November 22, 2022

How to Format SD Card on Mac

The best way to safely reuse an old SD card or securely erase a new one is to format it. If you want to format SD card on Mac, follow this guide.

Have you bought a new SD card or just reassigned a spare? It might be a good idea to format it first.

Formatting an SD card wipes the slate clean removing all traces of older files. It also allows you to change the file system on an SD card (new or old), allowing other devices to read and write to it, including Macs. There are risks however and you could lose your data or corrupt your SD card without taking any precautions.

If you don’t know how to format SD card on Mac and want to do it safely, follow these steps.

Before formatting SD cards on Mac

Before you can format an SD card on macOS, you need to make sure you have a card reader. Some Macs have them, but many don’t.

Fortunately, SD card readers are not expensive. If your Mac doesn’t have a built-in card reader, you’ll need to purchase one.

Then you have to know the correct file system to use. It is quite easy to understand. For SD cards smaller than 32 GB, use the FAT32 file system. All cards larger than 32 GB require the exFAT file system.

Once you have determined which file system you will need, you can then start formatting your SD card. The best method is to use the Disk Utility app, but third-party alternatives like SD card formatter are available.

How to Format SD Card on Mac Using Disk Utility

You don’t need any special software to format SD card on your Mac because you can use the Disk Utility app instead.

Disk Utility allows you to format SD cards on your Mac safely. You can also use the tool to format USB drives, external hard drives or internal drive partitions.

To format an SD card on Mac using Disk Utility:

  1. Insert your SD card into the reader. If you’re using a USB card reader, plug it into an available USB port on your Mac.
  2. Open Disk Utility via the Launching ramp folder on your Dock. Otherwise, press Cmd + Space and type Disk utility.
  3. In the Disk Utility window, press the see icon and select Show all devices.
    MacOS Disk Utility display options
  4. The SD card should be listed in the External section on the left — select it.
    • Unformatted SD cards will be listed as UNTITLED Where NAMELESS. If you are unsure of how to choose the right drive, take a look at the storage capacity. It should be close to the size advertised on your SD card packaging.
  5. At the top of the window, click To erase.
    Disk Utility Erase SD Card
  6. Name your SD card. Keep it short and avoid special characters and spaces to ensure maximum compatibility.
  7. Then choose the file system. Take MS-DOS (FAT) for cards smaller than 32 GB and exFAT for larger SD cards.
  8. Click on To erase.
  9. After a few moments, you will see the confirmation that the process is complete. hurry Do to leave.
    Disk Utility Erase SD Card - Process Complete

If the card is formatted successfully, you can start using it to store important files or photos. You can also remove it from your Mac and use it on other devices that support your card’s new file system.

How to Format SD Cards on Mac Using Terminal

If you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, you can also format your SD card using the Terminal application.

To note: You should exercise extreme caution before doing that. Commands like diskutil will happily erase just about any drive you specify in the terminal. It is a step for advanced users only– if you are worried, use Disk Utility instead.

To format an SD card using Terminal on Mac:

  1. Insert your SD card into the reader. If you’re using a USB card reader, plug it into an available USB port on your Mac.
  2. Open the Terminal application via Launching ramp on the dock. Otherwise, press Cmd + Space and type Terminal.
  3. To find the unique identifier of your SD card, type diskutil list.
  4. Search for the word external and correspond to the storage capacity. In this example, / dev / disk4 is the right reader.
  5. For 32 GB and less cards, type the following (and replace / dev / disk4 with your correct drive name):
    sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT32 SDCARD MBRFormat /dev/disk4
  6. For cards 32 GB and above, type the following (replacing / dev / disk4 first):
    sudo diskutil eraseDisk ExFAT SDCARD MBRFormat /dev/disk4

    diskutil erase disk progress

  7. If prompted, enter your user password.
  8. After a few moments the command will complete and your SD card will be formatted and ready to use.
    diskutil eraseDisk finished

How to erase SD card on Mac

If you are planning to get rid of your SD card, you must first erase it completely using the not a word command on Mac.

This process is called reset your card, because it involves writing to your SD card with binary data: zeros and ones. This deletes all data on the card, including file systems and partition tables. You can also use this tool to remove protected partitions from SD cards which applications like Disk Utility are unable to remove.

To note: It will cause irreparable data loss as it erases your SD card. You should only try this operation if you have backed up important files first and selected the correct card to erase.

To remove protected partitions from SD cards:

  1. Open the Terminal application via Launchpad.
  2. Type diskutil list.
  3. Find and write down the external drive you want to erase. The reader must be labeled / dev / diskX, or X is the number of the drive you want to erase.
  4. Make sure the drive is not mounted by typing the following (replacing / dev / diskX with the correct drive label):
    sudo diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskX
  5. To erase the drive, type the following (replacing / dev / diskX):
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/diskX bs=1m
  6. Allow time for the process to complete. Depending on the size of your SD card, this process may take several hours.
  7. the not a word The command will display a completion message: exit the Terminal application at this point.
  8. Open the Disk Utility app via Launchpad and format your drive using your preferred file system (for example, FAT32 or exFAT).dd zero on sd card

Formatting SD Cards Using SD Card Formatter

If you prefer to use a third party tool to format SD cards on your Mac, you can use the SD card formatter tool.

Provided by the SD Association (the body that controls the Secure Digital Specification for Cards), this free tool quickly and securely formats SD cards on your Mac. A distinct advantage of this tool is that it won’t accidentally erase drives that are not SD cards.

SD Card Formatter also automatically detects your card size and chooses the correct file system to use. Its use is simple: select the card, the formatting option and the new label of the drive, then press Format.

SD card formatter

SD Card Formatter is available for recent versions of macOS, dating back to OS X 10.7 Lion. You can download SD Card Formatter from the SD Association website.

Reasons Why SD Card Won’t Format on Mac

There are several reasons why your SD card may refuse to format on your Mac. These include:

  • Malware infection
  • Dangerous or incorrect ejection.
  • SD card is corrupted.
  • The SD card is protected by other means.

If you suspect any of them, you can use the not a word command to try to erase the map and start over. If this fails, you may have no choice but to replace the card entirely.

Using your formatted SD card

Now that you know how to format an SD card on your Mac, you are free to use, erase, and reuse it as often as you want.

Remember to take care of your SD cards properly, storing them in a protective case when not in use. You should also be looking to properly eject or unmount your SD cards when you’re done. Failure to do so could result in data loss or corruption.

If this happens, try the reset process by following the steps above and then try to reformat the SD card. If you cannot reformat it, you will need to replace it with a good quality SD card suitable for your needs.

Some cards are rated higher for long term use, while others are smaller in size and have a more limited lifespan. If you are worried about data loss on SD card, make sure to backup your important files first.


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