Marlin SD Init Fail / Media Init Fail Error – Causes & Fixes

As the most common way of moving the G-code files from a computer over to a 3D printer involves the usage of SD cards as a storage medium, coming across a scenario where the 3D printer firmware is unable to recognize the SD card can definitely be an annoyance if you haven’t set up alternative ways to transfer G-code files to your printer.

In this guide, we will take a look at the factors that can prevent Marlin firmware from correctly initializing the SD card in your 3D printer with the “SD Init Fail” or “Media Init Fail” error message showing up on the screen and go through the solutions you can apply to resolve this problem in a swift manner to get things working once again.

Marlin Firmware SD Init Fail / Media Init Fail Error – Causes & Fixes

While the “SD Init Fail” (or “Media Init Fail”, depending on the firmware version and fork you’re using) error clearly tells us that the 3D printer is unable to read and initialize the SD card, finding what’s creating this error is not as straightforward with many factors at play.

media init fail error message on an ender 3 v2 neo


Incorrect SD Card Filesystem / Partition Table

Trying to insert an SD card that does not use the correct partition table and filesystem combination is the leading cause behind the occurrence of the “SD Init Fail”/”Media Init Fail” problem, as this requirement usually flies under the radar due to it not being mentioned frequently enough.

Before we move forward, it’s worth mentioning that this factor is unlikely to be what’s creating the problem with an SD card that you’ve been using for your 3D printer without issues up until now (provided that you haven’t made any modifications to it), as the filesystem or partition table of an SD card won’t randomly change on its own.

On the other hand, if the SD card you have at hand is one that you never managed to get to work with your 3D printer, regardless of whether it’s a brand-new card or a card that you have had for a while now, an incorrect SD card partition table or filesystem creating the problem is a strong possibility.

Fortunately, for Marlin firmware to correctly detect and read an SD card, it will be necessary for you to fulfill two simple conditions regarding the partition table and the filesystem of the SD card you’re using, which you can quickly fix in a few minutes.

First, the filesystem of the SD card should be FAT32 and not another filesystem such as exFAT or NTFS.

While exFAT often gets mixed up with FAT32 due to similarities in name, they are two different filesystems and are not interchangeable.

Second, you should set your SD card’s partition table to MBR (Master Boot Record) and not GPT (GUID Partition Table).

Paying close attention to this factor is particularly critical since the partition table is an attribute of the disk itself rather than the partition, which makes it easy to miss as it doesn’t come up during the formatting process, unlike the filesystem.

Correctly Formatted Ender 3 SD Card


Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that a filesystem or partition table problem seems to be specifically likely in cases where the SD card used is larger than 32 GB (SDXC), which we believe comes down to two reasons.

First, SD cards with higher capacity than 32 GB (SDXC) come pre-formatted with the exFAT filesystem, which makes them unsuitable for usage with Marlin firmware out of the box and causes them to require formatting with the FAT32 filesystem by the user first.

disk filesystem exfat


Second, disk utilities in Windows, whether the format tool, the Disk Management tool, or diskpart, do not support the formatting of a partition over 32 GB in size with the FAT32 filesystem, which can create confusion regarding how to format the SD card correctly and steer the user towards the similar-sounding exFAT filesystem instead.

windows format dialog


So, we particularly recommend double-checking whether the partition table and the filesystem are configured correctly if you recently bought an SD card over 32 GB to use with your 3D printer, as there is a good chance they aren’t due to the reasons we have outlined above.

Additionally, while our findings have shown us that using cards over 32 GB doesn’t present issues when configured correctly, we also think that it wouldn’t hurt to try an SD card with a lower capacity (8 GB is ideal) to cover all the bases if nothing else, especially if you already have access to one or seem to be running out of options for a solution.

To learn more about the process of verifying the filesystem and the partition table, and also correctly formatting your SD card to satisfy these two conditions required by Marlin firmware, makes sure to read our detailed guide regarding formatting an SD card for an Ender 3, which practically applies to any 3D printer that runs Marlin firmware.

Corrupted SD Card Filesystem

Another issue that can lead to Marlin firmware displaying the “SD Init Fail” or “Media Init Fail” error message is the filesystem of the SD card becoming corrupted, as such a scenario would render the data on the SD card unreadable by your 3D printer.

Filesystem corruption is especially likely to happen in cases where the SD card is removed from the device while reading/writing is taking place actively, such as abruptly removing the card from your computer while copying files into it or without clicking the “Eject” option first.

windows eject usb device (sd card)


That being said, as an SD card’s filesystem getting corrupted out of nowhere isn’t unheard of either, it’s a good idea not to completely rule this factor out without doing some checks first, especially considering that it won’t take a lot of your time.

To find out whether you’re dealing with filesystem corruption, all you will need to do is insert the SD card into your computer and see if you can access the volume as usual.

If you can read the files in the volume, and write to it without any problems, filesystem corruption is practically out of the question.

On the other hand, if the disk shows up on your computer, but the volume is inaccessible, with your computer asking you to format the partition before you can access it again, you likely have a filesystem corruption on your hands.

windows disk management corrupted filesystem


In this case, the quickest way to solve the problem is to format the SD card (please note that this will erase the data on the SD card) with FAT32, which should make the partition accessible yet again.

Additionally, it can also be helpful to avoid performing a quick format of the SD card in some cases, and while this process will take a whole lot longer in comparison, it could be worth a try if you’re running out of options.

Once you confirm that your computer can indeed read and write to the SD card, you can try inserting it into your 3D printer again, which should most likely clear out the issue you’ve been having.

Physically Damaged SD Card

While it’s not something that usually comes to mind, physical damage to the SD card, even when it doesn’t look like there’s anything wrong with the card when you inspect it, can also be why your 3D printer’s firmware cannot access the data.

Additionally, since physical damage can trouble an SD card regardless of whether a brand new card (manufacturing defect) or one you’ve been using for a while now, it’s a factor we can’t rule out without further investigation.

Fortunately, in most cases, the damage to the SD card is temporary, with factors such as dust and dirt obstructing the pins creating a scenario where the SD card reader can’t make the necessary physical contact to read the card’s contents.

That being said, while rare, permanent damage to an SD card isn’t exactly out of the question either, with factors such as scratches or water damage bringing the SD card to an unusable form where no device can communicate with it.

Regardless of whether the damage is temporary or permanent, the primary sign to look out for in the case of physical damage to the SD card is the card not being detected by any of your devices other than the 3D printer (better if you can try with multiple devices), as this would strongly indicate that a problem regarding the SD card is present.

As filesystem issues could sometimes make it seem like your computer is is not detecting the SD card, even though it actually is, we highly recommend using a tool such as Device Manager in Windows to see whether the SD card is present as a connected device.

In such a scenario, the best thing you can do to solve the problem is to hope for temporary damage and clean the pins of your SD card by using compressed air on them first, followed by wiping them with cotton buds lightly soaked in isopropyl alcohol, which should get rid of any dust and dirt and make it possible for the SD card to be detected again.

On the other hand, in the unfortunate scenario where the SD card is permanently damaged, your only option will be to replace the SD card with a new one.

Incompatible or Misconfigured Firmware

As Marlin firmware can be configured in many different ways to correctly accommodate various 3D printer hardware, using a fork of Marlin configured in a way that makes it incompatible with your 3D printer’s hardware is another factor that can easily result in your 3D printer not being able to initialize the SD card.

For instance, it’s necessary to define the SDSUPPORT variable in the Configuration.h file of Marlin firmware for the SD card to work as intended, as this variable not being defined will cause Marlin not to have SD card support.

marlin firmware sdsupport


Similarly, another variable related to SD card detection, this time in the Configuration_adv.h file, is SDCARD_CONNECTION, which tells Marlin whether you will insert the SD card through a slot on the mainboard (ONBOARD), a slot on the LCD panel (LCD) or a custom cable (CUSTOM_CABLE), and as a result, needs to be set correctly for Marlin to pick the card up.

marlin firmware sd card connection


Finally, one last example is SD_DETECT_STATE in Configuration_adv.h, which requires enabling with the HIGH value (as it’s set to LOW by default) if your 3D printer’s SD card reader is connected in a way that reads high instead of low when an SD card is present, as it’s the only way that Marlin can correctly know whether the SD card slot is empty or full.

marlin firmware sd detect state


So, in a scenario where you started having issues regarding your SD card directly after flashing new firmware to your 3D printer, especially if it’s a different fork of Marlin firmware than what you were using (such as one from third-party sources you switched to for BLTouch support and may not be configured for your 3D printer), it’s highly likely that the firmware being incompatible or misconfigured is the culprit.

To completely rule the firmware factor out of the equation, our primary recommendation would be to return to the firmware you’ve been using without issues, as this process will allow you to see if the firmware change was indeed the problem or if something else happened at the same time.

Malfunctioning SD Card Reader (Mainboard)

Last but not least, we definitely have to mention the SD card reader itself as a potential culprit in the occurrence of this problem, as a hardware problem regarding the SD card reader or any of the components that connects it to the mainboard will naturally lead to the firmware not being able to initialize the SD card.

So, if you are sure that your SD card is formatted correctly, tried various SD cards that other devices can read without issues, haven’t made changes to the hardware or firmware of your 3D printer recently, and practically exhausted every other option that comes to mind, the problem stemming from a malfunctioning SD card reader is highly likely.

In such a scenario, the most straightforward and reliable way of fixing things is to replace the mainboard of your 3D printer with a new one, which should come with a working SD card reader and save you from having to replace your 3D printer altogether.

While there are cheaper ways to remedy this problem, such as soldering a new SD card reader on the mainboard or connecting an external SD card reader (if the mainboard supports it), such solutions are more complex and therefore require a considerable amount of technical know-how to apply correctly, meaning that they won’t be suitable for everyone.

Conclusion

Now that you know the factors that can cause Marlin firmware to display the “SD Init Fail” or “Media Init Fail” error message, solving the problem and getting your 3D printer to read the data on your SD card once again should hopefully be a breeze!

While some cases will definitely prove to be more challenging to solve than others, such as when the problem stems from a malfunctioning mainboard that requires replacement, it’s not an unsolvable problem that will require you to replace your 3D printer entirely by any means.