SD card not showing up: solutions to try

While many of us use a smartphone as our main camera and video camera, lots of people, especially those who are more serious about video and photography, still use dedicated cameras. Those cameras store images and video on SD cards, and to access them, you need to plug the SD card into your Mac. There was a time when most Macs came with SD card readers, but now only the Mac Studio and MacBook Pro have them. If you want to use an SD card with a different Mac, you’ll need an external card reader or a hub or dock with a card reader built into this device. However you connect them, SD cards normally just work. But what do you do when an SD card is not showing up on your Mac? We’ll tell you all you need to know.

How to find and open an SD card on a Mac?

So, how to find an SD card on Mac? All you have to do is insert the card into the card slot — either built into your Mac or an externally connected card reader — and navigate to the Finder. You should see the card in the sidebar.

Now that you’ve found it, how to open an SD card on a Mac? Just double-click the name of the card, and you should see the contents.

Why is my SD card not showing up?

There are a number of reasons an SD card may not be showing up on your Mac. Here are the most common:

  • Card is locked
  • macOS is configured incorrectly
  • Card is formatted incorrectly
  • Card is corrupt
  • Card reader is faulty
  • Problem with macOS

As you can see, most of the causes of an SD card not showing up on your Mac are easy to fix. It’s always best to eliminate possible causes one by one, starting with the most likely and easiest to resolve, so that’s what we’ll do.


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How to fix it when an SD card is not showing up on your Mac

  1. Restart your Mac. That may be all you need to do. Restarting your Mac clears out temporary files and, on Macs with Apple silicon, performs a check on the boot disk and repairs faults. Restarting your Mac also restarts the USB daemon — a background process that controls the mounting of USB devices. You might find out that when you restart, the card shows up.
  2. Tip

    To restart the USB daemon without restarting your Mac, go to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal, then paste the command below and press Return. sudo launchctl stop; sudo launchctl start

  3. Check the card is not locked. Just like audio and video cassettes, full-size SD cards have a tab that prevents them from being overwritten when it’s in the locked position. This shouldn’t stop them from showing up on your Mac, but it could do. So, before you do anything else, check whether the tab on the card is in the unlocked position.
  4. Check your Finder settings. In order for an SD card to show up in the Finder sidebar or on your Desktop, you have to set the Finder to show it.
    - Open the Finder from the Dock.
    - Click the Finder menu and then navigate to Settings.
    - Choose the Sidebar tab and make sure everything under Locations is selected.
    - Now, choose General and select External Disks.
    - Close the Settings window.
  5. If the card is formatted as a file system that your Mac doesn’t recognize, it may not show up. Formats recognized by macOS include APFS, HFS+, and FAT32. You can check the format by plugging it into a PC and using device manager. If it’s not formatted in a format that the Mac recognizes, you will have to use the PC to copy data from it, reformat it, and then copy the data back to it before you can use it with your Mac.
  6. It’s unusual for digital storage media to be corrupt, but it does happen. You should try plugging it into a different computer to see if that recognizes it. If it doesn’t, the data on the card may be corrupt. The only thing you can do then is ask a data recovery specialist to take a look at it.
  7. If the problem isn’t the card, it could be the reader. If you’re using an external card reader, try using a different reader. If you’re using a slot on your Mac, try using an external card reader. If using a different reader doesn’t solve the problem, you know that it’s unlikely your card reader or the slot on your Mac that is faulty.
  8. Try a different device in the USB slot. If you’re using a USB card reader, try a different device, like a USB stick or external hard drive in the slot. If the other device doesn’t show up either, you know the slot is at fault. Plugging your SD card reader into a different slot should fix the problem.
  9. Check whether macOS is up to date. Go to Apple menu > System Settings > General > Software Update. If there’s an update available, install it.

There are several reasons why an SD card might not be showing up on your Mac, varying from a problem with the card itself to problems with the card reader or slot and issues with macOS. To fix it and be able to see and access the card, you first need to diagnose the problem. Follow the steps above in order to do that and get the SD card working on your Mac again.

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