Safely Formatting SD Cards While Preserving Data Integrity

Introduction SD cards offer a compact solution for storing substantial amounts of data. With capacities exceeding 2TB, these tiny cards can house countless photos, videos, and documents. However, the fear of data loss looms when faced with the need to format a corrupted SD card. This guide addresses the issue, providing methods to retain data while formatting.

Understanding Data Loss Concerns

Corruption leading to a RAW notification might leave you pondering if your precious data is lost forever. Valuable school projects, presentations, or cherished memories could hang in the balance. However, data recovery techniques can often salvage these files.

Recovering Data Before Formatting

Prior to formatting, safeguard your RAW files through data backup. Overcoming the hurdle of inaccessible files involves specialized software. Some reputable options include:

These tools guide you through the process of data recovery before formatting your SD card or external storage device.

Converting RAW to NTFS Format

Following data recovery, the next step is reformatting the storage device to make it readable by your system. The NTFS (New Technology File System) structure is recognized by Windows, Linux, and Mac, albeit with read-only capability on the latter two. For internal drives, NTFS is optimal, while external devices crossing platforms should use FAT32 or exFAT.

To format to NTFS:

  1. Open “File Explorer” or “Disk Management.”
  2. Locate your drive, right-click, and select “Format.”
  3. Choose NTFS and confirm the process.

Choosing exFAT or FAT32 Format

For SD cards or external storage, exFAT and FAT32 offer compatibility. The steps to format for these systems mirror those for NTFS.

  • FAT32: Ideal for external media, supports various devices with USB ports, and handles volume sizes from 4-8,000GB.
  • exFAT: Works across Windows versions and macOS, with unlimited partition and file size limits.

Diagnosing RAW Drive Issues

Detecting RAW drive problems is vital. Common signs include messages like:

  • “X:\ is not accessible.”
  • “The parameter is incorrect.”
  • “The type of the file system is RAW.”
  • “Location is not available.”
  • “The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.”
  • “You need to format the disk in drive X: before you can use it.”

Avoid formatting as an initial solution, as it exacerbates the situation.

Reasons for RAW Format and Recovery

Several factors lead to SD card and storage devices displaying a RAW format:

  • Missing file system.
  • Unrecognizable file system.
  • Incorrect SD card formatting.
  • Damaged or corrupted file system.
  • Improper file saving leads to compromised structure.
  • Virus intrusion.

Despite the RAW format, your data can be salvaged through proper recovery steps.

Utilizing CHKDSK for Data Restoration

Before deeming data lost, explore CHKDSK (Check Disk), an embedded Windows tool that verifies file system integrity and rectifies logical errors. To access CHKDSK:

  1. Open Command Prompt as administrator.
  2. Type: chkdsk X: /f /r (Replace X with your SD card’s drive letter).
  3. Execute the command.

If CHKDSK succeeds, your data should become accessible. If not, there are alternatives like RAW data recovery software available online.


When faced with a RAW notification, avoid immediate formatting to prevent data loss. Arrangement without care leads to reliance on costly data recovery services. Utilize CHKDSK and data recovery tools to retrieve data and ensure regular backups to prevent future data crises. To avoid RAW format issues, remember to handle data correctly before device removal or shutdown.

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