When you type the phrase “recover formatted sd card” into Google, you get 844,000 results. That’s an awful lot of results for something so specific. Apparently, many people often manage to format their SD cards by accident and are desperate to restore what was once on them.

Unfortunately, there’s no modern operating system that gives its users the option to quickly and easily recover formatted SD cards and other storage devices. That’s because formatting is different compared to hitting the delete key on your keyboard, which sends the selected files or folders to the Recycle Bin or Trash.

When deleting some files, the OS moves them from one place (the SD card) to another (the digital junk pile). However, when you format an SD card, your computer or camera or smartphone marks all storage space as empty. This allows other apps and devices to write anywhere in it.

Thus, they can write over the storage area your files used to occupy. That’s the last thing you’d want to happen if you were hoping to recover them.

Is It Possible to Recover Deleted Files from SD Card?

Once overwritten, there’s no way how to recover a formatted SD card’s contents. What you need to do, instead, is download a data recovery software solution capable of restoring data from a formatted SD card.

Currently, there are dozens if not hundreds of SD card data recovery programs available for Windows and Mac OS X. Some of them will cost you an arm and a leg while others are free to download. Many handle only a few file formats, but the best support hundreds. There are data recovery solutions so complicated even IT professionals would struggle to use them, and alternatives so simple you can recover your files in a few clicks — you get the idea.

How Can an SD Card Become Formatted?

There are many ways a card can end up formatted. Although not always, unfortunately, in most cases, the cause is user error. Some of the usual reasons your SD card can show up as formatted are:

  • Absent-mindedly formatting the wrong SD card.
  • Formatting the SD card with a file format that’s incompatible with the rest of your devices.
  • Abruptly pulling out the SD card or powering off the device where it’s in active use. Interrupting a write process can lead to file system corruption, which in turn can make your SD card appear formatted.
  • A virus or other malicious software could format or corrupt your SD card.

Physically damaged SD cards might appear empty, formatted, or not show up at all on some (or all of your) devices.