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How to View Photos on an SD Card Across Devices

Mack Wilson
Mack Wilson Originally published Jan 23, 24, updated Jan 23, 24
In this article
    1. Using External SD Card Readers
    2. View Photos Directly on Cameras
    3. Using Built-in Card Readers on Computers
    4. Viewing SD Card Photos on Mobile Devices
    1. SD Card Compatibility Errors
    2. Corrupted SD Cards
    3. Corrupted Photos
a camera, laptop, and sd cards

Do you take photos with a digital camera or a mobile device with expandable memory? Either way, viewing the SD card pictures on a computer or smartphone before transferring them can save time. After all, you may want to copy only some items.

How can you view them on another device? Do you have to remove the SD card first? What about mobile devices that don’t have SD card slots?

Discover how to view photos on an SD card across devices (Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS), fix the most prevalent issues, and use your memory card correctly to avoid problems.

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How to View Photos on SD Cards

Before exploring the most frustrating SD card problems, fixes, and precautions to avoid them, let’s see how to view pictures in SD card storage.

Using External SD Card Readers

External SD card readers are excellent gadgets for viewing and transferring SD card data to another device. They’re ideal if your computer doesn’t have a built-in card reader.

Here’s how to view photos on an SD card on a laptop or desktop computer using an external SD card reader for Windows or macOS.

Windows

Step 1: Insert your SD card into an external reader and connect it to your computer through a USB port.

an external card reader for windows

Step 2: If your Windows AutoPlay is on, click Open folder to view files.

windows autoplay

If AutoPlay is off, open File Explorer, go to This PC, find your SD card under Devices and Drives, and open it to view the stored photos.

an sd card in file explorer

macOS

Step 1: Insert your SD card into an external reader and connect it to your Mac through a USB port.

an external card reader for mac

Step 2: If you have macOS Ventura 13.3 or newer, your Mac will ask you to approve the SD card. Click Allow.

allow the sd card to connect

Step 3: Go to Finder > Preferences.

finder options

Step 4: Tick all the checkboxes in the General tab to ensure you see the SD card on the desktop.

general finder preferences

Step 5: Launch Finder and open your SD.

an sd card on macbook

Step 6: Find your photos in the DCIM folder.

sd card folders on macbook

View Photos Directly on Cameras

You don’t have to remove your SD card from a camera to view the photos on a computer. You can use a USB cable to browse them directly from the camera. That’s perfect if you don’t have an external reader.

Here’s how to view pictures from an SD card on a computer directly from your camera.

Windows

Step 1: Turn on your camera and connect it to your computer with a USB cable.

usb-connected camera and windows laptop

Step 2: You’ll see a device setup screen if connecting your camera to your PC for the first time. Let Windows initialize the device and install the necessary drivers.

a digital camera setup on windows

Step 3: Access your camera storage in File Explorer > This PC and open Removable storage.

sd card storage on a camera

Step 4: Find your SD card photos in the DCIM folder.

sd card folder on a camera

macOS

Step 1: Turn on your camera and connect it to your Mac with a USB cable.

usb-connected camera and macbook

Step 2: If your Mac runs on macOS Ventura 13.3 or newer, you’ll see a dialog box for connecting accessories. Click Allow.

allow the camera to connect

Step 3: Open Image Capture, select your camera in the left sidebar under Devices, and view your SD card pictures. You can also use the Photos app.

camera photos in image capture

Using Built-in Card Readers on Computers

Most new computers have built-in card readers, eliminating the need for their external counterparts. Some (typically older devices) also have a memory card adapter necessary for microSD cards.

Here’s how to view pictures from an SD card on a computer using a built-in card reader.

Windows

Step 1: Insert your SD card into your computer’s built-in memory slot. Unlock the write-protection switch beforehand if you wish to transfer photos. Otherwise, you can only view them.

a built-in card reader on windows

Step 2: If you’ve enabled the Windows AutoPlay feature, click Open folder to view files.

windows autoplay

If the AutoPlay is off, access your SD card in File Explorer > This PC. It’s under Devices and Drives.

an sd card in file explorer

macOS

Step 1: Insert your SD card into your Mac’s built-in memory slot, ensuring you unlock the write-protection switch if you wish to transfer photos.

a built-in card reader on macbook

Step 2: If you use macOS Ventura 13.3 or later, click Allow to let your Mac connect to the SD card.

allow the sd card to connect

Step 3: Access your SD card on the desktop and find your photos in the DCIM folder. If you don’t see it on the desktop, go to Finder > Preferences and select everything in the General tab.

sd card storage on macbook

Viewing SD Card Photos on Mobile Devices

Now that you know how to view pictures from an SD card on a laptop or desktop computer, it’s time to dive into mobile devices.

Unlike iOS devices, their Android rivals have expandable storage. However, they only support microSD cards, requiring an external reader for SD cards.

Here’s how to view pictures in SD card storage on Android and iOS phones and tablets.

Android

Step 1: Insert your SD card into an external reader with a compatible USB connector and plug it into your Android device’s USB port.

an sd card slot on android

Step 2: View your photos in Settings > Storage > SD Card.

sd card photos in android storage

You can also access the SD card under Storage Devices in the Files app.

sd card photos in android files

iOS

Step 1: Insert your SD card into an iOS-compatible card reader and connect it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch via a lightning or USB-C connector.

an iphone sd card reader

Step 2: Go to Files > Browse to access your SD card.

sd card photos in iphone files

How to Troubleshoot and Fix Common SD Card Issues

What if your computer doesn’t recognize your SD card? What if the photos refuse to open? What if some files are missing or your digital camera suddenly displays an error message?

You’ll probably check the connection to ensure a USB cable isn’t loose or the card reader works correctly. You’ll try another USB port, computer, mobile device, and card reader to see if anything changes. You’ll also likely restart your PC, Mac, or mobile.

What if the problem persists? File system incompatibility or data corruption (e.g., due to malware) might be at play. Here’s how to fix the issues and salvage your photos.

SD Card Compatibility Errors

Formatting your SD card is the only way to make its file system compatible with your device. That causes data loss, but it isn’t permanent if you perform a Quick Format.

However, you’ll still need data recovery software to restore lost files. We recommend Wondershare Recoverit, which has a 98% success rate and supports 1,000 file formats and 2,000+ storage media, including SD cards. It’s compatible with Windows and macOS.

Here’s how to format your SD card to eliminate incompatibility issues.

Windows

Step 1: Connect your SD card to your computer.

Step 2: Launch File Explorer, right-click your SD card storage, and select Format.

sd card formatting in file explorer

Step 3: Set the file system: FAT32 if the SD card has a maximum storage of 32 GB (and you’ll use it on Android) or exFAT if it exceeds 64 GB. Tick the Quick Format checkbox and hit Start.

format an sd card

macOS

Step 1: Connect your SD card to your Mac.

Step 2: Launch Disk Utility, select the SD card in the left sidebar, and click Erase.

sd card formatting in disk utility

Step 3: Set the MS-DOS (FAT32) format if your SD card doesn’t exceed 32 GB or exFAT if it has more than 64 GB of storage. Click Erase and confirm your choice.

erase an sd card

Corrupted SD Cards

You can fix SD card data corruption in many ways, but the following are the most straightforward. However, formatting might resolve the problem if these or other methods don’t work.

Windows

Step 1: Connect your SD card to your computer.

Step 2: Go to File Explorer > This PC, right-click your SD card, and select Properties.

sd card properties in file explorer

Step 3: Click Check in the Tools tab and Repair the drive if the checker finds errors.

check and fix sd card errors

macOS

Step 1: Connect your SD card to your Mac.

Step 2: Launch Disk Utility, select your SD card in the left sidebar, click First Aid, and hit Run.

first aid in disk utility

Corrupted Photos

Whether the issues above leave your SD card with corrupted photos or they were already there, a reliable solution like Wondershare Repairit Photo Repair can return them to their former glory. This desktop software supports 18 image formats and is compatible with Windows and macOS.

Download the suitable version to your computer, install the software, and follow the steps below to fix your corrupted SD card pictures (the interface is identical on macOS and Windows):

Free Download
Free Download

Step 1: Connect your SD card to your computer.

Step 2: Launch Wondershare Repairit and go to More Types Repair > Photo Repair.

wondershare repairit corrupted photo repair

Step 3: Click Add to import corrupted images from your SD card.

import corrupted photos

Step 4: Click Repair.

repair corrupted photos

Step 5: Click OK when you see the success message and preview the pictures.

save or preview repaired photos

Step 6: Click Advanced Repair if the standard mode couldn’t fix severely damaged files. Otherwise, proceed to the last step. You can also use the AI Image Upscaler to increase the resolution by up to 800% without losing quality.

a preview and advanced repair

Step 7: Click Repair after activating the Advanced Repair mode.

advanced repair mode

Step 8: Add a reference photo, ensuring it matches the origin device and format of the original picture(s). Hit Next.

import a sample photo

Step 9: Preview the results and click Save or Save All.

save repaired photos

Step 10: Choose a destination for the fixed pictures and hit Save.

select a file path

How to Use SD Cards Correctly

an sd card against a laptop

Using SD cards correctly is the key to avoiding damage and data loss. Here are the essential tips to follow:

  • Safely eject SD cards after use – The Safely Remove Hardware feature on Windows and macOS is there for a reason. It ensures a connected storage device finishes writing data before disconnecting it, thus preventing data corruption.
  • Keep them clean – Use a soft, lint-free cloth or compressed air duster to keep your SD cards spotless. Foam buds and 90% isopropyl alcohol can also help clean the connectors, but you won’t need them unless your SD cards collect years’ worth of dust.
  • Handle them carefully – Don’t forcibly insert and remove them from card readers and other devices because you might damage them. Moreover, don’t expose them to liquids or extreme temperatures.
  • Don’t insert SD cards into infected devices – Viruses and other malware could spread to your SD card if you connect it to a compromised computer, tablet, or mobile phone.

Unexpected issues like malware or unintentional damage might occur even if you take these precautions. Therefore, create regular SD card backups to safeguard your data.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to view photos on your SD card, it’s time to pick a method suitable for your device and browse your shots.

Built-in and external SD card readers are fantastic for viewing your photos across desktop and mobile devices. Of course, you can browse them directly on your camera by establishing a USB connection with your computer.

If you encounter compatibility issues or corruption, follow the steps above to eliminate the problem without losing data, including fixing corrupted images with Wondershare Repairit Photo Repair.

Mack Wilson
Mack Wilson Jan 23, 24
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