SD Memory Card Not Recognized When Inserted into Computer

I had a question recently about a flash drive problem. Well, it wasn’t really a flash drive — it was an SD card from a camera… but the symptoms and the procedures are the same.

In this case, a family member had taken some pictures with her camera and then removed the SD memory card from the camera to plug it into her HP computer’s built-in memory card reader.

All went well when she did this. After she copied the photos from the card to the computer, she ejected the SD card and put it back in the camera. At that point, she took some more pictures.

The problem occurred when she removed the SD card from the camera and plugged it into the computer again.

At this point, the computer did not recognize the SD card. Ouch!

She had another camera, so she pulled the SD card from it and tried it in the computer. It wasn’t recognized either. Ouch! Ouch!

Panic began to set in as she thought she might have ruined the SD cards somehow. Big SD cards are still not really cheap, but the real problem was the pictures…

Fortunately, at that point, she thought to call me…

The fix was the same fix that I wrote about in Number 1 Step in Computer Troubleshooting. Reboot!

The problem was that she had simply pulled the SD card from the card reader — without using the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the Windows Status Bar (lower right-hand corner of the typical Windows XP screen).

When you pull out a flash drive or memory card without using the Safely Remove Hardware function, Windows XP will often completely lose track of that memory card reader or flash drive. Apparently Windows thinks that it’s still installed, but doesn’t remember how to access it. When you install it again, Windows doesn’t react at all.

The fix is simple: reboot the computer.

Once she did that, she could see that both SD cards were really all right, nothing was lost, and a lesson was learned harmlessly.


  1. I have the same problem with my Gateway computer using Windows Vista. When the computer is newly-started, I can insert a camera’s SD card into the slot of the computer and the card will be recognized, and I can work with it.

    Then I use the “Safely Remove Hardware” route to remove the card. If I put the card back in the same computer slot, the computer does not recognize that the card is there, and I can’t work with the card on the computer.

    If I re-boot the computer, with the SD card removed (“safely”), the computer will recognize the card when it is inserted after the re-boot is complete. However if I safely remove the SD card from the computer, it is back to the same problem: it the computer does not recognize the card.

    • Try right clicking the card location (eg drive k) and then select eject from the dropdown and left click. Works for vista.

  2. This does not work for me. Sometimes the reader will always work, and some days it doesn’t work at all. Rebooting does nothing. Should I shut down and let it sit rather than restart?

  3. my windows vista home premium all upgraded doesnt show the safely remove hardware logo in bottom right anymore so i can access my pics from my cam , when i insert the sd into the reader then into the slot it doesnt read it and i cant get to the pics any help would be appreciated

    • Katrina,
      The “Safely Remove Hardware” icon will not be displayed unless Windows recognizes that a removable hardware storage device is connected.

      Your problem is that Windows doesn’t recognize that your SD card is being inserted. This could be a problem with the SD card or with the card reader. The easiest way to find the problem is to (1) try a different SD card in your computer and make sure it is recognized and (2) try that SD card in a different computer and see if it is recognized. Obviously, if the other computer does no have a card reader, you’ll have to use an adapter.

      You didn’t mention whether this was a new card and an old computer. If your computer has not ever successfully read this SD card, you might have a different problem. The original SD card readers could not read the newer High Capacity SD cards (SDHC cards). I think the 4GB and larger cards are all SDHC. If that’s the case, you could get a new card reader to install, or could get a USB adapter to let your computer read the SDHC card.


      • Terry,
        After I put my camera’s SD card into my reader then back into the PC it now says something like Protected Material. One cannot take a photo. What the heck would have caused this?

  4. Some Kodak cameras format the cards with a different format that Windows doesn’t recognize. These cards need to be formatted with Windows before being used with these cameras. Having to download the pictures from a Kodak camera can be a hassle as you almost always have to use the Kodak software on the computer.

    • Would this maybe be the issue with my Nikon Digital camera’s SD card. It will not allow me to take anymore photos onto the card. Says it on the screen when one presses down the “Take” button. What up?Please

  5. I recently returned from a trip and now my 32 GB microSD card is not recognized by my Linux computer or my android phone. It has had no problems prior to this. All my other SDN microSD cards work fine. My question(s), can the files be recovered from the sd card if the computer won’t recognize it? Also, Could the airport scanners have caused this problem? I took several SD cards and only one of them was deficient upon return. Of course, it was the most important one.

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