SD Card is Not Showing Up on Mac: How to Fix It

sd card is not showing up on mac

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  • Outdated drivers. You may be using outdated drivers, which is why your MacBook doesn’t recognize the SD card.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.
Finder button on the Apple menu bar

Step 2. Go to the General tab, and tick the checkbox beside “External disks.”
General tab in the Finder Preferences window

Step 3. Next, go to the Sidebar tab and tick the checkbox beside “External disks” under the “Locations” section.
Sidebar tab in the Finder Preferences window

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.

Software Update icon in the System Preferences window

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.

Show All Device button in Disk Utility

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.

Mount button in Disk Utility

If the SD card doesn’t show up after manually mounting it, your SD card may be corrupted. To salvage your data, you’ll need to use data recovery software to restore your files. Read the data recovery section of this guide below.

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.

First Aid button in Disk Utility

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:

This method only works for Intel-based Macs. Macs with Apple Silicon chips perform this operation automatically when required.

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.

Formatting your SD card will wipe the data on the disk – not only should this be your last resort, but you should back up your data before proceeding. We suggest restoring and securing your data first by following the recovery section of this guide.

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.

Erase button in disk utility 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.

Erase dialog in Disk Utility

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.
Disk Drill icon in the Finder Applications folder

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.”
Disk Drill drive selection screen

Step 5. Disk Drill will now scan your SD card. Once it’s done, click “Review found items.”
Disk Drill scanning process screen

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.
Disk Drill search bar and file type sidebar

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.
Disk Drill text file preview demonstration

Step 8. Select the files you want to recover by ticking the checkboxes to the left of their file names. Then, click “Recover.”
Disk Drill file selection boxes

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.
Disk Drill save file dialogue box

Disk Drill’s free version for Mac does not offer free recovery. However, it does provide free unlimited preview, which is super important for figuring out if your files are recoverable. If you can’t preview any of your files, your SD card may be physically damaged. Stop using it and send it to a professional data recovery center to avoid further data loss and damage.