How to Recover Data from A Corrupted Memory Card Without Formatting

How to recover data from corrupted memory card without formatting

One of the worst things that can happen to a device is for the memory card you have to get corrupted or damaged. Unfortunately, this can happen even to excellent SD cards and the result is you risk losing all the data you have on them.

how to recover data from corrupted memory card

That could mean you lose important work documents, beloved personal content such as images and videos, or other vital data. So, a dreaded message from a memory card asking you to format the files because they are unreadable always causes panic.

However, you should avoid the panic as there are ways you can recover lost memory card data even if it is corrupted or unreadable. You can do this without formatting the card.

Why would a memory card be corrupted, unreadable, or require a format?

Luckily, the best memory card makers (SanDisk, Samsung, Toshiba, and others) make excellent SD cards that can handle a lot of abuse. Sadly, problems still happen, and data can seem lost forever. There are several reasons why a card may need a format or lose files:

  • A virus or other type of infection
  • Prolonged use of the memory card when its storage capacity is running low
  • Power cut or device crash when transferring files from card to PC
  • Improper removal and/or insertion of the memory card into a device or PC
  • Continuing to use the memory card when a device battery is low

Recovering lost documents, photos, and videos from a memory card without formatting

When a memory card becomes corrupt or unreadable, it often tells you it needs to be formatted. This is a problem because formatting the card will lead to a loss of the data stored on it. If your computer tells you a memory card needs to be formatted, you should only ever do this under one circumstance: you know you don’t need the files stored on the card.

Instead, if you see this message you should immediately look for a third-party service that can recover files from a memory card. Some good examples are Stellar Photo Recovery, Disk Drill, Photorec, Recuva, Wondershare, EaseUS many more,  but others are available so you should look around for a service that you like.

These third-party tools will do all the work for you and return your lost photos and data. What’s good about third-party tools is they can even help you if you accidentally formatted your memory card. However, it should be noted not 100% of your files will be returned if you formatted the card previously.

Manual memory card data recovery without formatting

While third-party data recovery software makes it easy to recover lost files from a corrupt or unreadable memory card, you can also do it yourself. Manual methods exist, but because they involve some poking around in Windows, we suggest this is only for comfortable and experienced PC users.

Perform Chkdsk

You can start a disk check on a Windows PC by taking the following steps:

  • Windows Start menu
  • Type cmd in the Search box
  • Right-click cmd and opt for the Run as Administrator
  • When the command prompt window opens, type chkdsk < memory card drive letter>:/f (e.g., chkdsk E: /f)
  • Select Enter

Assign a new drive letter

When the disk check is preparing, you should see your memory card as a letter in the list of available drives on your PC. If you cannot see the card, you will need to assign it a new letter:

  • Put the memory card in your PC
  • Open Run by selecting Windows+R
  • Type msc in the dialogue box and run it
  • On the menu list, find the Disk Management options under Storage
  • In the right window, right-click the drive you want to give a letter to
  • Select Change Drive Letter and Paths
  • A new dialog box will open, where you can click Change
  • Check the Assign following driver letter option
  • Pick a letter from the drop-down box and select OK


Whether you use a third-party tool or decided to recover files yourself, you no longer need to be worried when your memory card is corrupted or unreadable. Ignore the prompts to format the card and instead start the process of recovering your photos and other important data.

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