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What to Do When a Canon Camera Won’t Read an SD Card?

What to Do When a Canon Camera Won’t Read an SD Card?

It can be pretty scary thinking about memory card issues when using a Canon camera. After all, your memory card contains all the data you’ve just shot.

Like anyone, I can often forget to regularly back up my memory card, which makes the thought of losing all of that data even scarier. So what happens in the moment of truth when the camera refuses to read the memory card? Is there anything that you can do?

When your camera does not read your memory or SD card, the following issues could be happening:

  • Incompatibility between the memory card and the camera.
  • Errors in the memory card leading to malfunction.
  • Damage to the camera that has made it unable to read the memory card.

Don’t despair just yet! Despite how frightening some of these issues are, there are sometimes workarounds you can use to save your data. So keep reading our article so you can learn what to do when you face an error with the memory or SD card.

Why Won’t My Canon Camera Read My Memory Card?

So, back to the issue at hand. You’re trying to insert your memory card into the Canon camera, but there’s no sign it is being detected. How can you fix this? The first step for you is to try and figure out where the issue is coming from. There is a possible incompatibility between the two, but you need to know where it’s coming from to fix the problem. 

One of the things you can do is try to use another camera or computer. Insert the memory card in to see if it is being read and detected. If there is no issue at all, that means there is an issue within the camera – or possibly, the formatting is incompatible on that particular camera, if it is old, for example. 

If any of the other devices aren’t detecting the memory card, it seems the card may have the issue. This could happen because of damage to the card or software issues. Unfortunately, this can also indicate the memory card can’t function. However, there are some ways to repair your SD or memory card.

How To Fix Memory Card Issues 

So, you know there is a possible error with your memory card or your Canon camera. What’s the next step? In some cases, people will, at this stage, just go and get a new memory card. But memory cards are an asset, and you could be losing some valuable data. Here’s how you can try and fix issues with your Canon memory card.

Try Connecting Again

Sometimes, the software can just glitch and cause issues. One of the first things to do is double-check the issue. If you get an error or if the camera isn’t detecting the card, try this: 

  1. Switch off your Canon camera.
  2. Take the memory or SD card out of your camera.
  3. Re-insert the card and restart your camera. 

If this resolves the issue, it was most likely just a glitch, and you are unlikely to face this issue again. However, it’s a good idea to keep your data backed up just in case. 

Recover The Data

If restarting the camera doesn’t do the trick, your next priority should be to save the data on the card. If you already have it backed up or don’t care about the photos and videos, you can skip this step. Here’s how:

  1. Take your card out of the camera.
  2. Connect the card to your computer.
  3. Use a memory card recovery tool to recover the data on the card.

This action will help keep your data safe even if you make changes to the card ahead as you troubleshoot. 

Related: 5 Best Flashes for the Canon 6D

Change Card File System

Sometimes, the issue you are encountering is that the camera uses an older file system. Some older Canon cameras use the FAT (File Allocation Table) system to detect cards and other inserted devices. FAT file system memory cards are compatible with these kinds of cameras. However, if necessary, you can format your SD card to be able to work with the older file system.

In order to do so, you will need to erase all of the information that already exists on your card. If you want to preserve the data, keep it backed up somewhere else, or you may lose all of the information on your memory card. Here’s how to reformat your SD card:

  1. Switch on your computer, and connect the memory card.
  2. When connected, open up ‘My Computer.’
  3. On the icon depicting the card, right-click the selection.
  4. From there, select ‘Format.’
  5. Convert the card to the FAT file system by following the steps you see on the screen. 

Alternatively, you can just purchase a new FAT file system memory cardPlease note that sometimes this reformatting process can fail to work. You may still face issues of incompatibility with your Canon camera. 

Update SD Card Drivers

Suppose, during this process, you have discovered that your Windows computer is not detecting the memory card. In that case, there is an option to update the SD card drivers available on the operating system. You can do this by following these steps: 

  1. Use the search box to open up the Device Manager on your computer.
  2. Select the correct category that your memory card will fall into, and move to the next page. 
  3. Right-click the name of your memory card.
  4. Select the option ‘Search automatically for updated driver software.’
  5. Next, choose ‘Update Driver.’
  6. You can also check the Windows resources to see if new updates are available for the drivers for a memory card. 

Clean The Memory Card

One of the reasons for a failure to connect can be that the connection points are being hindered by collected dust and debris. In this case, gentle cleaning can sometimes resolve the issue. Use a cotton swab, and clean the card. Do not introduce any water as it can damage the card. Once the card is all spruced up, try connecting it again. 

Related: How to Clean the Viewfinder on Canon Cameras


Having to deal with a non-functional memory card is pretty frustrating. Sometimes the memory card is not working, and you will have to replace it. However, with some simple steps, you can sometimes resolve the issue. To prevent data loss, always make sure you have a backup of your card on your computer.