Why Does My Trail Camera Say “No SD Card”? (How to Fix It)

Wildgame Innovations trail camera with No SD card message.

Whether you are using them to scout game animals or monitor property, trail cameras are extremely helpful tools, but they are useless without a memory card to save the pictures and videos on. So it is extremely frustrating when your camera tells you “No SD Card” or another similar message when you can clearly see that there is an SD or microSD card inserted in the camera. This feeling of frustration is only made worse if you happen to be in the middle of the woods when this happens.

Here are a few examples of the types of messages you could see on your trail camera.

Trail camera with microSD card slot.

 

Trail camera with microSD card slot.

 

No Card Message on Stealth Cam Trail Camera

The key to resolving this problem is to understand the cause of the message. In this article, we will explain why your camera says “No SD Card”, and what you can do to fix it.

Why Does My Trail Camera Say No SD Card Despite Having a Memory Card Inserted into It?

There are actually several different reasons why your camera might say this. Thankfully, figuring out the reason why you are getting this message is pretty easy and straightforward. So let’s go through 6 reasons why you might be getting this message and explain the solution for each of them.

1. The Wrong Card Was Put into the Camera

The first and perhaps most common reason for your trail camera not recognizing that a memory card was placed into it is that the wrong memory card was put into the camera. This issue can be broken down into two categories:

The Memory Card Was Formatted for a Different Camera

Trail cameras and other devices that use SD and microSD cards to store pictures, videos, or other data. These devices will need the memory cards formatted to their specifications in order to work properly with them.

The thing is that these different devices might have different formatting requirements, meaning that memory cards that were formatted to work with one device may not be compatible with other devices unless they are reformatted to that other device’s specifications. This can be true for trail cameras as well. While in the past I have had trail cameras that worked with SD cards that have been formatted for other trail cameras this isn’t always the case.

Solution:

If you run multiple trail cameras, as I do, the easy way to avoid this problem is to label your SD cards so you know exactly which trail camera each memory card was formatted for like we did on the following SD card.

Labeled SD card.

However, if you haven’t labeled your cards or aren’t sure if the card that you’re using has been formatted for the trail camera it is in simply replace the card with another card that you know has been formatted for use with the trail camera that is giving you the “No SD Card” message.

If you don’t have a second card that was formatted for the camera you can simply try reformatting the card for the camera that you are trying to use it with. Most modern trail cameras have a menu option in the settings that will allow you to format cards that have been inserted into the camera.

Format SD card setting.

If your trail doesn’t have this feature you can reformat your memory card using a computer.

A Card with the Wrong Capacity Card Is Being Used

A lot of us think that bigger is better when it comes to a lot of things. However, that isn’t necessarily true when it comes to memory cards. Devices that use SD or microSD memory cards to store data are designed to work with certain types of memory cards. In addition to using thing cards with the correct speed and class specifications, you also want to make sure that you don’t use a memory card that has a capacity that is larger than the trail camera that you are using it with is designed for.

If you use a card that has a capacity that is larger than what the trail camera is designed for the camera won’t be able to recognize the card.

Solution:

Trail cameras will work with memory cards that have a capacity up to the maximum capacity the camera was designed to work with. In other words, if you are using a 64 GB memory card in a trail camera that was designed for 32 GB memory cards, your trail camera won’t recognize that 64GB card when it is inserted into the camera.

Most modern trail cameras are able to use memory cards that are up to 32GB in capacity with a few models being able to handle cards up to 256GB or 512GB. So if your camera is giving you the “No SD Card” message, or something similar, and you are using a card that is larger than 32GB, you should try looking at your owner’s manual to see how big of a card your camera can handle. If you don’t have the owner’s manual and can’t find that information on the manufacturer’s website I would suggest trying a different card in the camera. More specifically, I would try using a card whose storage capacity is 32GB or less. As we said before, when it comes to memory cards, bigger isn’t always better.

2. The Card Is Defective

If you have done everything correctly and the trail camera will not recognize the memory card that you inserted into it, the card may be defective. This is not a very common problem, but it can happen, so it is important to be aware of it. If you are buying quality cards, this is less likely to be an issue, but it is still possible.

Memory cards are delicate pieces of technology and can be easily damaged. Even if they are made by reputable manufacturers, SD and microSD cards can occasionally be defective right out of the packaging. So you can’t just assume that the problem is with your camera.

Sometimes for SD and microSD cards that have been used for a while, the contact pins can be become worn over time, causing the camera to not be able to connect to or be seen by the camera. Below is an example of a microSD card with contact pins that are starting to show wear and tear.

Worn contact pins on micro SD card.

Solution:

If you find yourself in this situation the easiest solution, and the one I suggest you try, is to try using a different card in your camera to see if that will solve your problem, regardless of whether you are using a new card or one that you have had for a while. This will help you determine if there is a problem with your card or something else.

If you don’t have a second card that you can put in your camera I suggest that you go out and buy one. As we discussed in our article about how often you should check your trail cameras, we always recommend that you have two memory cards for each of your cameras anyway. Having two memo cards for your cameras means that you will spend less time in the wood checking cameras creating less of a disturbance for deer or other wildlife that is in the area.

If after looking at your memory card you notice that the contact pins are looking pretty worn or dirty, but don’t have a second memory card handy or the ability to get a second card quickly you can try cleaning the pins, some people have had success using a pencil eraser to clean the pins and get the camera to recognize the memory card. However, if using the pencil eraser trick or some other hack allows your camera to connect to your memory card my advice would be to buy a new card, or cards, for your camera. The last thing you want with a trail camera is to find out that it didn’t save any pictures or videos because the memory card failed or couldn’t maintain a connection with the camera. So if the contact pins appear to be worn out I would just go and buy a new SD or microSD card since they are so much more affordable these days.

If you want a little help picking out a new memory card(s) for your trail camera you can read our article on how to choose the best SD cards for trail cameras.

3. There Is Dust or Debris in the Card Slot on the Camera

The card slot on almost every trail camera is on the bottom of the camera, which makes it harder for debris or moisture to enter. However, if you don’t keep your SD cards in a case or some other container to keep them clean when they are not in the camera they could introduce dirt and debris into the card slot. Eventually, this could prevent the camera from making a good connection to the memory card making it impossible for the camera to detect any card that is inserted into the card slot.

Solution:

If you suspect that accumulated dust or debris in your camera’s card slot is preventing your camera from “seeing” the memory card you can try to clean out the debris from the slot. Using a can of compressed air to clean out the slot is the way to go, but if you are in the middle of the woods and don’t have access to canned air you can try blowing it out with your mouth, but you need to be careful that you don’t blow any spittle into the camera.

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4. The Card Is Inserted Incorrectly

We’ve all been there – trying to hurry up and get out of the woods and end up getting the memory card inserted correctly into the trail camera on your first try. Sometimes people are afraid of applying too much pressure on memory cards and risk damaging them. Still, other times people insert the card into the slot with the contact pins facing the wrong direction.

Not having the SD or microSD card inserted correctly can be an issue, especially if you’re a new or inexperienced trail camera or SD/microSD card user.

Solution:

I get it. SD and microSD cards are fragile. So it’s understandable that you don’t want to apply too much pressure and risk damaging them. But, taking a moment to ensure that the card is inserted correctly could save you time and headaches in the future.

Unlike the SD card port on many computers where you just slide the card in until it is fully inserted (not being completely sure exactly where fully the point of being fully inserted is), it is much easier to insert and remove SD and microSD cards with a trail camera. With trail cameras, you simply insert the card until you hear and feel it click, similar to when you push on the top of a clickable ballpoint pen. I think that my first trail camera many years ago didn’t have this clicking feature, but thankfully all (or virtually all) modern trail cameras have switched over to this clickable system, which is not only more secure but leaves no doubt as to whether or not you have inserted the card far enough.

As far as which direction the contact pins should face there is no universal answer. While the end of the card with the contact pins is always the end that gets inserted into the trail camera, some cameras will have the card positioned so those pins are facing toward you and other trail cameras will have those pins facing away from you when you are inserting the card into the camera.

The good news is there will be directions telling you which way to insert your memory card in the manual that came with your trail camera as well as on the camera itself. If you look at microSD cards as well as the larger traditional sized SD cards are not perfectly shaped rectangles. The unique asymmetrical shapes of both the SD and microSD cards are the key to knowing how to orient the cards when inserting them into a camera.

SD and microSD cards

Look for an image by the card slot on your camera. The image will show you how should orient the card when you insert it into the camera. Below are some pictures showing what you could expect to find on your trail camera.

Wildgame Innovations SD card slot.

Stealth Cam SD card slot.

Meidase SD card slot.Trail camera with microSD card slot.

5. Memory Card Is Locked

On every SD card, you will see a little switch that is next to the word lock or a padlock symbol.

Locking switch on SD card.If this switch is moved down to the locked position it protects the content that is already on the card from being overwritten.

You won’t see this locking switch on microSD cards, but you will find it on microSD card adapters, which allow microSD cards to fit into and be used in the larger SD card slots.

In experiments that I have done with my own trail cameras, after inserting a locked memory card into a trail camera some models will see that the card you inserted is locked and tell you that you still need to insert a memory card into the camera. Meanwhile, other cameras will not see that the memory card is locked and won’t give you any message at all even though they won’t be able to use it to save pictures or videos.

Solution:

So if you are getting one of these messages telling you to insert a card you may want to quickly check to see if the card that is already in the camera is locked.

6. The Camera Needs a Fresh Start

Sometimes trail cameras and other electronic devices with computer components stop working correctly and simply need to be restarted to resume error-free operation.

Solution:

While this may not be the case of your problem, this could certainly be worth trying especially if you are in the middle of the woods and can’t get the camera to recognize the memory card you placed in it. So simply shut the camera off and remove the batteries. Then wait a minute or two before reinserting the batteries and turning the camera on again to see if it will recognize the card.

7. The Card Slot on the Camera Is Defective

This is another rare one, and as a matter of fact, it hasn’t happened to me, at least not at the time I am writing this, but as with all devices sometimes things wear out, break, or come defective from the manufacturer. So if you went down this entire list and still are still getting the “No SD Card” message on your trail camera, it could be your device that your trail camera needs to be repaired or replaced.

Solution:

So save your receipts and users manuals so you can reach out to the manufacturer of your trail camera and get it replaced or repaired if it is under warranty.

If the camera isn’t under warranty then things become a little trickier. If it was an expensive model I would certainly think about looking into the option of having the camera repaired and see how much it would cost. However, even if it was a very inexpensive trail camera I would still probably reach out to the manufacturer as sometimes they may have another suggestion for you on how to fix it yourself or may offer you a discount on one of their new cameras.

Final Thoughts

There are several different reasons why a trail camera would not recognize a memory card and give you a message like “No SD Card”, but the good news is that these problems are very easy to troubleshoot and in most cases, you don’t need to get too technical to fix them. So if you are getting this message just go through our list of most likely causes for this problem and your trail camera will be back out there collecting pictures and videos in no time.

I hope you found this article useful and that it helped you solve your problem.

Last update on 2022-06-13 at 12:17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API