How to Format a Memory Card Digital Camera

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Updated July 25, 2022

If you have been taking lots of photos, especially action pictures with a digital camera, you may have filled up your memory card. Instead of purchasing a new card, you can always format the old card to clean it up. Here is some information on how to format a memory card on a digital camera. If you need instructions to unlock a memory card for a digital camera, that’s a separate guide we have for you.


  • If the memory card of your best digital camera is full or even corrupted, you will have to format it.
  • Be sure to back up any necessary files before beginning the reformatting process, so you don’t lose anything.
  • You can format a memory card right on your digital camera. Check your camera’s instructions for more details.
  • If that option is not available, insert the card into your computer’s storage card reader and format it as if it was any other kind of hard drive.

What is a Memory Card?

Most modern digital cameras save images via memory cards. Most memory cards are standard SD cards or Micro SD cards, and are used in many cameras such as in point-and-shoot cameras and often the greatest medium format digital cameras. If you don’t know what a medium format digital camera is, we have an answer for you.

In other words, memory cards are the same types of storage cards you have already been using with phones, video game systems, and more.

Insider Tip

Most memory cards are standard SD cards or Micro SD cards.

How to Format a Memory Card

The formatting process is relatively simple, though the steps could shift slightly depending on the ease of connecting your device to a computer and whether you are using a used card or a fresh SD card. Additionally, there are many different memory card types out there.

Backup Your Files

Before you do anything, you need to backup the pre-existing files on the memory card. Otherwise, you will lose them forever once you have formatted the card. You can back up your files in several ways, but the easiest way will be to simply insert the memory card into your computer’s SD card reader slot. If your computer lacks one of these slots, you can always purchase an adapter of some kind or go with a cloud backup associated with an Android device or an iPhone. Read the instructions that accompanied your memory card for more information as to memory card specifications. Double-check your backup before going ahead with the formatting of the card.

Check Your Camera’s Settings

Your camera may be able to format the SD card without any need to involve your computer or another gadget. Check the instruction manual and head into the settings to find an option to format a memory card. Make sure you have performed a backup ahead of time and that the camera is fully charged, as formatting the card may take a few minutes.

Insider Tip

You can back up your files in several ways, but the easiest way will be to simply insert the memory card into your computer’s SD card reader slot.

Use a Computer

You can also pop the memory card into your computer’s storage card slot or USB card reader (memory stick). Then, treat the memory card as you would any hard drive. You can reformat it by using system storage settings in the same way you’ve formatted drives in the past. Make sure you have clicked on the correct settings to ensure that the reformatted card will integrate with your digital camera after the process has been completed. Regular formatting should encounter no issues of this type, however, though there could be some issues when it comes to Android phones and a particular type of mobile phone.


Can I use macOS to see the specifications for the interface hardware and media inserted in the SD card slot?

Sure. macOS can do this quite easily. Head to “About This Mac” and then “System Report.” Finally, click on “Hardware” and then “USB.” All of the information you require should be there.

Which SD card formats work in the SD card slot?

This will depend on your computer and its operating system. Though most modern computers offer support for nearly every SD card format, all the way up to 2TB. Check your card’s instruction manual for more information as to which operating systems it can integrate with.

When I try to write content to the card, I get a “cannot be modified” message. How can I fix this?

Your memory card could be locked or write-protected. Look for a plastic lock switch on the left side of the SD card and switch it to the up position. This should fix the issue.

STAT: In 2017, the flash memory market is expected to be worth 51.67 billion U.S. dollars worldwide. (source)

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