How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro

It's always a good idea to format the SD card in the camera. Here's a rundown of how to do it with recent GoPro models.

So you have a shiny new GoPro and a new SD card that’s fast enough to let you take full advantage of all the camera’s shooting modes.

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GoPro is currently running a deal on their latest flagship camera, the HERO9 Black. The deal includes a 1-year subscription to GoPro, an extra battery (in addition to the one that's usually included), and a 64GB SD card. The HERO9 also comes with a case. It's all for $349.98 and you can find more details here.

Formatting your SD card is a good first step as you’re setting your camera up for the first time. It’s also something you’ll want to do routinely after you’ve offloaded your photos and videos and want to delete them to free up space again on the memory card for new shooting.

Formatting your memory card is a pretty fundamental function. But GoPro product manuals don’t explain how to do it, and how you do it varies between models. I get quite a few questions about it, so here’s a rundown of how to format an SD card for GoPros. I’m focusing here on the newer models; the older models are conceptually similar.

It’s best practice to format memory cards in the camera. That’s true not just of GoPros, but with any camera. You can, technically, do it in a computer, but doing it in the camera reduces the chances of something being not quite right and makes sure that the filesystem is set up exactly how the camera wants it. It adds the folders that GoPro cameras use and reduces the risk of stray files creating problems.

Before you start, though, it’s worth reiterating something that might be obvious: formatting the card is going to delete everything on there. So make sure you’ve downloaded all the photos and footage from it first. If you do accidentally format it, it might still be possible to recover photos or footage from the card, but it’s going to take some extra work and, potentially, the cost of some data recovery software.

How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro Using On-Camera Menus

On some models, you can use the camera’s on-board menu to format. It’s quick, easy, and saves you having to connect to the mobile app.

How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro HERO9 Black or HERO8 Black

  1. Insert the card into the camera and turn it on.
  2. Open the menu on the back screen (swipe down).
  3. Go to Preferences.
  4. Scroll down to Reset.
  5. Choose Format SD Card.

How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro HERO7 Black, Silver, or White

  1. Insert the card into the camera and turn it on.
  2. Open the menu on the back screen (side button).
  3. Go to Preferences.
  4. Scroll down to Reset.
  5. Choose Format SD Card.

How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro HERO6 Black or HERO5 Black

  1. Insert the card into the camera and turn it on.
  2. Open the menu on the back screen (side button).
  3. Go to Preferences.
  4. Scroll to the bottom to “Format SD Card.” Tap on that.
  5. Choose Delete.

HERO5 Session, HERO Session, or HERO4 Session

There’s no way to format the SD card using the camera’s onboard menu system on these cameras. You have to use the GoPro mobile app. See below.

How to Format SD Cards in a GoPro HERO4 Black or HERO4 Silver

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll down to Delete (trash can icon if using the small front screen)
  3. Choose All/Format
  4. Choose Delete

How to Format SD Cards Using the GoPro Mobile App

This works with all of the GoPro models that have WiFi.

  1. Insert the microSD card into the camera.
  2. Connect the camera to the GoPro app via Wifi/Bluetooth
  3. In the GoPro app, go into Settings
  4. Scroll down to the Delete Section
  5. Choose Delete All Files from SD Card

What to Do if Your GoPro Photos or Videos Go Missing From Your SD Card

There can be several reasons why photos and videos go missing from memory cards. But you can often recover at least some of them. I have a more detailed post on how to recover deleted GoPro videos and photos from SD cards, but here's the quick version:

  1. Stop using the SD card. This is important, because overwriting the data will make it harder to recover deleted files from it.
  2. Scan the memory card with the free trial versions of either Stellar Photo Recovery or Disk Drill. Both have Windows and Mac versions. The scan will show you whether any files can be found and recovered.
  3. Recover the files. If the apps can find the files, you can then decide whether to buy a full license to run the actual recovery process or to try one of the other options covered here.

This post was last modified on January 12, 2021 4:14 am

View Comments

  • GoPro assigns a random volume label to the SD card during formatting. Is there a way to have the camera or the mobile app assign a specific, user defined, volume label? In Linux I use this command after placing the SD card in a reader:

    mlabel -i /dev/sdd1 -s ::GoPro_01 (where the device number, i.e. sdd1, is assigned by the system and the GoPro_XX is something I choose to use).

    It would be great if there was a way (hoping there is) to have the camera or the app allow the user to enter a volume label. I have a number of cards because I don't always have time to download clips (I ride motorcycles and use my GoPro as part of my daily commute as well as longer rides with friends). It helps me stay organized if I number the SD cards or name them after one of my bikes and a date, etc. Thanks!

  • I have a go pro 7 silver. I put in a brand new scandisk extreme 32gb SD card to be formatted.
    It is still formatting after 15 mins. Is there something wrong with it???

    • It shouldn't take more than a few seconds, so something seems to be going wrong there. These are the things I'd try:

      - Power off the camera, take out the memory card, reinsert it, power on the camera, and repeat the formatting process.
      - Try formatting in a computer first using the [SD Card Formatter app](https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/sd-card-formatter-app/). If that works, then try again in the camera.

      If those don't work, it sounds increasingly like there might be a problem with the card or the camera. If it does it again with a new card, it suggests the camera. If you try a new card and it works fine, it suggests the card was the problem.

  • First time using new gopro 7 black. I put the micro sdxc sandisk ultra 128Gb, but the gopro ask for formatting due to sd card error. But how long to do the formating since it takes so long. Tx

    • It shouldn't take more than a few seconds with a healthy card. If the card has faults or errors, the formatting will fail. You could try repairing/checking it using software on your desktop, or, ideally, switch it out for a different card. For what it's worth, the Ultra cards often aren't fast enough for the high-end video modes of the HERO7 Black. Safer bets, and not much more expensive, is to step up to the Extreme range cards.

  • just purchased a 4K ultra extral HD action cam and inserted a samsung 64GB card into the camera and tried to format the card but camera says insert card? I tried a 32GB card out of our dash cam and it works fine in the gopro. do you have any ideas on how to solve the problem. Also fitted the samsung card into an adaptor and tried it in a still camera and it worked fine so gopro seems to work ok as does the 64gb card but put the two together and its no go. please help

      • "4K ultra extral HD action cam" this is all that is on the camera David. I googled the name in commas and its on youtube but no suitable info about it.
        cheers Paul

        • OK, so that's not one produced by GoPro but rather a different brand? In that case, I suspect it's a model that doesn't support microSDXC cards. Those are the cards that are 64GB and above. So you'll want to stick to cards 32GB or smaller, and they'll have microSDHC on the packaging or product description somewhere (that's all 32GB cards—you won't find 32GB cards sold that aren't microSDHC).

  • Hi, would like to check if Sandisk Ultra 400GB class 10 a1 micro sd xc1 can be used in gopro hero 6? Thanks in advance

    • You can use it, but there's a risk of running into problems when recording at the higher bitrate video modes or using the burst modes. The Ultra line isn't intended to handle those higher-demand video modes in the way that the Extreme and higher lines in the SanDisk range are.

  • hi dave,

    I'm using a Kingston 64 gb micro sdxc 1. will this work with my new hero5 session that is en route?
    thanks,
    robert

    • The Kingston model SDCA10, which is one I've speed tested, is on the very bottom end of the speed requirements for the HERO5 Black. I haven't tested it specifically in the HERO5 Black. It should work, but it's probably a bit borderline.

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