How to properly format SD cards on Mac

Secure Digital or SD is a proprietary nonvolatile flash memory card format developed by the SD Association (SDA) for use in portable devices. SD memory cards can be used for many different applications, from cameras to mini PCs, offering an affordable storage solution available in a wide range of different capacities.

SD cards offer a convenient way to store and transfer data, photos, multimedia, and documents, as well as quickly load various operating systems into various systems, such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino microcontrollers.

This quick guide will show you how to format an SD card using a desktop Mac or laptop. Using an SD card reader, small memory cards can be read through a free USB port or through a hub. This year, Apple also included SD card slots in its new line of MacBook Pro laptops, making it even easier to access photos and videos from your camera or format SD cards for other applications.

Format SD cards on Mac

You may need to format an SD card or micro SD card for several reasons on your Mac, whether it’s your smartphone, Raspberry Pi mini PC, Arduino project, digital camera, or game console. Preparing a map for use on a Mac is easy. But there are a few options to keep in mind when formatting an SD card on a Mac for the first time. Also, don’t forget that formatting an SD card or micro SD card will erase all data on your SD card or micro SD card, so make a backup of any data you want to keep before formatting your SD card.

Correct format to choose

Our Mac will use the Disk Utility app provided by Apple on all Macs formatting our SD card. If you have an iMac or an old MacBook laptop, you may already have a builtin SD card slot that you can use to easily read and write to your card. If you have a modern MacBook or MacBook Air without an SD card slot, you’ll need a USBC to SD card adapter that you can plug into a free USBC port. To format smaller form factor microSD cards, you will also need an SD card size adapter into which you will insert the smaller microSD card as shown in the image below.

Once your card is inserted into your Mac directly or via an SD card adapter, press the “Command” and “Space” button on your Mac keyboard to open “Spotlight Search” and type “Disk Utility” to find and run the application like in the image above.

Using Disk Utility

format sd cards on mac

On the left side of the Disk Utility app, you’ll see a list of your drives. Be careful to select the correct drive for the SD card you are formatting. A quick test can be done by simply removing the memory card and reinserting it to see which drive disappears and reappears when your Mac reads the card. By rightclicking on the SD card drive of your choice, you will see a list of options with “Erase” at the bottom. “Erase” is the option we will choose to format our SD card on Mac.

A popup window will appear to allow you to rename the SD card, make it easy and don’t use strange keyboard characters, as some operating systems have problems reading the special character used when naming SD cards, just stick to alphanumeric characters. and you’ll be fine.

When formatting a card, you are given four “Format” options on Mac: MacOS Extended (Journaled), Mac OS Extended (CaseSensitive, Journaled), MSDOS (FAT), and ExFAT. If you are going to use a formatted SD card ONLY on computers running Apples macOS, then OS Extended formats are the way to go. The only difference between the two is the Case Sensitive option, which is capitalsensitive, so ABC and abc are treated as different names in the casesensitive option. In the macOS Extended (Journaled) format, which is caseinsensitive, they are considered the same.

If you are going to use the SD card in, for example, a digital camera, Windows PC, Android smartphone, or Raspberry Pi mini PC, and the capacity of the SD card is greater than 64 GB, and you are formatting the SD card on a Mac system running a modern version operating system macOS: Apple Lion macOS and above you will use the ExFAT option. For older Macs and smaller SD cards, use the MSDOS (FAT32) option.

SD card format instructions:

  • Open the Disk Utility app on Mac.
  • Choose the right SD card drive
  • Name your SD card
  • Select the format type you want: ExFAT General Purpose – Mac only: MacOS Extended (Journaled)
  • Click the “Erase” button
  • Wait for the SD card to finish formatting on Mac.
  • Remove the newly formatted SD card from your computer.
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