How Long Does It Take to Format an SD Card?

Formatting an SD card can take anywhere from seconds to hours, depending on the specs of the SD card and the device in question. For most modern devices, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

I’m Caleb, and I have five years of photography experience. I’ve worked hands-on with SD cards during that time, as an essential part of my camera bag.

Today, I’ll explain how long it usually takes to format an SD card, and what can speed up or slow down the process. I’ll also explain formatting, in case you don’t already know how it works in the first place.

If you have to format your SD card, and you’re wondering if it will take hours, keep reading for a simple explanation.

What is Formatting an SD Card?

Before getting into the details of how long it takes to format an SD card, we should quickly go over what formatting is in the first place.

To put it simply, formatting an SD card refreshes the file system. All the files on the card will be removed, and the card is reset. 

Just like your computer will perform better if you turn it off and on occasionally, SD cards can see performance benefits from formatting. That’s why many tech support sites will suggest reformatting an SD card if it has problems working correctly.

Formatting can also change the type of file system present on an SD card. This can be important, as some devices require an SD card to have a specific type of file system, like NTFS or FAT32.

How Long Does It Take to Format an SD Card?

It’s impossible to give a universal, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. With most modern devices, it won’t take more than a few minutes to format an average SD card.

Exactly how long it takes to format an SD card is determined by multiple factors.

SD Card Specs

The specs of the SD card itself have a major impact. A higher-performance SD card with a faster write speed will generally format faster than a lower-end one.

Also, the size of the SD card matters. Smaller SD cards, naturally, format quicker than larger ones. If you’re dealing with a 128 or 256GB SD card, you might have to wait several minutes for the formatting to finish.

Formatting Device

The device doing the formatting also matters. If your device has a lot of processing power, like a full-sized computer, you’ll have a faster time formatting your SD card.

On the other hand, some smaller devices like phones, gaming consoles, and cameras are also able to format SD cards but lack the performance of a computer. These devices will probably take longer to format the same card.

Format Type

When formatting an SD card, you may have the option to pick between a quick format and a full format. As the names suggest, a quick format is faster, while a full format is more thorough.

A quick format looks the same on the surface level, but it doesn’t fully erase the files on the card or inspect the file system for damage. 

If you’re formatting because your card is experiencing problems, I suggest a full format instead of a quick format for those reasons.


Here are some of the frequently asked questions about formatting an SD card.

How Long Does it Take a 32GB SD Card to Format?

It’s impossible to say for sure without knowing the specs of the card and the device doing the formatting. However, a 32GB SD card is relatively small, and many devices should be able to format it in a minute or two.

Will Formatting Fix a Corrupted SD Card?

Formatting may fix a corrupted SD card in some cases. You’ll lose your files, though, so you should try to recover them from the card before attempting this route.

Does an SD Card Work After Formatting?

Yes. In fact, some devices require you to format a new SD card before using it.


The time it takes to format an SD card depends on things like the card’s specs and which device you’re using, but most of the time it won’t take longer than minutes. It may take longer if the device doing the formatting doesn’t have much processing power, like a camera.

Have you ever gotten stuck while formatting an SD card? Tell us in the comments!

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