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Memory Card Basics

by Retired: Senior Social Media Specialist on ‎07-19-2013 01:41 PM - edited on ‎08-24-2020 09:27 AM by (5,340 Views)

Wondering what you need in a memory card? This page helps to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.


What is the difference between various memory card formats?


Find the memory card that fits your camera and your storage needs.


SD Card.jpg



Secure Digital (SD)

The most popular format for the widest variety of cameras.





SDHC Card.jpg


Secure Digital High-Capacity (SDHC)

An extension of the SD standard that increases the storage capacity. Compatible with most cameras and camcorders available today.





microSD Card.jpg


microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC
The smallest physical memory cards on the market today. This format is most commonly used in cell phones and also in select digital cameras.








CompactFlash (CF)
The CF card is the standard for high-end D-SLR cameras. Because of D-SLRs' faster shooting capability, you should look for highspeed CF cards to ensure optimum performance.




How many pictures and videos can it hold?


This depends on a memory storage size, read/write speed rating, class and what type of digital device you are using. In the case of digital photos, the number of photos your memory card will be able to store depends on the resolution of the pictures or video you are trying to save. For instance, a memory card will be able to store twice as many 5-megapixel photos on it than it will 10-megapixel photos, because the 10-megapixel photos are double the size of the 5-megapixel images. See our charts below and check your device's manual for more information.



The more gigabytes your card has, the more photos, music, and videos it can store.


Capacity Size.jpg


Photo Speed

The higher a card's write speed (MB/sec), the more images you can capture in a burst. Read speed defines how fast your photos can transfer to a computer or other device, while Write speed is how fast your camera saves photos to a memory card. 


Video Speed

Higher classes of memory write consistently faster, resulting in better quality video recordings.


I just purchased a memory card. Why doesn't my memory card work?


You need to format any new memory cards in the electronic device before use. See the instruction manual of your device to learn how to format your card.


What should I consider before purchasing a new memory card?


Capacity and speed are the most important features to consider in a memory card. Capacity is the amount of data that can be stored and is measured in MB (megabytes) or GB (gigabytes); the larger the capacity, the more storage room is on the card. Capacity is particularly important for those with large data demands, such as videographers and photographers shooting in HD or 3D. You'll want large storage capacity so you can shoot without worrying about changing out a full card for a new one every few minutes.


Speed is important as many devices require faster transfer speeds to perform a task. If you use a lower speed memory card for a camera that requires a higher speed card, the data of the digital image will write at a slower rate, thus increasing the time needed to take the photo. Most flash memory cards use the X rating for speed.


How safe is the data stored on memory cards?


Due to its compact size, durable housing, shockproof capability and no moving parts, memory cards have advantages over using CDs and DVDs for storage. Memory cards are less fragile and are less prone to movement damage than CDs or DVDs.


Why does my memory card show less capacity than listed?


There are two main reasons why the listed capacity of a card may show up differently on your computer. If a 512MB memory card is only showing 485MB worth of capacity, it is probably due to small discrepancies in algorithms and file formats by various operating systems. Also, a portion of memory space is reserved for system files and data sectors for better memory card performance.


Another reason a card may show less capacity on the device is due to capacity loss. When manufactured, some devices and card readers were not made to support higher capacity memory cards. A 2GB or higher capacity SD card may show a memory capacity of 1 GB or less. Be sure to check information on the device manufacturer to confirm the correct supported format and capacity.


Can I retrieve lost data from my memory card?


There are hard disk repair programs that may recover data from the corrupted card. There are also third party programs and data recovery services. But if the memory card is not recognized on a device, data may not be recoverable.


My card is no longer recognized by my digital camera/memory card reader.


A card may become defective over time. Verify that the card is inserted correctly into the device, then attempt to reformat the card on the device or on a computer. If this doesn't solve the problem, contact the memory card manufacturer.


Why are some of my files missing or corrupted on my memory card?


After uploading digital photos onto your computer, you may notice that some of them are corrupted or missing. The memory card could be defective or a few of the sectors on the card could have been corrupted by sudden power loss. First, try to format the card on its original device or on a computer. If this doesn't solve the problem, run hard disk maintenance (such as Scandisk) on your digital media card. If there is still a problem, contact the memory card's manufacturer.


How should I handle my memory card?


Since flash memory is sensitive to power loss, it is suggested that you remove the memory card from devices while the data is being processed and when your device gets low on battery power. Sudden power loss may result in memory card data loss. And always power off the device the memory card is in before removing the card. Also avoid touching the metal connectors on the card, to reduce electrostatic discharge.