Mac Data Recovery Memory Cards
Last updated: September 12, 2022
CF Card Recovery For Mac

FREE Guide on CF Card Recovery For Mac: 100% Working Methods

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Data loss is a common problem that can happen to anyone and to any storage device. If you’re using a CompactFlash (CF) card and your photos and videos got lost or corrupted, this guide will show you the different solutions to CF card recovery on Mac.

What’s So Special About CF Memory Cards?

Although newer kinds of memory cards are being used for portable electronic devices nowadays, CompactFlash cards remain on the market due to their reliability even after prolonged use. High-end CF cards are also capable of transferring data up to 167 MB/s.

Similar to SD cards, CF cards are non-volatile storages, which means stored data is saved even if the power supply is lost or switched off. Advanced models such as the Ultra CF and CFast cards are also released for high-end photography and faster data transfer than older CF models.

While SD cards are more mainstream as a mass storage device, CF cards are utilized for professional use and high-end cameras, like Nikon and Canon. Brands like Lexar and SanDisk still continue to manufacture CF cards, which are used for professional photography and 4K video shootings. You can check our article about recovering deleted videos on Mac if you’re experiencing this problem.

Here are some advantages of using CF cards:

  • Faster data transfer than most SD cards
  • Larger, therefore easier to label
  • Physically more durable compared to SD cards
  • Capable of saving high-quality photos and videos

Is the CF card better than SD?

CF cards are known to be more high-quality than most SD cards. They possess faster data transfer speeds and a much more durable structure than SD cards. However, SD cards come at a fraction of the price of CF cards, which is more expensive.

Common Scenarios for CF (CompactFlash) Card Data Loss/Recovery

Case Description Solution
I accidentally deleted data on my CF card while connected to Mac or inside the device utilizing CF card
  • CF card was accidentally formatted
  • Improper unmounting of CF card on Mac
  • Formatting the card without creating a backup
Scan Your CF Card With a Data Recovery Software Tool
My CF card is not recognized by Mac
  • CF card contains unsupported files
  • CF card is corrupted or has unreadable partitions
  • CF card is physically damaged
  • Damaged card slot on adapter or card reader
My CF Card is infected by malware or virus on Mac – Malware or virus was accidentally stored on CF card Format Your CF Card & Scan It With Recovery Tool

Best CF Card Data Recovery Solutions for macOS

Solution #1: Scan Your CF Card With a Data Recovery Software Tool

One kind of data recovery software tool that you can use to retrieve lost data from CF cards is Disk Drill. It recovers over 400+ file formats and supports data recovery for various memory cards, including CompactFlash cards. For more information, feel free to check out our Disk Drill review.

Important: We recommend that you get the Pro version of Disk Drill to access all the features of Disk Drill. For more information, click here.

To recover deleted data from CF card using Disk Drill, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your Mac computer.
    download and install disk drill
  2. Connect your CF card through a CF card reader.
  3. Open Disk Drill and select the name of your CF card from the list of storage devices.
  4. Select Search for lost data. Disk Drill will now begin to scan your CF card for recoverable files.
  5. Sort through the scanned data. They should be displayed in different categories: pictures, video, audio, documents, archives, and others.
    displayed in different categories
  6. Choose a category. Then, further sort the files by name, date modified, size, and kind. Or, use the Search field on the top-right corner of the screen to find a specific file.
  7. Double-click the left mouse button or select the eye icon next to the file name to preview the file. Once you’re sure, click the Recover button.
    recover file
  8. Pick a file location and select the OK button to confirm.
    select file location
Note: Disk Drill can still scan memory cards that are not visible via Finder. If the memory card is displayed in Disk Utility, you can proceed to scan it and recover files using Disk Drill.

Solution #2: Run the First Aid Feature on Your Memory Card in Disk Utility

Disk Utility is a built-in utility tool on Mac that repairs damaged disks and mass storage devices. You can use it for free CF card recovery on Mac via its First Aid feature. If you’re having trouble accessing your CF card due to storage errors, you can use Disk Utility to repair it.

To use the First Aid feature on your CF card via Disk Utility, do the following:

  1. Launch Disk Utility on your Mac. You can do this by pressing Command + Spacebar and typing in disk utility on the search bar. Select its app icon to launch.
    launch disk utility
  2. Choose your CF card from the list of storage devices on the left pane.
  3. Choose First Aid and select Run on the First Aid dialog box.
  4. Follow the on-screen steps shown by Disk Utility.

Solution #3: Make Sure the Problem is Not With Your Card Reader

Besides the CF card itself, data loss can also happen if the CF card slot on your memory card reader is damaged. This is especially true if you’re using an old card reader with ports that are damaged due to wear and tear, and corrosion.

To confirm this, you can use other CF cards on your card reader and check if it reads those cards properly. If the other CF cards also do not show up on your Mac, the card reader’s CF port might be the problem. However, if you can open them using the same card reader, then it is likely that the hardware issue lies in your CF card.

Solution #4: Check Your CompactFlash Card for Physical Damage

If your CF card is not recognized by your card reader, try checking it for physical damage:

  • For CF cards that accidentally got wet or were left out in extreme temperatures, dry them out completely first in an open area.
  • If you’ve been using your CF card for a while now, try checking its pins for corrosion.

Once you confirm that there’s physical damage, it’s important to avoid using it and store it in a secure case. As soon as possible, get it checked out by a data recovery service center. There, they can assess its damage and see if files are still recoverable.

Solution #5: Format Your CF Card & Scan It With Recovery Tool

Another method you can try is to format the CF card first, and then use a data recovery tool like Disk Drill afterward. This method is effective if your CF card was recently infected by malware or virus or if there is something wrong with the file system on your memory card.

Note: Formatting should be your last resort since this can lead to data loss. Before formatting your CF card, ensure that you do a byte-to-byte backup to keep your files safe.

Since viruses can still potentially infect your Mac computer even after using an antivirus tool, it is better to format your CF card first and scan it using Disk Drill once done. To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Scan and remove viruses or malware from your CF card on Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Utility.
  3. Choose your CF card and select Erase. If your CF card has a memory of 64GB or larger, select exFAT. If it’s 32 GB or lower, select FAT32.
  4. Click Erase again to confirm.
  5. Launch Disk Drill after the CF card has been formatted.
  6. Select your CF card from the list of storage devices.
  7. Click on Search for lost data and check all recoverable files.
  8. Find the file that you wish to retrieve and select Recover.
    file to recover

Several Tips to Prevent Data Loss on CF Cards

  • Pay attention to the files you delete. It is always possible to delete a file accidentally. To lessen the chances of this happening, make it a habit to preview a file or inspect its data first before deleting it. Feel free to look at our article about recovering deleted files from SD card on Mac.
  • Always backup important files. If you’re actively using your CF card, creating a backup of your important files is essential. While you can create a backup for all of your files, you can prioritize the important files first, especially when you’re limited in storage space.
  • Use Safety Eject features. When removing the CF card from your Mac, always eject the CF card safely instead of removing it outright. To remove the CF card on Mac, drag its icon on the Dock to the Trash. Then, remove it from the card reader.
  • Use different memory cards for different devices. When saving various kinds of data, a safe practice is to use a different memory card for each device. This way, your data won’t be corrupted easily compared to storing them in a single memory card only.
  • Format your CF Card. Regardless if your CF card is new or old, it’s best to format it properly once you experience errors. Then, you can attempt to recover corrupted or lost data using a data recovery tool like Disk Drill.
  • Store memory cards in dry and clean places. Since CF cards and other kinds of memory cards are fragile devices, it’s important to store them in a dry and clean area. Avoid leaving them in humid and extremely hot environments. It also helps if you store them in a memory card case for extra protection.


Yes, it is possible to perform a corrupted CF card recovery. If your CF card does not have hardware damage, you can try using a data recovery software tool like Disk Drill. It supports various memory cards for file recovery and is capable of recovering up to 400+ file formats.

For compact flash card recovery on Mac, you can use Disk Drill. To do this, proceed to the steps below:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill on your Mac.
  2. Connect your CF card to the card reader.
  3. Launch Disk Drill and select your CF card from the list of storage devices.
  4. Choose Search for lost data and analyze all recoverable files.
  5. Select a file and click Recover.
Disk Drill, in our opinion, is the best CF card recovery software tool that you can use on Mac. It’s suitable for Canon CF card recovery and other kinds of memory cards. Also, it’s easy to use and can recover up to 400+ file formats.
Yes, you can recover files from formatted CF card on Mac. Given that it’s not physically damaged, you can use a data recovery software tool like Disk Drill for corrupted CF card recovery. Its Deep Scan recovery algorithm scans the entire memory of the storage device.
It’s ideal to format your CF card on the device where you usually connect your CF card, like portable electronic devices that support storage formatting. For Macs, use a card reader accessory to connect your CF card and format it via Disk Utility.
Yes, you can use one compact flash card for multiple devices. However, this practice is not recommended since the chances of your files being overwritten are higher. You can use a separate CF card instead for each of your devices to avoid data corruption. We have an article on how to recover deleted files on Mac that you can take a look at.

You can clear or format a CF card on Mac using Disk Utility. To do this, follow the steps below:

  1. Connect your CF card to your Mac’s card reader.
  2. Launch Disk Utility and select your CF card from the list of storage devices on the left pane.
  3. Choose Erase. Your CF card’s data will now be cleared.


CompactFlash cards are reliable storage devices that are often used for cameras and professional photography. They can store high-end images and have a higher data transfer rate than most SD memory cards.

However, you can lose your CF card data by accidentally deleting it, or getting your card infected with malware. We hope these methods are able to guide you to recover deleted files from CF card on Mac.

Mako Young is a writer for all things tech. He's been writing about Macs for years and has been using Macs for more than a decade. When he isn't reading about the latest news on Apple, he's busy studying cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, cloud computing, and other IT-related sectors.
avatar approver Andrey Vasilyev Approver
Andrey Vasilyev is an Editorial Advisor at onMac. Andrey is a software expert with extensive experience in data recovery, computer forensics, and litigation. Andrey has over 12 years of experience in software development, database administration, and hardware repair.
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