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How to Recover Deleted Files from an SD Card on Mac

Disk Drill is an effective and reliable app to recover files from an SD card on Mac OS X 10.5+ and supports macOS Catalina. It can recover deleted files on all types of SD cards on Mac OS X including SDHC, SDXC, MicroSD, CompactFlash Cards, XD Cards, Sony Memory Sticks, MMC Cards, and virtually any other card your Mac can read. In this article, we will show you how to use Disk Drill as well as other methods to recover lost data from an SD card on Mac.
Disk Drill can recover Mac data from your memory card even if it was formatted or damaged. Still, as you probably know, there is a chance that your data is gone for good, since free memory card recovery for Mac depends on a lot of variables.

The good news is that for example when you need to recover photos from SD card on Mac, Disk Drill can scan a memory card and preview the recovered files for free. There is no need to upgrade to Disk Drill PRO until you are sure the files you need are recoverable. And Disk Drill will never write to your memory card during the recovery process, so it's really safe to use.

Read on for a quick overview of the steps for free SD card recovery on your Mac. For detailed tutorials, see How to Install Disk Drill and How to Recover Lost Files with Disk Drill Basic in our Knowledgebase.

1. Get Disk Drill

Download and install the free version of Disk Drill for Mac. Since you will be recovering data from an external SD card, it’s safe to install the software on your computer’s main disk. Be prepared to provide your administrator’s password during the installation.
  • recover data from sd card mac
    1 Download Disk Drill
  • recover formatted sd card mac
    2 Drag to Applications Folder
  • recover deleted files from sd card mac
    3 Launch Disk Drill

2. Connect the SD card to your Mac

You can use your computer’s built-in card reader, an external reader, or connect your machine directly to the device that contains the card.
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3. Launch Disk Drill and choose the SD card

Launch Disk Drill and select the SD card from the disk list presented in the application’s main window.
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4. Scan Your Memory Card

Click the Recover button to start Disk Drill’s scanning algorithms. The software will search the specified disk and return a list of recoverable files. You can pause the scan at any time and recover files before the scan completes.
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5. Preview lost files

Preview the files that Disk Drill has found and that can be recovered. You can determine if the software can restore the files you need. At this point, if you wish to perform the recovery you will need to upgrade to Disk Drill for Mac Pro.
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6. Choose the files for recovery

Select the files you want to retrieve and designate a storage location where they will be saved. Do not save the files to the SD card that is being used for recovery to avoid overwriting or corrupting data as it is recovered.
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7. Recover the deleted Mac data from your SD card

Click the Recover button a second time to perform the recovery. When the process completes, your recovered data will be found in the location you specified in the previous step.
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Considerations for Mac SD Card Recovery

Keep in mind, the less you use the memory card you are going to recover your data from, the higher the chance of SD or CF card recover on Mac. Most cameras don't wipe pictures completely from your camera memory card upon deletion or formatting. In most cases, only filenames and file properties are erased, and your photos and video data remain on the memory card until they are overwritten. If you simply erased files on your memory card right from your camera, Disk Drill has a very good chance of recovering them. However, if you took more pictures and saved them to the same card after the initial deletion, you may have overwritten your old data, making it unrecoverable.
You can recover formatted SD card on Mac OS X even if it can't be read by your Mac – if it's shown as having no partitions or logical structure and you get a message saying it requires formatting, try Deep Scan. It will drill down to the data sectors of your memory card on a binary level to search for remaining pictures, music or other recoverable data.

Reasons for Data Loss on SD Cards

There are multiple reasons that you might experience data loss on an SD card. Here are some of the most common causes of lost files on your memory card.
  • Accidental File Deletion
    Accidental File Deletion
    Accidentally deleting files from an SD card is very easy to do. All it takes is a second and a misplaced command or incorrect click and you can lose a lot of valuable data quickly.
  • Formatted SD Card
    Formatted SD Card
    Performing a format or reformat on one of your SD can lead to a large data loss if you inadvertently use the wrong card. Labeling cards may make it less likely that this mistake is made.
  • Malware Infection
    Malware Infection
    Infection with malware or a virus can lead to data loss and SD card corruption. Exposing your SD cards to strange devices or computers increases the probability that you will pick up an infection that potentially compromises your data.
  • Physical Damage
    Physical Damage
    Physical damage to an SD card can result in the loss of all of the files that were on the storage device. Cards can easily be damaged by being crushed in the bottom of a bag or by too much heat or moisture.
  • SD Card Corruption
    SD Card Corruption
    A corrupted SD card can exhibit data loss. Corruption can be caused by removing the card while files are transferring, from a virus infection, or from using the card with multiple devices.
  • Power Failures
    Power Failures
    A power failure that occurs while you are reading or writing to the card can result in files being lost or corrupted. Make sure you have enough battery power in your device before using it to transfer data.

Recover Deleted Mac Data From any Memory Card

Disk Drill is compatible with any type of memory card from all manufacturers such as SanDisk, Lexar, and Olympus. If you can connect the device to your Mac, Disk Drill can scan it and recover its lost files. Easily restore photos, videos, and other data from SD cards in digital cameras, smartphones, and other types of digital devices.
  • SD Card
    SD Card
    SanDisk®, Sony®, Lexar®
  • SDHC Card
    SDHC Card
    PNY®, Genuine SanDisk®, Lexar®
  • microSD miniSD Card
    microSD/miniSD Card
    Delkin®, Verbatim®, Silicon Power®
  • MMC Card
    MMC Card
    Transcend®, Johnziny®, Canon®
  • xD Picture Card
    xD Picture Card
    Olympus®, xD-Picture®, Fujifilm®
  • CF Card
    CF Card
    MyMemory®, EgoDisk®, Delkin®
Tip: To recover data from a damaged SD card that cannot be accessed by your computer, contact Cleverfiles Data Recovery Center.

Files Types Supported for SD Card Recovery

Disk Drill recognizes and can reconstruct and recover over 400 different file signatures when performing a deep scan. This means that virtually any type of file can be recovered with this flexible recovery application. Below we have listed just some of the filetypes that can be recovered with Disk Drill.
  • Images
    Images
    JP2, BMP, TIFF, JPEG, GIF, PSP, DNG (Digital Negative), CDR (CorelDRAW), VSD (Visio Drawing file). Mac OS X Icon: ICNS. Polaroid/Sigma: X3F. Adobe: AI, IDML, INDB, INDD, PSD and more
  • Video
    Video
    FLV (Flash video), M4V (iTunes video), MOV (Apple QuickTime movie), OGM (Oog Media), M4P (iTunes Music Store audio), MP4 (MPEG-4 video), MPG (MPEG video), SWF (Flash movie)
    and more
  • Audio
    Audio
    AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), CAF (Core Audio File), MP3 (MPEG Audio Stream, Layer III), ALP (Ableton Live Pack), M4A (Apple Lossless Audio), WAV (DTS-WAV), VOC (Creative Labs Voice) and more
  • Archives
    Archives
    ZIP (Extended Zip File), JAR (Java Archive), DMG (Mac OS X Disk Image), RAR (WinRAR Compressed Archive), ISO (ISO-9660 CD Disc Image), MBX (Apple Mail mailbox file), 7Z (7-Zip Compressed) and more
  • Documents
    Documents
    PDF (Portable Document Format), EMLX (Apple Mail Message), FMP12 (FileMaker Pro 12), APK (Android Package), IPA (iPhone or iPod Touch Application), DOCX (Microsoft Word)
    and more
  • Other Files
    Other Files
    DD (Forensic DD images), ISO (Uncompressed disk images), ACCDB (Microsoft Database), OTF (OpenType Font), SQL (bundled SQL queries), BIN (Generic disk images), VMDK (Virtual VMWare disks) and more

Methods for Recovering Deleted Files from an SD Card on a Mac without Software

There are several ways to recover lost files from an SD card without using data recovery software. Here are three methods that you can try.

Recover from your Mac’s Trash

If the SD card was attached to your Mac when the files were deleted, you may be able to retrieve them from the Trash Can. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Trash by clicking its icon.
  2. Locate the file you want to recover.
  3. Right-click on the item and select Put Back.
restore files from sd card mac

Recover with a Time Machine backup

Your Mac comes equipped with a backup and recovery tool called Time Machine. If you use it to back up your data, and you should, here is how to recover it.

  1. Connect the storage media containing the Time Machine backup to your Mac.
  2. Open a Finder window displaying the folder which last contained the deleted file.
  3. Open Time Machine by clicking on the clock icon on Mac’s menu bar and select Enter Time Machine.
  4. Find the items you want to restore from within Time Machine. You may be able to choose from multiple versions of detailed files.
  5. Select an item to recover and press the Spacebar to preview the file.
  6. Click Restore to perform the recovery
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Restore from other backup solutions

You may choose to use another backup solution to protect the data on your SD cards. There are many options available that range from simply copying the files from an SD card to an external storage device to using a backup solution offered by a cloud provider. You can use these backups to recover your lost files if you have taken the time to back them up.
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Tips to Maximize the Chance of Successful Data Recovery

Here are some tips that can help you reduce the probability that you will lose data from an SD card. Following these recommendations will also make it more likely that you can perform a successful recovery with data recovery software.
  • Stop using the card
    Stop using the card
    Stop using the card as soon as you suspect that data loss has occurred. Continued use of the device exposes its contents to being overwritten or corrupted.
  • Backup your data
    Backup your data
    Backing up your data is the best defense against any type of data loss scenario. You should make it a regular habit to create a backup of all of your valuable data.
  • Use a high-quality card
    Use a high-quality card
    Use high-quality SD cards from reputable manufacturers such as SanDisk. Saving a little money can come back to bite you when the card fails and you lose data.
  • Steer clear of viruses
    Steer clear of viruses
    Try to keep your SD cards free of virus infection by limiting the number of unverified devices you connect it to and using antivirus software on your Mac.
  • Handle the card gently
    Handle the card gently
    Take good care of your SD cards and they will last longer and keep your data safe. Keep them away from excessive heat and moisture and protect them in a case.
  • Dont remove the card during data transfer
    Allow data transfers to finish
    Removing the card while data is being transferred can cause corruption and result in the loss of data. Make sure the process is complete before taking out the card.

Protecting Your Data in Advance is the Best Solution

Disk Drill for Mac offers users more than just excellent data recovery functionality. The application provides two free features that are designed to protect your data and make accidentally deleted files immediately available for recovery. Guaranteed Recovery creates an invisible copy of every file sent to your Mac’s Trash and makes them available for a fast recovery. Recovery Vault retains metadata from designated deleted files and folders so Disk Drill can locate and restore them more quickly.
recover deleted files from sd card mac

Technical Specifications for Disk Drill for Mac

  • OS support
    OS support:
    Versions of Disk Drill are available for all versions of macOS from 10.5 through the newest version 10.15 named Catalina.
  • Files Systems Supported
    Files Systems Supported:
    FAT/FAT32/exFAT, NTFS, HFS & HFS+, APFS, EXT3/EXT4 and any RAW disk
  • Hardware Requirements
    Hardware Requirements:
    Disk Space: 50 Mb minimum free space
    CPU: at least with x86
    RAM: at least 128MB

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated on by Disk Drill Team

To recover deleted files from an SD card on Mac:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Connect the SD card to your Mac.
  3. Launch Disk Drill SD card recovery software for Mac.
  4. Choose the SD card from the list of available disks.
  5. Click Recover to initiate the scanning process.
  6. Preview the files that Disk Drill can retrieve.
  7. Select the items to restore and click Recover.

Follow these steps to recover files from a corrupted SD card on a Mac.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Connect the SD card to your Mac.
  3. Launch the program and select the SD card.
  4. Scan for deleted files and preview the found items.
  5. Perform the recovery and get your files back.
The best way to recover deleted files from an SD card for free is with a backup of the lost data. The free trial of Disk Drill enables you to scan your card and identify the files that the application can recover before purchasing the Pro version of the tool.

If you accidentally format a partition or complete SD card on your Mac, Disk Drill recovery software is the best way to recover the lost data. Just use these simple steps:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Connect the SD card to your computer.
  3. Start the app and select the SD card.
  4. Scan for deleted data and preview the found files.
  5. Perform the recovery to restore your data.

Follow this procedure to format an SD card on your Mac.

  1. Connect the card to your Mac with an external card reader.
  2. Open the Disk Utility application.
  3. Locate the SD card in the left window pane. It may appear with no name.
  4. Click the ERASE tab in the middle of the window.
  5. Click the Format dropdown menu. Select MS-DOS (FAT) if the card is 32 GB or smaller. For larger cards, use the ExFAT format.
  6. Respond to the verification prompt by clicking erase.

Here are some of the signs that indicate your memory card has experienced some form of corruption.

  • Missing files.
  • Strange error messages.
  • Black screen on your camera or mobile device.
  • Read and write failures.
  • The SD card is not recognized by your computer.
  • The card displays no files.

You can use an external card reader or the one built into your Mac. Follow these steps.

  1. Carefully insert the disk into the card reader. Ensure that the metal tabs on the edge of the card are facing down.
  2. The SD card will appear on your Mac’s desktop and in a Finder window.
  3. Make sure to eject the card before removing it from your computer to prevent possible corruption.

Follow these steps to recover deleted files from a MicroSD card.

  1. Download and install Disk Drill for Mac.
  2. Start the program and choose the MicroSD card from the disk list.
  3. Click Recover to scan for lost files.
  4. Preview the recoverable files identified by Disk Drill and choose those you want to restore.
  5. Click Recover again to restore the selected items.
The same procedure outlined above to recover data from a MicroSD card applies to an SDHC card. Follow those steps to restore your deleted files.

Deleted photos can be restored from an SD card with this procedure:

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.
  2. Connect the device with the SD card to your Mac.
  3. Launch the app and select the SD card.
  4. Hit the Recover button to start scanning for deleted pictures.
  5. Select the photos from the list of recoverable files.
  6. Click Recover to restore your images.

You have two options to try and recover deleted videos from a memory card for free. They are:

  1. Restore the files by using the Recently Deleted folder if it exists on the device which contains the card. Not all mobile devices offer this useful feature.
  2. Use a previously made backup of your data to retrieve the deleted videos.

Best 8 Free SD Card Recovery Software for Mac OS X in July 2020:

  1. Disk Drill for Mac
  2. TestDisk for Mac
  3. M3 Mac Data Recovery
  4. iSkysoft Data Recover
  5. Lazesoft Mac Data Recovery
  6. Exif Untrasher
  7. Remo Recover Media
  8. PhotoRec Recovery for Mac

You have several options to try with an unreadable SD card including:

  1. Inserting the card into a different device or slot in a card reader;
  2. Using a card reader and attempting to assign it a new drive letter;
  3. Running the macOS Disk Utility and performing First Aid on the card;
  4. Rebooting your computer and trying to reconnect the SD card.
  5. Clean the SD card contacts to free them from dust.
Disk Drill 3
Recover deleted file on Mac OS X and protect it to never lose again!
Can one also recover SD card on Windows? With Disk Drill for Windows, you can!
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See what Disk Drill fans say

Ali Aghtar
Hi, I'm a video producer and editor and I have used your software for the past 6 years. The first time I used it was when I was editing a documentary teaser and somehow lost my project file. Having completely panicked in the middle of the night I searched online and came across your software. There are many options that available online, some of them don't work and some are too complicated to use. I thought I'd give yours a try. It was amazing! I recovered a file that if lost would cost me 3 days of work. Since then I have used your software many times, on drives that needed file recovery and on footage on memory cards that were accidentally formatted on set. Today your software saved me again on a corrupted CF card. Files were too corrupted to be imported in Adobe Premiere. Quick time couldn't read them. I formatted the CF card in the camera and ran Disk Drill. All my files were found on a lost partition. Disk Drill has saved my butt in many situations and I want to thank you for that. Best of luck!
KLAUS, @TechPatio
I tested it real quick and it easily managed to pull back my pictures on a SD memory card after deleting them, simply by doing a Quick Scan
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