Mac Data Recovery Memory Cards
Last updated: December 18, 2023
Recover Corrupted SD Card on Mac

Corrupted SD Card Recovery on Mac: How to Fix a Corrupted SD Card & Recover Your Data

Home->Mac Data Recovery->Corrupted SD Card Recovery on Mac: How to Fix a Corrupted SD Card & Recover Your Data

When you connect your SD card to your computer, do you get errors, disappearing data, or gibberish file names? Or is your Mac struggling to recognize your memory card when it never had a problem before? Bad news: your SD card is probably corrupted. Worse news: your data is definitely at risk.

However, there is some good news. You can fix a corrupted SD card on Mac and you can even recover your data – you’re also in the right place to learn how. This article is a detailed guide on corrupted SD card recovery on Mac.

How to Know if Your SD Card Is Corrupted?

SD card corruption can happen due to both physical damage and logical damage. There are a number of symptoms that can tell you which one it is. We’ve enumerated them all in the table below, along with jump links to different methods to repair your corrupted SD card on Mac.

Signs of Physical Damage Reasons & Symptoms Solutions
Your Mac suddenly stops recognizing the SD card
  • Clean the port of the SD card reader
  • Try a different device or card reader
  • Try to restart your Mac
  • Try to reinsert the SD card
Unwanted physical influence (impact of heat, water or other mechanical damage)
Power outages
Signs of Logical Damage Files start disappearing or incorrect file names are displayed
You get read and write failures when using the device
The SD card does not show any files.
You have performed and interrupted the formatting process
Malware or virus infection
You started getting error messages

How to Recover Data from Corrupted SD Card on a Mac

You can recover data from a corrupted SD card by yourself using a special tool called data recovery software. They can extract data directly from the SD card’s file system and can use data fragments it finds to reconstruct corrupted files.

For this section, we recommend 2 well-known apps: (1) Disk Drill and (2) PhotoRec. They’re both excellent – but to help you pick, here’s a quick rundown of their pros and cons.

Pros of Disk Drill Cons of Disk Drill
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Multiple recovery techniques for a higher success rate
  • Constantly updated
  • Supports hundreds of file types, including RAW (making it great for photos)
  • You can scan and preview your data for free but you need to purchase a license to recover the files
Pros of PhotoRec Cons of PhotoRec
  • Free
  • Recognizes a lot of file signatures
  • No GUI – its interface looks like the Terminal app
  • Can only recover data by file signature
  • Last major release was in 2019

Below, we’ll demonstrate how to use both of these apps to recover data from an SD card on Mac.

DIY methods are only recommended if your SD card’s corruption was due to logical damage. In case of physical damage, see this section.

Option 1: Recover Data from a Corrupted SD Card Yourself

Disk Drill makes data recovery really easy for users at any level, and it supports most memory cards and file types – including RAW, which makes it a great tool to recover photos.

Disk Drill can also recognize and scan SD cards that aren’t showing up in Finder (as long as it appears in Disk Utility) due to corruption and other logical damage. Most importantly, it has a very useful tool called Byte-to-byte Backup, which lets us copy the entire drive – we can use this file as the recovery target and avoid having to interact further with the corrupt SD card. Why is this important? The rule of thumb is: the more you use a corrupted drive, the worse it gets. We’ll show you how to do this in the guide below.

If you want to know more about this app before installing it on your Mac, you can read our full Disk Drill review. Here’s how to use Disk Drill for corrupted SD card recovery on Mac:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Launch Disk Drill (Finder > Applications > Disk Drill).
    Disk Drill app in the Finder Applications folder
  3. Click Byte-to-byte backup in the left sidebar. Then, select your SD card (may appear as “Generic Storage Device” if using a card reader) and click Create backup. Make sure to save the backup file to a location on your computer when prompted, to avoid overwriting data on your SD card.
    Disk Drill byte-to-byte backup main menu
  4. Once you’ve created your backup file, you can double-click it in Finder or navigate back to the Storage devices screen and click the Attach disk image… button to load it up in Disk Drill. You can also eject your actual SD card at this point. Then, select the backup file and click Search for lost data.
    SD Card image backup in Disk Drill's drive selection menu
  5. You can start browsing the files Disk Drill already found or you can wait for the scan to complete. Once it’s done, click Review found items.
    Disk Drill scanning progress screen
  6. If you want to restore specific files, you can use the search tool and the category links in the left sidebar to filter the search results. Check the Deleted or lost and Reconstructed sections for your data. In cases where your files were untouched, you can check the Existing section as well.
    Disk Drill scan categories and filtering tools
  7. You can preview your data by hovering your mouse pointer beside a file and clicking the eye button that appears. To select the files you want to restore, mark their boxes in the leftmost column. Then, click Recover
    Disk Drill recovery file selection and preview tool
  8. In the dialogue box, select a destination folder for your recovered files. Do not save it to your SD card again, because you might overwrite existing data. Once you’ve chosen a safe location, click Next to start the recovery process.
    Disk Drill destination selection menu
Disk Drill Basic for Mac does not offer free recovery. However, you can preview as many files as you want. Free data recovery software does exist, but they all have its own limitations. Try at your own risk.

Option 2: PhotoRec

PhotoRec is a reliable data recovery app that many people use to this day, even if it hasn’t had a major update in years. As previously mentioned, PhotoRec doesn’t have a GUI; its interface looks like the Terminal app and you can only use your keyboard to navigate it.

But if you’re willing to brave the slight learning curve (or simply follow our instructions below), we’ve successfully used PhotoRec to recover corrupted drives – it might just work for you.

  1. Download and install PhotoRec (by downloading TestDisk). Then, connect your SD card to your Mac using a card reader.
  2. Open the Terminal app (Finder > Applications > Utilities). Then, type the following command and hit Return:
    sudo photorec

    Launch PhotoRec command in the Terminal app

  3. Using your arrow keys, select your SD card and the Proceed option. Hit Return.
    Initial disk selection menu in the PhotoRec app
  4. Using your arrow keys, select No partition or Unknown (so it scans the whole disk) and the Search option. Hit Return.
    Partition selection screen in PhotoRec
  5. Select Other and hit Return.
    File system selection menu in PhotoRec
  6. Choose a destination for the recovered files. Use the up and down arrow keys to browse the folders in a location. Use the left and right arrow keys to enter and exit the highlighted folder. We strongly recommend saving the recovered files to your Mac, not your SD card. Once you’re satisfied with your selection, hit C.
    Recovery destination selection menu in PhotoRec
Once the recovery process is complete, your recovered files will appear in a folder called “recup_dir” in the location you chose in step 6.

How to Fix Corrupted SD Card on Mac

The method you use to fix your corrupted SD card depends on what caused the corruption in the first place. However, you can safely try them all one by one. We listed all the methods below in order of difficulty along with step-by-step instructions.

Method 1: Try to Repair Your Card Using First Aid

First Aid is a powerful repair tool that comes included in Disk Utility. It can find and repair disk errors caused by corruption and other logical damage. This is the easiest method to fix a corrupted drive on Mac and it should be the thing you should try.

To use it, connect your SD card to your Mac and launch Disk Utility (Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility).

Disk Utility app in Finder

Then, select your SD card in the left sidebar and click the First Aid button at the top of the window. Confirm when prompted and wait for the process to complete.

First Aid button in Disk Utility

Method 2: Diagnose Your SD Card Using Terminal

If First Aid didn’t work, we can use diskutil Terminal commands to identify the problem and attempt to repair it. If you’ve never used the Terminal app before, don’t worry – we’ll go through the commands step by step.

  1. Connect your SD card to your Mac and launch the Terminal app (Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal).
    Terminal app in the Applications folder
  2. Type the following command and hit Return:
    diskutil list

    Take note of your SD card’s Identifier.
    DiskUtil List command in the Terminal app

  3. Type the following command and hit Return:
    diskutil verifyvolume “identifier”

    Replace “identifier” with your SD card’s disk identifier.
    DiskUtil VerifyVolume command in Terminal

  4. If the command returns any errors, type the following command and hit Return:
    diskutil repairvolume “identifier”

    Make sure to replace “identifier” with your SD card’s.
    DiskUtil RepairVolume command in the Terminal app

Method 3: Perform SMC or NVRAM Reset

The SMC (System Management Controller) is a chip that stores the settings of the physical components of your Mac, such as your keyboard, hard drive, etc. On the other hand, NVRAM (Non-Volatile Random-Access Memory) stores the settings for virtual functions like screen resolution, boot order, etc.

If the SMC or NVRAM gets damaged or corrupted, strange things can happen to your Mac. In some cases, it won’t even boot. Depending on the model of your Mac, you usually only have one or the other (or none at all). We’ll go through both methods for different Mac models together.

This method is inapplicable for users with Apple Silicon-based Macs (M1, M1 MAX, M2). Your Mac will do it on its own if required.

To reset your Mac’s SMC:

Desktop Macs

  1. Power off your Mac and unplug the power cord.
  2. Press and hold the power button for 10 seconds, then release.
  3. Reconnect the power cord and turn on your Mac.
  4. MacBooks with non-removable battery

MacBooks with non-removable battery

  1. Shut down your MacBook.
  2. Press and hold the following keys for 7 secods: (Shift + Option + CTRL + power button).
  3. Release the keys and wait for a few seconds.
  4. Turn on your Mac.

MacBooks with removable battery

  1. Shut down your MacBook, unplug the power cord, and remove the battery.
  2. Press and hold the power button for 10 seconds, then release.
  3. Reconnect the battery and power cord, then turn on your MacBook.

To reset your Mac’s NVRAM:

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the power button and immediately press and hold the following keys until you hear the startup sound a second time (Intel-based Macs) or the Apple logo appears and disappears the second time (T2 Macs):
    (Command + Option + P + R)

Method 4: Format Your Memory Card

If none of the above methods work, your last DIY resort is to format your memory card. This process should get rid of everything – including viruses, corruption… And your data. So before formatting your SD card, recover your data by following the instructions in the data recovery section in this article and save it to your Mac or another drive.

Once your data is secure, (1) launch Disk Utility as before (Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility), (2) select your SD card from the left sidebar, and (3) click Erase at the top of the window.

Erase button in Disk Utility

Choose the format you want your SD card to use (we suggest exFAT) and click Format to proceed with the operation.

Erase settings in Disk Utility

Method 5: Contact a Professional Data Recovery Service

If you suspect that your SD card has suffered physical damage from heat, breakage, water, etc., the safest way to get your data back is to use a professional data recovery service. This refers to service centers with clean rooms, advanced equipment, and specialists that can safely retrieve data from storage devices that have been physically damaged.

If you have options in your area, we suggest that you consider the following:

  • ISO 5 Cleanroom/Class 100 Cleanroom
  • No data-no charge guarantee
  • Free phone consultation with estimate

Several Tips to Prevent SD Cards Corruption in the Future

SD card corruption can happen suddenly, it’s often tough to figure out what caused it. However, there are a few best practices to decrease its likelihood and preserve your SD card for as long as possible:

  • Only buy SD cards and card adapters directly from known manufacturers and from trusted distributors.
  • Properly eject your SD card before disconnecting it from your Mac.
  • Keep your SD card away from heat, dust, and water.
  • Pay attention to your device’s battery and don’t read or write to the SD card if there’s a possibility of sudden power loss.

That said, some things are just out of our control, and storage devices have a natural lifespan. To avoid the worst consequences of corruption (data loss), back up your data to a separate storage device and/or to the cloud.


Yes, data can be recovered from a corrupted SD card. You have 2 options: (1) do it yourself using data recovery software or (2) send your SD card to a data recovery service. In most cases, data recovery software is the better solution (as long as your SD card’s data hasn’t been overwritten). Use a data recovery service if your SD card’s corruption is due to physical damage.

To uncorrupt a corrupted SD card, try the following fixes:

  1. Use Disk Utility’s First Aid tool.
  2. Use the diskutil Terminal command to verify and repair your SD card’s volumes.
  3. Perform an SMC or NVRAM reset (jump link).
  4. Format your memory card.
Disk Utility can usually still recognize faulty storage devices, even in the case of severe logical damage. If your SD card is not showing up in Disk Utility, there may be a problem with your SMC or NVRAM. We suggest a reset – here’s how.

There are a few reasons why your SD card is not mounting on your Mac. Here are all of them and what you can do about it:

  • Faulty connection – Make sure your SD card is physically unlocked, clean your ports/try other ports, or use a different memory card reader.
  • Logical damage – Use Disk Utility’s First Aid tool, use Terminal’s diskutil command, or format your SD card. Note that formatting wipes your data, but you can use data recovery software to recover deleted files from your SD card on your Mac.
  • Physical damage – Send your SD card to a professional data recovery service to retrieve your data.
If your SD card keeps disconnecting from your Mac, there are likely issues with your ports or adapters. Try using a soft brush and/or dry microfiber cloth to clean out any dust and debris before connecting your SD card again. We also suggest testing other ports and memory card adapters.


If your SD card gets corrupted, data loss is usually soon to follow – and it only gets worse. Once you notice your SD card acting up, secure your data ASAP and attempt to fix it. But to avoid the worst consequences of corruption, back up your data regularly using Time Machine.

Finally, don’t resort to formatting immediately, as the process wipes your data. But if you already did, you can still use data recovery software to restore deleted files from your SD card.

Alejandro is a content strategist and writer with a deep love for creative technology. Even though he’s been building PCs all his life, he’s become an advocate for the Mac as the perfect machine for creative professionals. He also has a deep respect for his tools and knows them like the back of his hand – if you have a problem, he knows how to fix it.
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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