Wondering how to format SD cards on Mac? Here's a step-by-step guide for formatting both SD and microSD cards using your computer.
Before you can use an SD or microSD card, it has to be formatted (many come pre-formatted out of the box). To keep it compliant with SD Association specs, which minimizes the risk of your camera having problems with it, it’s important to choose the correct filesystem to format it with.
So here’s a guide on how to format SD and microSD cards on Mac. First is the quick version; after that is a more detailed step-by-step guide. And I’ve also included an alternative approach using the SD Association’s SD card formatter.
Step-By-Step Guide to Format SD Card
Connect your SD card to your Mac using a card reader
Open Disk Utility app
Select your SD card
Choose Erase function Enter SD card name (optional)
Choose filesystem format. If 64GB or larger, choose exFAT. If 32GB or smaller, choose FAT32.
1. Connect your SD card to your Mac
There are different ways to do this. Some Macs come with a built-in SD slot. If you have one of those, you can insert the SD card directly into that. If you’re using a microSD card, put the microSD card into an SD adapter cartridge (it probably came with one) first, and then put that into the SD slot on your computer. You can also use a USB SD card reader.
2. Open Disk Utility App
Disk Utility is part of the Mac OS X operating system, so you don’t need to download or install it. You can find it in your Applications folder under the Utilities subfolder (Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility). Or you can use Spotlight (the magnifying glass icon at top right of your screen) to search for it by clicking on the icon and then typing “disk utility”.
3. Identify Your SD Card.
On the left side of the Disk Utility’s screen is a list of the various drives in your Mac and connected to it. So it will show your Mac’s internal drive as well as external drives. The SD card should show up in the External section. If it hasn’t been formatted before, it might have a name like “NO NAME” or “UNTITLED”.
If you click on it, you’ll see how much storage it is. Make sure that it matches what you expect–that is, if you’re inserting a 64GB SD card, make sure the capacity is showing as 64GB or close to it. If you’re seeing something like 1TB instead, you’ve selected the wrong drive from the list.
4. Choose Erase Function
From the list of functions at the top, choose Erase. You’ll get a popup warning you that you’re about to delete everything on the card.
5. Enter SD Card Name
In the Name field, you can assign a name to the card. This is an optional step–it will work just fine if you leave it as NO NAME or UNTITLED–it’s just a convenience issue to display a friendly name when you’re viewing it in Finder or making sure you’re importing from the correct card when ingesting images into Lightroom, for example.
Keep the name short and simple–any long names or special characters will get rejected. Perhaps something like SDCARD1 or GOPRO, for example.
6. Choose the Filesystem Format
Under the Format drop-down menu, you have several options. The only ones we’re interested in here are MS-DOS (FAT32) and ExFAT. Which to choose depends on what size storage cards you’re using. If your SD card is 64GB or larger, choose ExFAT. If your SD card is 32GB or smaller, choose MS-DOS (FAT32).
7. Hit Erase
It will say it’s unmounting it and then, after a few moments (or perhaps a little longer), you should get a message that the process is complete.
Alternative Method: SD Card Formatter
There’s an alternative method to formatting an SD card on your Mac that involves downloading a free SD card formatter provided by the SD Association. It’s very simple to use, with just a single screen that looks like this:
It does have some small benefits over using Disk Utility. One is that it automatically detects what is and isn’t an SD card, and it won’t make non-SD cards (or non-microSD cards) available. Which means there’s less chance of accidentally erasing the wrong drive.
Another is that it will automatically detect the size of the card and choose the appropriate file system. If you insert a 64GB card, it will only allow you to format it to SDXC specifications using exFAT. So it takes out any risk of selecting the wrong option.
It’s free, and you can find it here. There are versions for Mac and Windows.