CF Card RAW Format Error (CF Needs Formatting or Says Not Formatted, Recover RAW files from CF Card)


This page introduces methods to recover files from cf card (raw files included) no matter the images were deleted or lost due to human misoperations or when the cf card suddenly went wrong and reported errors.

The case: Compactflash became RAW, has unknown file system, needs formatting, unreadable; how do I recover raw files from my cf card?

"I have a Lexar CF card for my digital camera, but it has RAW format error and disables me to access any file on the compact flash card. As long as I attempt to access any data, CF card tells that I need to format the card before I can use it. What should I do to fix the compactflash card not formatted RAW error? How can I get back files on a RAW Lexar CF card for digital camera?"

Resolution: It is common that CF card will report not formatted error message when its file system has changed to RAW due to improper use or virus and Windows/camera cannot recognize its damaged file system.


Part 1: Recover data from compactflash card that shows raw or not formatted when data are important

Part 2: Change cf card to a regular file system (FAT32/EXFAT) by formatting on camera/pc

Part 3: Compact flash card format utilities

Video - How to fix raw cf card not formatted error

Download iCare Pro Free

Also read: memory card raw file system format

Solution for RAW CF Card Data Recovery

When unreadable CF card has RAW format error, the first thing you must do is to stop using the card. Then, you can attach the CF card to your computer and try iCare Data Recovery software to recover files from RAW CF card or perform RAW file recovery from compact flash card.

Steps to Recover Files from Unformatted CF Card

You can easily recover data off an unformatted compact flash card with CF card recovery software tutorial below:

download data recovery software

Step1. Attach CF card to PC. Run the data recovery utility and select a recovery option.

select recovery mode

Step2.  Go to select the CF card to scan.

wait while scanning

Step3. You can preview the found files after scanning. Then, you can choose the files you need and recover them.

preview found photo

Pay attention: Do not save CF card data to the same compact flash card to avoid data overwriting.

How to Fix CF Card RAW Problem -> Format CF Card FAT32/NTFS/EXFAT

You may get your compact flash card turned to fat32, ntfs, exfat or any one that could be recognized in devices, just not the raw unformatted state. And right click formatting cf card on pc would be a fast choice.

  • Connect your compact flash card to computer via a card reader
  • Open This PC, and right click your cf card -> Format

format raw file system for memory card

Please do make sure you have already restored everything you needed from the compactflash card to somewhere else since the formatting would erase files.

Compact Flash Card Format Tools

Here are some useful cf card format utilities/software that you may use to get cf card formatted.

#1 Windows built-in format utility under Disk Management

Besides a right click format option, Windows also provides a formatting for cf card if you insert it in computer, and right click it under Disk Management to get it formatted.

How to format cf card in Windows 10/11 disk management? This route:

  • Insert cf card to computer with a card reader
  • Right click 'This PC' -> Manage -> Disk Management, and wait Windows computer to load cf card
  • Right click cf card -> Formatformat cf card in disk management
  • Set format options: you may set it to fat32/exfat per your need, or leave it as default settings, and then confirm the formattingformat cf card in disk management

#2 Free cf card format tool - IM-Magic Partition Resizer Free

This free tool can not only format cf card, but also provide cf card repairing with its 'Check Partition' option.format tool

Free CF Card Formatter


Download IM-Magic Partition Resizer Free Edition to format disk/usb/memory card totally free of charge.

Format, repair bad blocks totally free of charge.

Also read: 5 free memory card formatters

#3 Unable to Format CF Card Fix Tool - cmd

When cf card is unable to be formatted, there are many causes, such as

  • CF card has write protection (Write protection can be removed in the following steps)
  • CF card has other damages, physical damages, dying... (no tool can fix this, you need to buy a new cf card to replace it)

Here is the cmd that can help solve unable to format cf card error.

format tool for cf card when unable to format

#4 Unable to format cf card format tool - Rufus

Rufus in a Windows based utility that can help format compact flash card for free.

Rufus download url:

format with rufus

Also read -> 9 free format tools for hdd/usb/memory card; No formatting? -> Recover memory card without formatting

Quick Format vs. Full Format RAW CF Card

When CF card tunrs to RAW format, you may perform quick format on the card. Or you might full format the CF card since full format will check and repair possible bad sectors on the cf card.

Windows Was Unable to Format RAW CF Card

Well, when you attempt to format the RAW CF card to change its file system back to FAT32, you may meet another problem that Windows reports it was unable to complete the format on the CF card. Usually, when Windows reports this alert message, you may be unable to successfully format the Compact flash card from RAW to FAT32 whether by quick format or full format.

recommend==> In order to get the reasons why CF card would not be formatted by Windows and learn how to fix the problem, please refer to solution for Windows was unable to complete the format

Error Messages Related to CF Card RAW

When the file system of Compact Flash card changes to RAW, you may get some other error message related to the RAW problem. For example:

CF Card RAW - CHKDSK RAW Error on CF Card

You can run CHKDSK tool to check CF card when it has RAW format, in which situation you may receive similar message like "The type of the file system is RAW. Chkdsk is not available for RAW drives". When CF card is in RAW format when using CHKDSK command, you had better not format the card at once because formatting will erase everything on the card and mark the space as empty so that new data can be written there.

If you accidentally write new data to the CF card after reformatting, the original data might be overwritten. Once the original data has been overwritten, you will lose the chance to get it back. In the other words, as long as the data is not overwritten, you can rely on iCare Data Recovery software to retrieve any type of files from CF card even when you receive CHKDSK RAW error message.

Compact Flash Card Not Formatted Error

What does it mean compact flash card is not formatted?

The reason why you get CF card not formatted error message is that computer/camera cannot recognize the RAW file system, so it asks you to format the CF card to convert its file system RAW to FAT32/exfat/fat/ntfs which can be recognized normally by Windows/Android system.

When CF card is in RAW file system or unknown file system, you will receive such kind of unformatted error message when you want to open the cf card.

Do Compact Flash cards need to be formatted?

YES, no matter it's an old cf card or a new cf card, it needs to be formatted on camera for data storage if the camera/pc cannot recognize its storage. Formatting is an efficient way of fixing damaged cf card.

To fix the not formatted error, you can format the CF card when data has been recovered successfully. If you mistakenly formatted CF card before data recovery, you can still recover images from RAW CF card after format before the space is taken over by new files.

How do I recover permanently deleted raw files from cf card?

When raw images were deleted by mistake, they were not permanently removed until new data took their spaces. The recovery can be performed by special recovery tools.

If the images were deleted a long time ago and you kept using your cf card for storing new images, then the removed raw images might get corrupted due to data overwritting.

Related Articles

Hot Articles