What to Do When Android Is Unable to Format an SD Card

Is your Android unable to format an SD card? This is a common error, not just on Android but on other platforms as well. Unfortunately, it usually means that the hardware on your SD card is beginning to fail, and you may end up having data loss. On the bright side, it is still workable in most cases, and as long as you haven’t put vital information on an SD card of all things, you should be fine.

Why does the “Android unable to format SD card” error happen?

Whenever you get the Android unable to format SD card error, it often happens because the SD card is already formatted with a file system it doesn’t recognize, or the SD card can no longer perform write operations. SD cards have a lower density for write operations than other forms of storage which means after a certain amount of usage, all SD cards will eventually be unwriteable, and some time soon after that, unreadable.

If you’ve encountered this error, it’s likely already time to start looking for a replacement. However, you can still take steps in the meantime to continue using the card or to recover your data. Let’s see how you can do the former.

How can I keep using the card?

To keep using your card, you’re likely going to have to format it on another device. This is where a PC will come in handy – preferably a laptop with a built-in card reader, but you can also get a USB card reader for your desktop if need be.


Once you plug your SD card into your PC, open Start, type “My Computer” (or “This PC” on Windows 10)  and look under “Devices and drives.”


Right-click on your SD card, then select “Format.”


In the popup Window that you see next, format the card as “FAT32.” This will wipe any data on the SD card, but if Windows is able to format it, it will be usable (albeit with a lesser amount of remaining storage.)

What if I need to save my data?

If the Android unable to format SD card error also means that you can’t read said data, you might be in trouble. If you can’t use another device to format your SD card, that likely means the onboard read/write controller is either broken or has encountered enough errors to choose to lock itself down. Unfortunately, there’s nothing left that you can do on your own at this point. What you’ll have to do is take your SD card to a data recovery expert who may or may not be able to make a copy of the data still saved on the card.

Is there an alternative solution to storage on Android?


Finally, we’re going to close this article with an alternative storage solution that will allow you to avoid an Android unable to format anSD card error altogether: by removing SD cards from the equation entirely.

Meet USB OTG, or On The Go. USB OTG opens up a phone’s capabilities by allowing it to take normal-sized USB peripherals, and many modern smartphones support this standard. This means you can use an OTG adapter to plug in a flash drive or external hard drive to your Android phone, devices with a much higher reliability and storage capacity than an SD card.

Of course, first you want to make sure that your phone is supported. Use this app to do that.


So, you’re unable to format or access your SD card, meaning  your best bet is either buying a new one or using a USB OTG device to get around the headaches entirely. It’s an unfortunate reality of dealing with SD cards (especially if you’ve had this issue multiple times on the same device), but it does happen.

Do you have any experience with SD card errors or using an OTG hookup? Comment below and talk to us about it!

Christopher Harper
Christopher Harper

I'm a longtime gamer, computer nerd, and general tech enthusiast.

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