There are a lot of reasons that an SD card is not showing up on your Mac. Some are more problematic than others and the solution depends on the situation you’re facing. In this article, we cover all the possible causes that your Mac is not reading your SD card, as well as the proper solutions for each one.
We also provide a step-by-step guide – with screenshots – for recovering data from an SD card. Read on.
How to Find an SD Card on Mac
When everything is working properly, your Mac will recognize the SD card when you plug it in via the memory card slot. As soon as your Mac reads the SD card, it will show up in the following locations:
- Finder. You will find your connected SD card and any other external storage devices in the left sidebar in Finder under Locations (or Devices, if using an older macOS). Click on the SD card’s name to access its contents.
- Desktop. When enabled in Preferences, your SD card will appear on your desktop as soon as macOS mounts it. If you think you may have somehow disabled this option, read this section of the article to re-enable it.
- Disk Utility. Disk Utility can show all connected disks, even those that are not yet mounted and allocated. If you can’t find your SD card in Finder or Desktop, it should show up in Disk Utility. You can find Disk Utility in the Finder > Applications > Utilities folder.
Why is My Mac Not Reading an SD Card?
It’s a good idea to try and diagnose your SD card’s problem, so you can identify the best solution – we listed those in the next section. Below are the most common reasons why your Mac won’t recognize your SD card.
- Faulty SD card reader. Your Mac is not reading the SD card due to a faulty card reader or port. Try another card reader in another port.
- Corrupted SD card. Virus attacks, sudden power outages, improper ejection, any read/write interruptions can cause your SD card to get corrupted.
- Mac settings. Certain settings on your Mac may have turned off the display of external disks.
- Outdated drivers. You may be using outdated drivers, which is why your MacBook doesn’t recognize the SD card.
- Incompatible file system. macOS supports the following file systems: HFS/HFS+, APFS, FAT32, NTFS (read only). SD cards formatted with another file system may not show up in Finder.
- Problematic macOS update. If your SD card won’t show up after a recent update, it may be a bug.
How to Fix MacBook Not Reading SD Card Problem
This section covers all the fixes that users can try on their own. But first, visually scan your SD card and your MacBook’s ports to check if there’s no physical damage. Interacting with a physically damaged storage device may worsen the problem and result in further data loss. If you’re sure nothing’s broken or heat-damaged, proceed with the following methods:
Method #1: Clean the connectors
If you tend to use your MacBook in areas with a lot of dust (for example, if you live near a construction site), your device can accumulate dust in its ports. The same thing can happen to your USB card reader’s cable head. Use a soft, lint-free cloth and a toothpick or barbeque stick to push the cloth to get the corners.
Method #2: Try another SD card reader or Mac
If your ports were damaged (or your card reader is faulty), try another computer or card reader. If a different Mac recognizes your SD card, then your Mac is likely the problem.
Method #3: Restart your Mac
Your MacBook may have been interrupted while it tries to refresh itself, which might be why Finder isn’t reflecting your SD card. Restart your Mac to get it unstuck.
Method #4: Check the settings of external disks displaying
To make sure external disks show up on your Mac (specifically, in Finder and on your Desktop), do the following:
Step 1. Open Finder. Then, on the Apple menu bar, click Finder > Preferences.
Step 2. Go to the General tab, and tick the checkbox beside “External disks.”
Step 3. Next, go to the Sidebar tab and tick the checkbox beside “External disks” under the “Locations” section.
Method #5: Update the drivers
If you haven’t recently updated and your Mac is not recognizing your SD card, you may be using outdated drivers. You’ll have to update macOS. Open System Preferences > Software Update to begin the process.
Method #6: Show All Devices in Disk Utility
Your SD card may only be hidden from the list of devices in Disk Utility, as it’s possible to alter the settings to only display volumes. To display the drives themselves, connect your SD card to your Mac and launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities). Then, click the View button > Show All Devices.
Method #7: Mount SD Card in Disk Utility
If your SD card appears in Disk Utility but its name is greyed out, it’s not mounting. This prevents your SD card from showing up on your desktop or in Finder. Fortunately, Disk Utility also has a mount tool. To mount your SD card using Disk Utility, connect your SD card to your Mac and launch the Disk Utility app (Finder > Applications > Utilities).
Then, select your SD card from the left sidebar and click the Mount button at the top of the window.
Method #8: First Aid in Disk Utility
First Aid is a built-in repair tool in Disk Utility that scans and fixes corrupted drives. When your SD card is not mounting due to corruption, there’s a good chance First Aid will work. To use First Aid, connect your SD card to your Mac and launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities). Select your SD card from the left sidebar and click First Aid at the top of the window.
Method #9: Reset NVRAM/PRAM
NVRAM/PRAM are memory chips that store basic system information even when your Mac is turned off. When you reset it, it performs a system refresh that could fix a misbehaving Mac. Except for some peripheral settings that will be changed back to default, there should be no risk of data loss. To reset the NVRAM/PRAM:
Step 1.Shut down your Mac. Then, turn it on again.
Step 2.As soon as you turn it on, immediately press and hold the following keys: Option + Command + P + R.
Step 3.When you hear the startup chime for the second time, release the keys. Your Mac will operate as usual in its default settings. Try to mount the SD card normally to check if it works.
Method #10: Format SD card
If none of the methods worked, your SD card may have been severely logically damaged that only a format can fix it. However, performing a format will delete all your files – so make sure to secure your data first. Once your data has been secured, we can use Disk Utility to format your SD card.
To format your SD card with Disk Utility, connect your memory card to your Mac via your card reader and launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities). Then, select your SD card in the left sidebar and click the Erase button at the top of the window.
In the dialogue box that appears, name your SD card, select ExFAT as its format, and choose GUID Partition Map as its scheme. Then, click Erase to proceed.
How to Recover Disappeared Files From an SD Card
Once you try the methods above and your SD card is readable again, you might notice that some (or all) your files are missing. This section will help you restore them. In order to do this, you need to detach your SD card from your device and use a USB-type card reader to connect it to your Mac. Then, you use SD card recovery software installed on your Mac to restore it.
For this article, we’ll be using Disk Drill. We recommend this tool often because it’s very easy for our entire demographic of readers to use thanks to its UI (user interface). It’s a powerful utility, and it even has a couple of data management tools you can use for free. Here’s how to use it to recover your SD card:
Step 1. Using a card reader, connect your SD card to your Mac.
Step 2. Download and install Disk Drill.
Step 3. Open Disk Drill by launching Finder > Applications > Disk Drill.
Step 4. From the list, select your SD card (it may appear as “Generic Flash Drive” depending on the card reader), and click “Search for lost data.”
Step 5. Disk Drill will now scan your SD card. Once it’s done, click “Review found items.”
Step 6. Browse the results for your lost files. You can use the search bar or the navigational sidebar to narrow down your search. Click the toggle buttons to expand the file list.
Step 7. On this screen, you can preview the files Disk Drill found by hovering your pointer beside their filenames and clicking the eye button that pops up. This will open a preview window displaying your file.
Step 8. Select the files you want to recover by ticking the checkboxes to the left of their file names. Then, click “Recover.”
Step 9. Select a location on your Mac where you want Disk Drill to save your recovered files. Do not save them to your SD card, or you might end up overwriting your data.
- Restart your Mac in case it got interrupted while refreshing itself.
- Update macOS to update your drives.
- Enable “External disks” in the Finder Preferences > General and Sidebar tabs.
- Clean your ports.
- Try connecting another SD card or connect your SD card to another Mac.
We recommend using another card reader or Mac to check whether your SD card is really the problem. If your SD card is the problem, you can use the tools in Disk Utility (Mount, First Aid, and Erase) to fix it. Note that the Erase function will wipe your data. If the problem lies with your Mac, you can try resetting the NVRAM/PRAM. You can also enable External Disks in Finder > right-click your SD card > Get Info, or simply try rebooting your Mac.