[Complete Guide] How to Format SD Card on Mac

Robert Xiao
Last updated: May 21, 2024

In this post, you will learn about SD cards, how to format them into different formats on a Mac or MacBook for devices like GoPro, Nintendo Switch, or cameras, and what to do if you encounter issues during the formatting process.

SD cards play an important role in our daily lives. They find applications in a wide range of devices, from cameras and smartphones to gaming consoles and dashcams.

Whether you need to prepare your SD card for a specific device or want to free up storage space, you've come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through what an SD card is, how to format it to FAT32 or other formats on a MacBook, and provide you with troubleshooting tips for when you can't format an SD card.

Let's get started.

[Complete Guide] How to Format SD Card on Mac

What Is an SD Card?

SD, which stands for Secure Digital, is a type of non-volatile memory card format developed by the SD Card Association. These small, rectangular cards are designed to provide reliable and secure data storage. SD cards come in various sizes and capacities, making them suitable for a broad range of electronic devices. They are a popular choice for portable storage due to their compact size, durability, and compatibility.

Common uses for SD cards include:

  • Digital Cameras
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Gaming Consoles
  • Dash Cameras
  • GoPro Cameras

While SD cards are compatible with many devices, it's important to note that different devices may require specific file formats. Let's delve into the file formats for SD cards.

What Is the Best Format for SD Card on Mac?

If you need to use the SD card with both Windows and macOS devices, ExFAT is a safe bet. If you're preparing an SD card for a MacBook and plan to use it exclusively with macOS, HFS+ or APFS would be appropriate choices.

Below are the most common file formats for SD cards:

  • FAT32
  • ExFAT
  • Windows NTFS
  • HFS+ (Mac OS Extended)
  • APFS (Apple File System)

Related Article: NTFS vs exFAT vs FAT32 vs APFS – Differences

NTFS is the default file system for Windows, but it can only be read on macOS without an NTFS for Mac tool.

If your SD card is not showing up on your Mac, or if you wish to change the current format of your SD card to another one, read on to learn how to do that on a MacBook.

How to Format SD Card on Mac [Step-by-Step]

Now that you understand the significance of choosing the right format, it's time to learn how to format your SD card on a Mac. Follow these step-by-step instructions to ensure a smooth formatting process:

Step #1. Insert Your SD Card into Your Mac

Before you can format your SD card, insert it into your Mac's SD card reader slot or use an external SD card reader. Ensure that the card is properly connected and recognized by your Mac.

Step #2. Back Up Your SD Card with Finder

Open Finder, locate your SD card in the sidebar, open it, and move the files you want to back up to a folder on your Mac. If Finder doesn't show your SD card, refer to this article: [Fixed] External Hard Drive Not Showing Up on Mac.

Step #3. Open Disk Utility

Click Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility, or you can search for Disk Utility using Spotlight to open it.

How to Format SD Card on Mac - Open Disk Utility

Step #4. Select Your SD Card

From Disk Utility's sidebar, select your SD card. If you can't find it, click View next to Disk Utility and select Show All Devices.

How to Format SD Card on MacBook - Select SD Card

Step #5. Erase Your SD Card

  1. Click the Erase button in the toolbar of Disk Utility.
  2. Rename it if necessary.
  3. Click the dropdown menu of Format and choose the format you prefer (APFS, exFAT, Windows NTFS, FAT, or MacOS Extended).
  4. Click the Erase button.
Format Your SD Card to FAT 32/exFAT on MacBook
  1. Once you confirm the erasure of your SD card, all data on it will be wiped. If you don't want to lose important data, make sure to back up your SD card to another location beforehand.
  2. If your SD card is 32GB or smaller and you want to format it to FAT32, select MS-DOS (FAT) as your format option.

What to Do if You Can’t Format an SD Card on Mac

While formatting an SD card on a Mac is usually a straightforward process, you may encounter issues that prevent you from completing the task. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

  • SD Card Is Write-Protected: Most SD cards have a physical switch on the side that allows you to lock or unlock the card. Make sure the switch is in the unlocked position before attempting to format the card.

  • Corrupted File System: Sometimes, file system errors in an SD card won't allow you to format it. In this case, use the First Aid feature in Disk Utility to repair your SD card first, then check if you can format it.

  • SD Card Infected with a Virus: If you use your SD card on various devices, there could be a chance it's getting infected with viruses. So, what you need to do is check for viruses using an anti-virus utility.

  • SD Card Hardware Problems: In some cases, the SD card itself may be physically damaged or have a malfunction. Try using a different SD card or SD card reader to determine if the issue is with the hardware.

  • Outdated macOS: If you're using an older version of macOS, there could be errors that can cause SD card formatting problems. If all the above tips work, try updating your macOS to the latest version.

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Final Words

Being able to format an SD card on your Mac is a valuable skill, especially if you frequently work with various devices and storage media. By understanding the file formats for your needs and following the step-by-step instructions for formatting, you can ensure that your SD card is always ready for action.

Robert is a tech-savvy fan who loves all things Apple. As a hobbyist of gardening and meditation, he is also a seasoned writer covering a wide array of Apple products, like iPhone, iPad, iOS, and more.