file system.
5. Give your card a volume label of your choice.
6. Clear the quick format check box. If your SD card doesn’t work fine and you just want to erase it instead of recovering every byte.
7. Select “Start” and wait for the formatting to complete.
That’s all. Your SD card must be clean, fresh and ready to go! If the card does not work as expected after formatting, it is most likely that you have a broken card in your hand.
Format SD Card with Multiple Partitions with Disk Management Tool
While the Windows Explorer Disk Formatting applet is fast and easy to use, it doesn’t have many formatting options. This is why you need to know about the Windows Disk Management Tool.
This tool allows you to see all the drives connected to your computer and gives you almost complete control over what you can do. For example, you can change and manage partitions on a disk, which cannot be done with a standard applet.
To format your SD card using the Disk Management Tool, do the following:
- Right-click the Start button and select Disk Management.
- Scroll down to the disk number of your SD card. The drive letter of the SD card will be displayed in the partition on that drive. Perhaps the unoccupied space is small.
- If there are multiple sections, right-click one of them and choose Delete. Until only unallocated space remains on the map.
- Right-click the unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.
- You will see this wizard.
- Click Next, then leave the maximum volume size if you want.
- Here you can select a drive letter. You can usually leave it unchanged, so click Next.
- Now select to format the volume. For SD cards, we recommend FAT32 or exFAT for cards larger than 32GB. Leave the default selection size. Change the volume label if you want, and uncheck the Perform quick format checkbox if you don’t want to do a shallow clean up and don’t mind so that the data can be recovered. Select “Next”.
- Review your changes and, if satisfied, click Finish to end the process.
Of course, you can choose to format or delete only certain sections. You can also create multiple partitions on the SD card using this tool, although unless a particular device requires it, there is usually no particular reason to do so.
Format the SD card using the official SD Alliance app
All SD cards comply with the standards set by the SD Card Alliance. This includes how they should be formatted. This is why they strongly recommend that you use the official formatting application and not the tools that come with Windows.
There are several reasons for this, but the main ones are related to compliance with the technical specifications and performance of the SD card. Other applications may format the non-rewritable portions of the SD card and may not arrange the physical data so that the card can reach maximum speed.
The good news is that this app is completely free and easy to use. Here’s how:
- Download and install the app and open it.
- Make sure the correct drive letter is selected.
- Select the overwrite format if you don’t want to just scratch the disk and select a volume label if you want.
- Select format.
Now just wait for the utility to complete its work.
Format a write-protected SD card with PowerShell in Windows 10
SD cards can be write-protected to prevent formatting. If the card has a small sliding tab, you just need to flip it to a different position.
If there is no tab, you can actually use Windows PowerShell to get the job done. Just be careful with this method as it’s too easy to misunderstand which drive is which and then format the wrong one!
- Right-click the Start button and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).
- Type diskpart and press Enter.
- Type a list of drives and press Enter.
- Find the disk number that matches your SD card.
- Type select disk X, where “X” is the number of the disk you want to select from the previous list, and press Enter.
- Type read-only disk clear attributes and press Enter.
The SD card has not yet been formatted, but the write protection has been removed. You can now format it using one of the other methods described in this article.
This is it! Now you know all the most important ways to format an SD card in Windows 10.