Maximum Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1) SD Card Size – Explained

While not mentioned in the official manuals, there are some unwritten rules for getting an Ender 3 to detect an SD card correctly, and the size of the card is one of the factors that play an essential role in the matter.

In this guide, we will describe the minimum and maximum size limits that an SD card’s capacity should fall into to be compatible with an Ender 3, explain why some of the higher-capacity SD cards don’t work as expected, and take you through the SD card sizes we recommend choosing for a problem-free experience.

What Is the Maximum (and Minimum) SD Card Size for Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1)?

Technically speaking, there is no maximum or minimum SD card size specified by Creality that you should be aware of when choosing an SD card for usage with your Ender 3.

That being said, the actual situation is not as simple as picking out an SD card of any capacity and inserting it into your Ender 3, as the size of the SD card does matter for a few reasons.

If you are not interested in the explanations, consider 32 GB as the soft maximum and 256 MB as the soft minimum SD card sizes that won’t give you any trouble for usage with your Ender 3.

To start, let’s talk about the maximum SD card size, which is the part of the equation that many Ender 3 users seem to have problems with, primarily due to the printer not being able to detect the SD card successfully.

According to the information we have gathered from community reports, the common sentiment is that SD cards over 32 GB in capacity (labeled SDXC, which refers to SD Extended Capacity, and cards with capacities starting from 64 GB up to 2 TB labeled as such) are known to cause detection issues with the Ender 3.

While 32 GB may seem like some arbitrary number at first, there are actually a few plausible theories why cards over this size (which would be cards with capacities of 64 GB and over) can be more prone to creating problems.

First, FAT32 (the filesystem your Ender 3 requires) is the default format for SDHC cards (4 GB to 32 GB), meaning that these cards will almost always work out of the box with an Ender 3 without requiring any changes to the filesystem.

On the other hand, the default format for SDXC (64 GB to 2 TB) cards is exFAT (a filesystem that an Ender 3 does not support), which means that these cards will require a filesystem change before they are compatible with an Ender 3.

Second, it’s not possible to format a partition over the size of 32 GB with FAT32 on Windows by using the built-in tools, which will naturally confuse many users and cause them to use the wrong filesystem even when they attempt to make the required changes to the filesystem.

Third, even when the SD card is formatted with the correct filesystem, the fact that SDXC is based on a different specification compared to SDHC can cause the SD card reader to fail to read such cards reliably, especially considering that the Ender 3 is built with SDHC cards in mind (even though the reader is SDXC-compatible), as evident from the usage of the FAT32 filesystem.

To put these theories to the test, we have picked up a new 128 GB microSD card, which, as you can see in the picture below, comes with the SDXC label, as we have mentioned.

128gb sandisk sd card


Starting off, we checked the filesystem of the SD card, and sure enough, it came formatted with the exFAT filesystem out of the box, which would make it incompatible for usage with an Ender 3 in this state.

disk filesystem exfat


Next, we tried to format the SD card with the FAT32 filesystem on Windows, which wasn’t possible as the formatting dialog didn’t offer us the option for it.

windows format dialog


Unfortunately, the command line tools weren’t helpful either, which clearly showed us that none of the built-in Windows tools were up for this task.

diskpart format failure disk too big


Next, we created a 30 GB partition on the SD card, which allowed us to use the built-in Windows formatting tools to format the partition with FAT32 while leaving the rest of the SD card unallocated.

As we expected, this process allowed us to use the SD card on our Ender 3 (a V2 Neo, to be specific) without any problems.

30gb fat32 partition


Following this, we created another 30 GB partition on the SD card and formatted it with NTFS, a filesystem that the Ender 3 does not support.

Once again, the Ender 3 picked up the original 30 GB FAT32 partition without issues in this case.

30gb fat32 partition with 30gb ntfs


Next, we switched the places of the FAT32 partition and the NTFS partition to learn more about how the Ender 3 behaves when there are multiple partitions, and this time, the Ender 3 failed to detect the SD card.

30 gb fat32 partition with ntfs flipped sides


Following this, we removed the NTFS partition, which left unallocated space on the first sectors of the SD card, and only kept the FAT32 partition for another test.

This time, the Ender 3 successfully picked up the FAT32 partition even though it wasn’t at the start of the disk.

30gb fat32 partition with unallocated space


Afterward, we removed the 30 GB partition and formatted the entire SD card with FAT32 on Linux (there are third-party tools that allow you to do this on Windows as well) to see if the Ender 3 would detect the card this time, which was successful as well.

128gb fat32 partition


Finally, as our last test, we filled more than 32 GB of the SD card first and then copied a G-code file to see whether the Ender 3 could read more than the first 32 GB of the SD card when the entire SD card is formatted with FAT32, which it did without problems.

diskspace of filled sd card


From the information we have gathered through the tests we have mentioned above, we can say the following about using an SD card that is over 32 GB in capacity with an Ender 3:

  • The SD card won’t come with the FAT32 filesystem by default, and you will need to format it first to make it compatible with your Ender 3.
  • If you’re on Windows, you will need to either create a smaller partition (<32 GB) on the SD card or use a third-party tool to format it correctly.
  • If there are multiple partitions on the SD card, the FAT32 partition needs to be the first one. Unallocated space won’t count as a partition.

While our tests were quite limited, with only one SD card and one model of Ender 3 tested (V2 Neo), we believe that fulfilling the criteria we have listed above should solve the majority of the problems related to using SDXC cards and get an Ender 3 to detect them successfully.

With that out of the way, let’s take a glance at minimum SD card size as well, which should rarely be an issue but is still something we would like to mention in case you have an old SD card with a small capacity that you would like to put into use.

Fortunately, the math is simple in this case, as this value is determined by the minimum capacity that a FAT32 partition can have, which is roughly 33 MB.

64mb fat32 partition


So, technically speaking, you can get your Ender 3 to detect any microSD card that has a capacity of 64 MB without problems, provided that you have formatted it with the FAT32 filesystem.

That being said, while 64 MB should be more than enough for most G-code files where the model is small and not complex, it will definitely fall short for bigger and complex models that push the size of the G-code file up, or if you would like to store more than a few G-code files on the SD card.

With that in mind, while 64 MB is the technical minimum, we can consider a slightly bigger size, such as 256 MB, to be the “soft” minimum, referring to the minimum SD card size that you can use with your Ender 3 in a practical scenario, with almost all G-code files, regardless of size and complexity, fitting into it without issues.

What Size SD Card Should You Use for Your Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1)?

While it may not seem like an important decision at first, picking up an SD card with the optimal size for your Ender 3 will make your life easier by ensuring that the card works right off the bat and also save you money by preventing you from going for the unnecessarily large-capacity cards.

Our recommendation when picking up an SD card (microSD) to use with your Ender 3 is to stay in the 4 GB to 8 GB range, which is based on a few different reasons.

First, the 4 GB and the 8 GB SD cards (SDHC) come formatted with the FAT32 filesystem out of the box, which is the filesystem that your Ender 3 requires the SD card to have.

As a result, these cards are considered “plug and play” for the Ender 3, meaning they will be compatible with your printer without needing reconfiguration.

Second, considering that a standard G-code file very rarely exceeds 100 MB, a 4 GB or an 8 GB SD card provides more than enough space for tens of G-code files to be stored at once, and paying more for a higher-capacity card would practically be a waste.

That being said, as 16 GB and 32 GB cards are also SDHC, which means that they come with the FAT32 filesystem by default, our following recommendation would be to opt for these sizes if you really need the larger capacities.

Finally, the third and last reason is that the Ender 3 originally comes with an 8 GB SD card, which practically guarantees that cards with sizes up to 8 GB will always work without any problems.

While we have made a 128 GB card work during our tests (in the previous section), our general recommendation would be to stay on the safe side to avoid potential issues later on, especially considering that there are many community complaints about the matter.

Formatting an SD Card Over 32 GB in Capacity for Usage with Ender 3 (Pro & V2 & Neo & S1) on Windows

If Windows is the only operating system you have access to, and you need to use an SD card over 32 GB in capacity with your Ender 3, there are two methods you can use, which are to either create a smaller partition first or to use a third-party tool for formatting.

Smaller (<32 GB) Partition Method

The smaller partition method comes with the advantage of only requiring the built-in Disk Management tool in Windows but also the disadvantage of not being able to use the entire capacity of the card.

So, unless you need access to your SD card’s total capacity (which shouldn’t really be necessary in almost any case due to how small G-code files are), this is the method we recommend using.

To start, open the Run dialog, type compmgmt.msc into the box, and press Enter.

Run Disk Management


Next, expand the Storage section on the left pane, and click on Disk Management.

Once you have the Disk Management window open, find your SD card in the bottom pane, right-click the currently available partition, and click the Delete Volume option.

Before you confirm the deletion, ensure that you have chosen the correct disk (the SD card), as this process will irreversibly erase any data on the disk.

disk management delete volume


Next, right-click on the Unallocated space, and click the New Simple Volume option.

disk management new simple volume


Click the Next button, and input 32000 into the Simple Volume Size in MB box to create a 32 GB partition.

disk management volume size specification


Click the Next button once more, and check the Assign the following drive letter radio button.

disk management drive letter selection


Now, choose FAT32 from the File system dropdown menu, check the Perform a quick format checkbox, and leave everything else in their default state.

disk management format partition with fat32


Finally, press the Next button again, followed by Finish, and your SD card should be ready to use with your Ender 3.

Third-Party Tool Method

The third-party tool method requires the usage of a formatting tool that isn’t directly included with Windows but makes it possible to create a FAT32 partition that spans the entire capacity of the disk.

When testing this method, we used a tool called FAT32 Format, and as it seemed to do the job quickly and easily, this is the tool we will be using for this guide as well.

Please note that we are not related to this tool in any shape or form.

To start, launch the FAT32 Format tool.

fat32 format tool


Next, choose your SD card from the list of volumes.

Be very careful to choose the correct volume, as this tool will irreversibly erase any data on the volume it formats.

fat32 format tool volume selection


Finally, click the Start button and confirm the format by pressing the OK button on the pop-up.

fat32 format tool done formatting


Once the tool formats your SD card, it should be ready to use with your Ender 3.

Conclusion

Now that we have gone through how the size of the SD card can affect the way it interacts with an Ender 3, we hope that any SD card detection issues you face on your Ender 3 make more sense.

While we would recommend the usage of SDHC cards right off the bat to make things way easier, especially considering that there isn’t much of a reason to use SD cards with large capacities, getting an SDXC card to work as intended with your Ender 3 should usually be possible once you format it correctly if that’s what you currently have at hand.