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.


  1. The first image is quite apt. SanDisk is notorious for crappy MicroSD quality. I’ll take Samsung or Transcend any day.

  2. I have had cards that wouldn’t format unless I used a special tool.
    I tried to format these cards with many tools like gparted, Ubuntu disks, these cards wouldn’t format. At unless is used sd formatter.
    It’s developed by the sd association, so it follows the sd card specification exactly.
    SD formatter is small, fast, will work on stubborn cards. And it can recover lost space on a cards with lost space.

  3. I don’t know why all people recommends to buy another one. I have 5 microsd, all with the same problem, tried with three differents adapter and 2 laptops, and allways is the same think. Cant format any sd card.

    I’m sure Android or link2sd add something, maybe encrypt the sd to make them unwriteble on other devices….

  4. Today is 6th June And I am suffering in this issue from last 2 days that is 4th June.
    I tried to format my Samsung Evo micro Sd card which was class 10 series but it did not give a result to me.I tried other application on laptop as well as my android phone. Tried to delete the partion,Ran CMD, tried everything whatever i could to do.But still the card is corrupted.as soon as i delete the files from the Sd card, it gets automatically filled like a ghost is standing next to me and he is controlling all the things.I saw the Sd corrupted issues before,those could be fixed but it is diffrent.
    But as i know all problems have a solution. A solution must be there to solve the problem with my card(SDHC).
    So if some one knows to solve this issue by any means then please help.

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