DJI SD card formatting failed [Little-known reasons]

There are a variety of reasons why you may wish to format your SD card. Formatting and SD card simply means delete all of the data on it permanently. While formatting your DJI SD card you may encounter a warning message which says that the formatting has failed. There are a variety of reasons why this may happen.

The warning that your DJI SD card formatting has failed may indicate that the card is compromised, that it has too much memory for a DJI drone, it may be that it is formatted with a different file system, or it could simply be a potential software glitch.

In this article, we can go over everything you need to know about DJI card formatting and the potential reasons that it can fail. Would also take a quick look at how you can ensure that your microSD cards last longer when using them with a drone.

It’s important to understand exactly what reformatting does to an SD card in a DJI drone.

What the reformatting does

Formatting and the SD card creates an empty file system (such as FAT32, exFAT, or NTFS) and permanently deletes all data on it. This means that it can now be reused for new purposes or use a different file system. You can format an SD card to change the file system, fix a damaged SD card, or erase data to free up space on your disk.

Some memory cards are called File Allocation Tables (also known as FAT Tables). Think of a memory card as a book and a FAT table as a table of contents. When formatting a memory card, you don’t actually erase the card, you just clear the FAT table.

So when you format a card you delete the table of contents, but the chapters in the book still remain. That’s why you can use data recovery software to recover images from your card even after formatting.

If you want to know more about how to form an SD card in a DJI drone check out my other article where I go through all the quick steps including using the DJI Go4 app and computer software.

How to format SD card in DJI drone [Quick steps]

When you reformat your SD card in the DJI drone it is known as a low-level format.

Low level format

When you format your SD card in a DJI drone it performs a low-level format.

Low-level formatting, also called LLF, refers to a type of formatting that completely erases your hard drive and creates new sectors and tracks on it. A physical format is created through LLF that defines where your data is stored on the disk that you are formatting.

A low-level format can be used to completely remove all of the personal data on the card, get the card working as now, and free up extra space or capacity when you notice that the card is getting too full.

You are able to format your SD card in the DJI drone. Simply by navigating to the camera settings and clicking the far right tab where you will be presented with a button that says “format SD card” simply clicking it and following the on-screen instructions enables you to easily format your SD card.

However, sometimes you end up with a message which says that the DJI SD card formatting failed.

There are a variety of reasons why it may say this and here are the most common.

Check that it is formatted with FAT32

Sometimes this warning message can happen if the card that is placed into the drone is not the appropriate format for the drone.

This happened to me in the past when I have repurposed an old microSD card for drone purposes.

A simple way of overcoming this issue is to remove the SD card from the drone and inserted into your computer using an adapter. Then, by using a formatting software – of which there are many available online – you can completely wipe the memory card and formatted for your new use case.

Write speed too slow

You may receive an error message stating that the DJI SD card format failed. This may be due to the proper speed of the SD card. There must be three in the U to indicate that it can be used with this drone.

To ensure that your SD card is compatible with your drone, proceed to the specifications where supported and recommended microSD cards are generally listed.

Buy SD cards on this list for stress-free format.

If you still get errors with your DJI SD card, even though it is recommended, we recommend that you use your PC to format the card.

Card is too large for DJI drone

This warning message may also happen if the card that you are using in your DJI drone is too large.

I know that when I was purchasing my first drone I wanted to get as large a memory card as possible. Luckily, they were relatively expensive at the time and I only got a 68 GB card. DJI drone is are not infinitely expandable in terms of memory. They generally have approximately 8 GB of internal memory and a microSD slot for expansion.

Here are a few examples of the maximum memory capacity of common and popular DJI drones:

DJI mini twoUp to 256 GB
DJI Mavic air 2Up to 256 GB
DJI FPVUp to 255 GB
DJI Phantom for V 2.0Up to 128 GB

In DJI’s most up-to-date and latest drone releases it is likely that you will be able to use up to 256 GB of external SD card memory. In my experience, this is a lot of memory and, unless you are storing your drone missions for a long time, it is generally overkill.

In my other article – a complete guide to drone video file size – I go through everything you need to know about the amount of data you need for capturing drone footage at a variety of resolutions and frame rates.

I did a number of experiments and I found that the general rule of thumb is that you need approximately 1 GB per minute to capture 4K footage at 30 frames per second.

  • 0.761 GB/minute at 4K/30fps MP4
  • 0.523 GB/minute at 1080/60fps MP4
  • 0.265 GB/minute at 1080p/30fps MP4

A full video explaining my results can be found, below:

If you’re continually getting the error message consider using a lower capacity memory card to see if that is the issue.

Do not continuously format cards

There is no generally need to reformat an SD card all of the time. Reformatting consumes part of its useful life.

Solid-state gates used in SD cards and SSD drives deteriorate with use and cannot be restored. When the gate goes bad, it is automatically flagged as bad and you don’t notice a significant loss of storage over a reasonable useful life.

But in the end, the gates will start to fail all at once, so for cheap SD cards, the first sign of a problem with frequently used or old cards is an indicator of needing to backup and discard the card.

If you want to reformat your card make sure that you have backed up all of the relevant information and only do it if you are needing to completely remove data for a new flight or drone mission or you have encountered a significant error.

Grease on contacts

Not all problems with formatting a DJI card come down to software.

MicroSD cards are very small and regularly handling them by ejecting them from DJI drones and placing them into your computer’s card reader can introduce a small film of finger grease and dust and dirt with regular handling.

If you are regularly injecting your microSD card it is likely that your fingers will come into contact with the gold or metallic contact pads on the microSD card.

Over time this grease can build up and cause intermittent contact issues with the metallic pads on the card reader or in the drone.

Using a microfibre towel, just like the ones you use for your glasses or camera lenses, is one of the best ways to remove the small amount of grease that can build up on the metallic contacts.

Have a look at the metallic contacts and make sure that there is no corrosion from the ingress of water or humidity. If you are noticing a significant amount of corrosion, grease, grime, or other buildup I recommend that you backup your data as quickly as possible and simply purchase a number microSD card.

I go through the best microSD cards for a drone as well as the symbols that you should look out for on the card in my other article – click here to be taken to a simple summary of the symbols you need to look out for.

Best MicroSD cards for a drone [Symbols to look for]

Use antivirus to scan the card

sometimes the error warnings require a little bit more of an intervention than simply wiping the grease of any contacts or reformatting in another computer or laptop.

If you’ve been through all of the steps, above, and you have not quite yet found a solution to your formatting issues you should consider running the card through an antivirus to scan for malware and other digital nasties.

Potential software glitch

Another one of the issues that has been highlighted on the drone flying forums is that this could just be simply a software glitch. Some users found that the card has in fact been formatted but the warning sign has been erroneously shown upon completion of formatting.

To double check whether or not your card has been formatted I recommend that you eject it from the DJI drone and you inserted into a laptop or computer to double check for a successful formatting.

Tips for looking after your memory cards

Memory cards do have a certain lifetime and, with regular usage you can quickly use up all of the read and write lifecycles.

Looking after a memory card will extend its life and make sure that you are able to store your drone photos and videos safely.

Stop at first sign of error(s)

If you have a disaster and accidentally delete your images or see an card error message – stop using the memory card until you find a way to recover your images. If any of these issues occur, not all will be lost. You may be able to recover the image. The important thing is to stop using the card. Otherwise, other images may be overwritten.  Data recovery services or tools can restore your images for you.

Delete images on your computer not on the drone

The general rule is to add or delete data on the card as few times as possible. Erasing all the images immediately after uploading them to the computer means one erasing cycle. If, on the other hand, you are individually deleting the files on your drone you can significantly increase the number of erasing cycles.

Do not fill your cards completely

Do not use your memory card is a place to store files in the long-term. I recommend removing your photos and videos from your drone microSD card as often as possible. Not only will this give you a piece of mind and make sure that you do not lose all of your precious data but it can also extend the lifetime of your memory cards and reduce the incidence of errors.

Only reformat every so often

There are a number of reasons why you might need to format your SD card. You might want to reuse the card, delete all data, make sure the new card is in the correct file format, or reuse the card from another device. The SD card that you are using may be corrupted and has stopped working.  Sometimes a quick format will solve the issue.

Normal formatting is also a great way to preserve the integrity and usability of an SD card. After a long period of time without formatting, your card is more likely to encounter damaged files. When you transfer a large amount of information to and from the card, there may be problems with the amount of data transferred during the download process.

Regularly formatting your SD card will help keep it fresh and functional like a brand-new card. Only do this every so often as not to cause a large shift of the data on the memory card frequently.

How do I format my SD card for my DJI Drone?

For a full run down on how to format USD card over in an in-depth guide – click here to be taken to the quick steps for formatting your ST card in your DJI drone.

Using the DJI app is one of the quickest ways to format and SD card which you have recently placed into the drone. You may want to format the SD card because it has been used by another camera or you may want to format it to free up all of the space on the drive for your new flight mission.

It is as simple as connecting the drone to the Go 4 app and following this pathway through the software:

1. Connect your drone to the DJI GO4 app

2. Press the camera settings button below the shutter button 3. Open the settings panel (far right tab)

4. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the options

5. Press “format SD card”

6. Select OK on the pop-up to format the card.

Follow all of these steps in order to format the SD card of your DJI drone and remove all of the data stored on the card. In the same menu you can also format the internal storage of your drone – the DJI Mavic air comes with 8 GB of internal storage which you can also format through the same process. If your DJI card formatting has failed. The reason you will need to go through a few steps to resolve the problem.

Summary

In this article, we have been over everything you need to know about DJI SD card formatting failures and how you can resolve them.

Looking after your memory card will ensure a long lifetime and that your data is protected and stored safely. As soon as you have finished your drone flying mission make sure that you backup your data using a hard drive or a laptop and, if it is for business purposes, I always recommend having three copies of the data and files handled and stored by three separate people.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!