Image available for licensing here.
It has happened to me before. And it probably happened to you before as well. The horror of getting a “memory card corrupted” error on your camera or when you connect an SD card to your computer is literally heart-stopping. The irony is that with the continual advancements in technology, not only do we get generous improvements in storage capacities in SD cards, we also get exponentially higher levels of disaster damage. Several years ago, you might only lose a day’s worth of pictures with a 2GB card. But today (2017), you stand to lose your entire vacation or an entire paid shoot with SD cards reaching 512GB.
So what are the ways to avoid this? I have compiled a list of tips that I collected from various sources including memory card manufacturers and professional photographers. I tried some of these myself, and can testify that I have seen my frequency of memory card corruption drop significantly. Here they are, arranged in order of importance and ease-of-implementation.
(I don’t use compact flash or XQD storage, so cannot vouch for how effective these tips are for those formats.)
Tip #1: Don’t take out the card from the camera
Damage can be inflicted on the connecting pins when you remove and insert SD cards. You also do not know what is the quality of the card readers you are using. So just leave them in your camera and copy images to your computer by using a USB cable.
Tip #2: Prefer full format instead of using delete
A card’s filesystem can be corrupted when you delete files. So control the number of times you preview and delete images on the camera. Use your camera’s “format memory card” function to reset the card’s filesystem whenever you need to clear a card.
I can verify that just practicing tips #1 and #2 has reduced my frequency of SD card failure to zero!
Tip #3: You usually get what you pay for
There are cheap SD cards and there are expensive SD cards. The most expensive cards may not necessarily be good. But the cheapest SD cards definitely carry a fair share of risk. I’m not saying you should always buy the most expensive cards, but it pays to exercise prudence as long as you are satisfied you are not over-paying and getting ripped-off. If paying a few more dollars gives you peace of mind – and it is usually justifiable – just do it.
Tip #4: Expire or “demote” old memory cards
All storage media have a mean-time-to-failure. Magnetic hard disks are never guaranteed to run forever and neither is solid-state storage media. It is advisable to relegate those SD cards that you have used for a few years as back-up and put newer SD cards to front-line active use. The capacity, speed and demand for storage are always increasing, so this is an easy tip to fulfill. Naturally, you will be buying new SD cards every couple of years. Just slot the new cards into your camera and keep the older cards in your bag as backups.
And that’s a wrap. As I mentioned before, my frequency of getting corrupted SD cards plummeted to zero after I started to practice these tips. Start following these tips and keep your photography fun instead of worrying about corrupted memory cards. Have fun! – WY