It happens just about once per month. I get an e-mail from someone who has managed to crash their flash card. This can run anywhere from, “It was no big deal.” since they were just testing a new camera to, “Oh my God my Africa trip is gone!”

But in every case I have heard of so far, the problems were avoidable.

1) Always FORMAT your card after you have downloaded the images from it rather than erasing the images one-by-one or taking them en’ masse to the trash. This cleans up the file system and greatly reduces your chance of a crash.
2) Don’t share cards with friends, or put them into other people’s cameras or computers. This can cause a crash since the other camera or computer may attempt to write a system, desktop or file of unknown format to the card.
3) Stay away from the super-duper, neato ULTRA fast and large cards until they have been on the market for six moths to a year. 90% of the problems come from these cards. They use gimmicks or acceleration routines that may or may not work in your camera but that can cause instability. They are also really expensive so that’s plenty of reason to avoid them anyway.
4) The very large (and expensive) cards, are prone to far more File Allocation Table (FAT)-like errors. For ultimate safety, stick with smaller cards until later this year, when the really big cards will be down in price and up in reliability.

I think you’re better off buying four cards that carry “X” amount of data than one great big card that carries the same amount. You will get more reliable results and you won’t have all your eggs in one basket. Remember, if you lose a 16-gig card, you lose all 16 gigs worth of data. If you have four individual four-gig cards and lose one, you still have three/fourths of your data.

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This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 32 Comments

  1. Very good advice. I would also add a reminder to write the date of purchase on the back of the card, and not keep them more than x amount of time. For me, x = 1 year.

  2. Very good advice. I would also add a reminder to write the date of purchase on the back of the card, and not keep them more than x amount of time. For me, x = 1 year.

  3. What about the different brands and speed ratings. Does it make a lot of difference what company manufactures the card? Do I get a much better product from SanDisk or Kensington than brand X? Do you really get a benefit from a faster card?

  4. What about the different brands and speed ratings. Does it make a lot of difference what company manufactures the card? Do I get a much better product from SanDisk or Kensington than brand X? Do you really get a benefit from a faster card?

  5. Alex we’ll answer that question in another discussion – it’s not really on topic here. Please keep your questions and comments relevant to the specific post. If you have questions not relevant to the post – please send in e-mail or post on our Flickr Forum.

    Thanks.

  6. Alex we’ll answer that question in another discussion – it’s not really on topic here. Please keep your questions and comments relevant to the specific post. If you have questions not relevant to the post – please send in e-mail or post on our Flickr Forum.

    Thanks.

  7. If you format as Scott suggest you should not worry too much about the age of the CF card. The format process will weed out the failing bits that happen over time. You will notice a reduction in the storage space thought. Formating is very important. I do it every time I unload my CF card.

  8. If you format as Scott suggest you should not worry too much about the age of the CF card. The format process will weed out the failing bits that happen over time. You will notice a reduction in the storage space thought. Formating is very important. I do it every time I unload my CF card.

  9. I think you mentioned this on an early TWIP episode. It paid dividends for my friend who sunk a chip in the fish well of his bass boat. Zip right out of the shirt pocket.

    He thanked me and my/your advice that it wasn’t his whole trip on a big card. But he also points out that if it was a big card it would still be in his camera!

    Has a pont.

  10. I think you mentioned this on an early TWIP episode. It paid dividends for my friend who sunk a chip in the fish well of his bass boat. Zip right out of the shirt pocket.

    He thanked me and my/your advice that it wasn’t his whole trip on a big card. But he also points out that if it was a big card it would still be in his camera!

    Has a pont.

  11. It is generally not a problem using a card that was used in another camera as long as you format it in the new camera first. But don’t use a friend’s card “just for a shot or two” so they can have a copy. Give them a copy later.

  12. It is generally not a problem using a card that was used in another camera as long as you format it in the new camera first. But don’t use a friend’s card “just for a shot or two” so they can have a copy. Give them a copy later.

  13. Also, format the card in the camera, not in the computer. And if you use one card between multiple cameras, format each time you switch.

  14. Also, format the card in the camera, not in the computer. And if you use one card between multiple cameras, format each time you switch.

  15. Excellent advice – and certainly infinitely valuable for n00bs.

    BTW. Also, format the card in the camera, not in the computer. ~ Sean Galbraith is an excellent point.

  16. Excellent advice – and certainly infinitely valuable for n00bs.

    BTW. Also, format the card in the camera, not in the computer. ~ Sean Galbraith is an excellent point.

  17. Just to clarify, is 4GB one of the “safer” ones at the moment? I know the gauge gets bigger every year, but what do you consider a “super-duper, neato ULTRA fast and large card” currently?

  18. Just to clarify, is 4GB one of the “safer” ones at the moment? I know the gauge gets bigger every year, but what do you consider a “super-duper, neato ULTRA fast and large card” currently?

  19. is there a certain brand that you prefer over another? i have used lexar cards with my canon bodies in the past and ran into some problems, but now i only use sandisk card religiously, no larger than 4 gigs and haven’t had a problem yet….. is there any other brands of cards you can recommend?

  20. is there a certain brand that you prefer over another? i have used lexar cards with my canon bodies in the past and ran into some problems, but now i only use sandisk card religiously, no larger than 4 gigs and haven’t had a problem yet….. is there any other brands of cards you can recommend?

  21. Brady I don’t want this to turn into a product review. Most major brands are fine. I’ll ask that we table the discussion of brands for another day – we’re working on a post that will be more on point. I personally don’t make the generic suggestion of one brand over another because it’s going to depend on many factors. All that said I’ll quickly mention that Nikon shooters do better with Lexar because there are special features that Nikon cameras can take advantage of. I use pretty much everything else and have good luck with SanDisk.

  22. Brady I don’t want this to turn into a product review. Most major brands are fine. I’ll ask that we table the discussion of brands for another day – we’re working on a post that will be more on point. I personally don’t make the generic suggestion of one brand over another because it’s going to depend on many factors. All that said I’ll quickly mention that Nikon shooters do better with Lexar because there are special features that Nikon cameras can take advantage of. I use pretty much everything else and have good luck with SanDisk.

  23. Since cards are getting cheaper just simply buy more. I use two “sets” of cards, one set for daily use and goofing around and another set of cards for jobs or production work. I do this so those production cards don’t get used as much as the other set. I am not shooting every day so it works great for me. Also Sandisk is offering rebates on cards so getum while their hot.

  24. Since cards are getting cheaper just simply buy more. I use two “sets” of cards, one set for daily use and goofing around and another set of cards for jobs or production work. I do this so those production cards don’t get used as much as the other set. I am not shooting every day so it works great for me. Also Sandisk is offering rebates on cards so getum while their hot.

  25. 1. Never buy used.

    2. Don’t use bargain brands for important shoots.

    2. Test the cards with the manufacturer supplied software from Sandisk and Lexar, etc.

    3. If you get corruption, make a disc image. Use disk utility on Mac or something else on Windows. That way you can recover from the image and sometimes it takes two or more recovery tools to recover as much data as can be recovered. And you have a backup if you have to send the card to a recovery house.

    4. If a card ever gives you *any* trouble, toss it. It’s a time bomb waiting to fail again.

  26. 1. Never buy used.

    2. Don’t use bargain brands for important shoots.

    2. Test the cards with the manufacturer supplied software from Sandisk and Lexar, etc.

    3. If you get corruption, make a disc image. Use disk utility on Mac or something else on Windows. That way you can recover from the image and sometimes it takes two or more recovery tools to recover as much data as can be recovered. And you have a backup if you have to send the card to a recovery house.

    4. If a card ever gives you *any* trouble, toss it. It’s a time bomb waiting to fail again.

  27. [...] This Week In Photography has a post on Taking Care of Compact Flash and Secure Data Cards [...]

  28. [...] This Week In Photography has a post on Taking Care of Compact Flash and Secure Data Cards [...]

  29. I carry all my cards in containers (4 each) made by GEPE (remember the guys who made the plastic slide frames) A German product that is almost indestructible and waterproof. I download my cards into a portable Epson P-2000 several time before the card is full. So when I get home I have all data on the cards and two or three times on the Epson. And all this can be carried in your pocket through all airports. Hope this helps.

  30. I carry all my cards in containers (4 each) made by GEPE (remember the guys who made the plastic slide frames) A German product that is almost indestructible and waterproof. I download my cards into a portable Epson P-2000 several time before the card is full. So when I get home I have all data on the cards and two or three times on the Epson. And all this can be carried in your pocket through all airports. Hope this helps.

  31. Also, when doing bursts or even regular shots make sure the camera is done doing it’s thing before turning it off. I corrupted 1 file that way (not a big deal) but it lead to other problems with the card that day and getting the photos off the card. Then through a bad set of events I lost 430 shots.

  32. Also, when doing bursts or even regular shots make sure the camera is done doing it’s thing before turning it off. I corrupted 1 file that way (not a big deal) but it lead to other problems with the card that day and getting the photos off the card. Then through a bad set of events I lost 430 shots.

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