How to Read an SD Card

An SD card should mount automatically for easy reading

What to Know

  • Plug the SD card into an appropriate SD card reader. It can use the one built-in (if applicable) or an external reader.
  • Access the SD card via File Explorer on Windows, or via a Finder on macOS.
  • SD cards can also be added to smartphones to expand their storage (sometimes using an external reader).

This article explains how to read an SD card on your PC or Mac, as well as how to read them to smartphones running iOS or Android.

How to Read an SD Card on Laptop

Many laptops come with built-in SD and microSD card readers. These will be present as a single slot on the side of the laptop, and are all you need to read an SD card.

  1. Plug your SD card into the SD card slot. If it doesn't fit, make sure you are inserting it the right way. If it still doesn't work, try using an appropriately sized adapter.

    Man's hand plugging an SD card into a laptop's SD card reader.

    Massimiliano Clari / EyeEm / Getty Images

  2. Windows or macOS may provide a pop-up that lets you quickly access the SD card's storage by clicking on the notification. Alternatively, on Windows, Select File Explorer, followed by the SD card from the left-hand menu.

    On macOS, open Finder to see if the card was mounted on the desktop. If not, open a new Finder window and look for the card in the Sidebar.

    In Windows, the SD card may be called SD-Card, USB-Drive, or have a generic drive letter, like G:, or H:.

  3. An SD card will work like a hard drive or if you are old enough, a floppy drive.

How to Use an SD Card on Android

Some Android smartphones have the option of using an SD card to expand the phone's storage. Here's how to use it.

  1. Turn off your Android phone.

  2. Locate the SD card slot on your Android smartphone and, if necessary, remove its protective cover.

  3. Insert the SD card into the SD card reader, either directly, or using the insertion tray.

    Woman inserting an SD card and Sim card into her phone.

    Pheelings Media / Getty Images

  4. Turn your phone back on, then use your version of Android's file manager (or a different third-party file manager) to locate the SD card and its data.

How to Use an SD Card Reader on iPhone

iPhones don't have a built-in SD card reader, but with an adapter you can just plug in an external reader.

  1. You'll need an adapter that plugs into the iPhone's Lightning port and also accepts the plug from the SD card reader.

  2. Once you plug the SD card reader into the adapter, plug the adapter into the iPhone.

  3. The iPhone doesn't have a desktop like the Mac or a PC, so you'll need to use the Files app on your iPhone to see the contents of the SD card. Open the Files app and make sure you are on the main Browse screen. From there you can tap the SD card and see what's on it.

  • How do I fix an SD card that won't read?

    If you can't access an SD card, make sure your computer supports the size and type of memory card you’re using, turn off write protection, and format the card. If you still have problems, you may need to troubleshoot your memory card reader.

  • How do I read an SD card on my Chromebook?

    Most Chromebooks have an SD card slot. If yours doesn't, you'll have to connect an external memory card reader. When you insert an SD card, your Chromebook should automatically detect it, and then you can access the card in the Files app.

  • How do I change an SD card from read only?

    To turn off write protection on an SD card, look for a lock switch and turn it to the off position. Alternatively, use the diskpart command. For individual files, go to the file's Properties and clear the Read-only check box.

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