How to Format SD Cards on Mac

December 16

14 min. to read

SD cards are very popular storage devices, especially for electronics such as smartphones, SLRs, and more. We talk about this in our tutorial on how to format SD cards on Mac. These tiny chip-like storage devices save us every day.

Can't configure correctly your Mac's memory card? You can`t use your device 100% before you do not set it up correctly. 

Why Format the Memory Card to FAT 32?

Before we talk about how to clear SD cards on Mac we need to understand why this is necessary.

There are several reasons for cleaning the memory card:

  • Changing the file system;

  • Errors in memory card writing and reading;

  • Speeding up the flash drive;

  • Privacy.

It would be wise to clean the memory card as soon as you have dropped files on your computer or other media. Even though I don't work with memory storage devices all the time, thanks to our readers I know that most users have multiple SD cards. It's handy when recording videos or taking a lot of pictures. Modern media files weigh a lot, so in order not to interrupt recording unnecessarily, it is better to buy several at once. Now you know the main reasons to wipe the memory card. Now we tell you how to format the SD card to FAT 32 on Mac.

From this comes another reason: privacy. Cards are walking around between users only: we give one memory storage device to evaluate the work, and the other - to throw in the necessary files. Of course, there are ways to password-protect, but not everyone does so. So it would be better if you clean them regularly.

Note: For storage devices larger than 16 Gb or more, the FAT 32 format must be applied through the format drop-down menu

How to Format SD Cards on Mac Using the Terminal

Now we will tell you a few ways to format SD cards and show the macOS version of programs to do this process quiver and easier. 

To format an SD card on Mac by the terminal, you need to follow a few simple steps:

  • Type cmd + space to start Spotlight. Enter the Terminal.

  • Connect the card reader to your Mac and insert the memory storage device.

  • To see a list of all available storage, type diskutil list. You will now see all the storage as a list. Select your device from the list.

  • Enter the following command: sudo diskutil eraseDisk FAT 32 SDCARD MBRFormat / dev / disk2

This command will reformat your SD card on Mac. The system may ask for the password to confirm your action. Enter it and you're done! If you have followed all these steps but still can't format the memory storage device, keep reading.

Despite performing all the methods perfectly, sometimes your Mac still cannot format the SD card. This may be due to the following reasons:

  • A virus attack;

  • Unsafe extraction;

  • Mechanically damaged SD card;

  • The device is protected by some rights.

You can handle the first two problems with a little more care, but if you're stuck with a damaged or protected device, there's nothing you know how to reformat the SD card on Mac.

How to Erase Data from SD Card on Mac with Disk Utility

To keep all your files, such as photos and videos, safe, copy those media files or back them up.

Once you're done backing up, follow the steps below and you will know how to clear an SD card on Mac:

  • Connect the memory storage device to your Mac. Make sure the metal contacts are facing down and toward your computer. Before inserting the SD, make sure that your Mac supports an SD card slot, otherwise, you can use a card adapter;

  • Run Disk Utility. You can do this by going to the Finder, selecting Applications, and selecting Utilities;

  • Locate and select your device in the left sidebar. On the top toolbar, click on the Clean icon;

  • Create a card name and select the file system type that you're using. If you have a memory storage device with 64GB or more, select ExFAT. If you have 32GB or less, select FAT32. Macs with SD slots running OS X 10.6.5 or later can use the exFAT file system;

  • Wait until the formatting is complete and then click Finish;

  • Safely remove your memory storage device when finished.

Now that you know several ways how to format micro SD cards on Mac we should talk about some details. Don't be too excited to remove the flash drive without safely removing it from your Mac. Just make sure that you don't skip some operations and cause problems with the format SD card to FAT 32 on Mac.

Once the device is safely removed, you can use it for any purpose, such as on another device.

How to Format a Corrupt SD Card on a Mac

Sometimes we cannot avoid SD storage devices can be corrupted for various reasons. Regardless of the cause, you know how to format a memory card on Mac even if it a corrupted  by following these steps:

  • Insert the device into the slot or adapter. Open Disk Utility. You can also launch it by double-clicking its icon or by going to the utility folder under Applications;

  • On the top toolbar, click First Aid. You can click Show Details to see how Disk Utility will recover your SD. Click the "Recover Disk" button in the bottom right corner;

  • Wait for Disk Utility to complete the recovery. You can see the progress screen fill up from left to right;

  • Exit Disk Utility once the progress bar is full. Drag the SD card icon from the desktop to the Trash folder and wait until it disappears. Carefully remove the card from the SD slot.

If you plan to get rid of the SD card, you must find out how to erase the SD card on Mac completely using the dd command on your Mac.

This process is called Cancel Card because it involves overwriting your SD card with binary data - zeros and ones. This will remove all data from the card, including all file systems and partition tables. You can also use this tool to remove protected partitions from SD that applications like Disk Utility cannot remove. Now you know how to wipe an SD card on Mac, we talk about another way of formatting memory storage devices.

Notice: This will cause irretrievable data loss because it will clear your SD card. You should only try this if you have previously backed up important files and selected the correct card to scan.

There is another method how to clean an SD card on Mac and also protected partitions, follow a few easy steps to format your SD card:

  • Open the Terminal application via Launchpad.

  • Type the disk util list.

  • Find the external drive you want to erase and write it down. The drive should be named /dev/driveX, where X represents the number of drives you want to erase.

  • Make sure the disk is not installed by typing the following (Replace /dev / diskX with the correct drive label): sudo diskutil unmountDisk/dev/diskX

  • To erase the data from the disk, type the following (Replace /dev/diskX): sudo dd if = /dev / zero from = /dev/diskX bs = 1m

Allow time for the process to complete. Depending on the size of your SD card, this process may take several hours.

The output of the command will complete the message and exit the terminal application at this point. Open the Disk Utility application With Launchpad and format the disk in your preferred file system. Now that we've talked about several ways to format an SD card on Mac we will tell you about other useful programs for such purposes and their additional functions.

How to Partition the Flash Drive

The Disk Utility has a function to partition the drive. For example, you can make the first partition in FAT and the second in NTFS. To do this:

  • Launch Disk Utility;

  • Locate the drive in the side menu;

  • Click on "Disk partition".

The number and amount of memory are set in the "Partition Scheme". Come up with a name for each partition, and in the "Format" tab, set the appropriate file system. For stable operation, it is recommended to use a flash drive with 16 GB or more.

Formatting SD Cards Using SD Card Formatter: An Alternative Option

The standard utility performs popular tasks for the average user. Other formatting programs can be used as alternatives. 

SD Formatter

The application great for the formatting of SD cards on Mac was created by a company that makes all modern memory storage devices. A great solution if you need to format microSD for your smartphone or camera. It is recommended to download the program only from the official website. SD Formatter is capable of formatting any device or file system. The user can choose between Quick format and Overwrite format. Due to the compatibility of the program with flash drives the formatting procedure will not harm the device. SD Formatter supports SDXC and microSDXC from 32GB to 2TB.


Another handy alternative is where you can partition, delete and format drives, including removable drives. The cleaning process takes a few minutes, and the formatting process follows the same pattern for a simple flash drive and an external hard drive. The trial version is enough for ordinary tasks, if you like the program, you can buy the full package from the official website.

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Final Verdict

Following any of the above methods will clean up your memory storage devices and prepare them for use for any other projects you may have. Be careful when formatting the memory card, especially with Disk Utility. This can erase the data of another storage device. Although you can work with data recovery software, sometimes, even that may not help.