There are few things more frustrating than having a great shoot, going to transfer your photos onto a computer, and getting this dreaded message: “the file or directory is corrupted and unreadable.”
This issue plagues photographers of every experience level and often seems to happen at random. You think you have an okay relationship with your SD card then BAM! They start a new life of corruption.
We’re sick of playing SD roulette and wanted to know if there’s anything we can do to avoid corrupted SD cards. So, we reached out to the experts at SanDisk, a leading name in all things related to digital storage from memory cards and USBs to solid-state drives. They were kind enough to give us 6 fool-proof ways to avoid corrupted SD cards.
1. Read or write to a card at least once a year.
There are plenty of warnings out there about overusing SD cards. However, you can also underuse cards (gasp).
Your chance of image corruption is significantly higher if you don’t read/write to a card at least once a year. Honestly, we would be cranky too if no one spoke to us for that long.
The solution? Avoid playing favorites and be sure to keep all of your cards in rotation.
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2. Always format your SD card in the camera.
Simply deleting photos off of your SD card doesn’t remove all the information attached to those images—it leaves metadata residue. In order to truly start fresh, you need to format your SD card (just make sure all of your photos are safely on your computer first).
This brings us to rule number two: always format your memory card in your camera. Formatting an SD card in a computer often results in data corruption or loss.
Believe it or not, the way computers process data removal often isn’t optimized to work well with even basic SanDisk Ultras. Cameras, however, are made exactly for that purpose.
3. Don’t use the same card in multiple cameras.
There’s an increased chance of corruption if you use the same chip in two different camera brands OR models. That’s right—this still applies if you transfer a chip from a Fujifilm SQ20 to a Fujifilm X-T3 (both of which, funnily enough, are masquerading as film cameras).
We know what you’re thinking; you’ve used the same card in multiple cameras without issue plenty of times. So have we! But, if you make it a habit, you’ll end up with a compromised SD, a lot of missing photos, and a headache.
So, get out the thin-tip Sharpie and start labeling, people—note on your SDs which camera they should be paired with.
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4. Always use a card reader to transfer photos.
It’s safer and faster to use a name-brand card reader to transfer your photos. When you’re rushing (or just don’t feel like getting off your couch) it’s very tempting to plug your camera directly into your computer to copy over images. However, this is another little thing you can avoid to keep your SD from a life of corruption.
5. Never use an adapter to put a microSD card in a camera’s standard SD port.*
Let’s say you have a cute little microSD—so small, so dainty. That tiny card has a writing and processing capacity relative to its size. So, it’s risky to pop it into an adapter and use it to shoot raw photos with a full-frame mirrorless (even if it’s one of SanDisk’s famed Extreme PLUS micros).
Adapting a microSD for a standard SD port stretches the limitations of the card and will result in (you guessed it) corruption and loss. Instead, look for SD cards that have the stamina to keep up with your impressive, professional camera like SanDisk’s Extreme PRO SDs.
*Except natively in phones, action cameras, and drones.
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6. Use low capacity cards when possible.
Number six could also be called “factor in your humanity.” SD cards are tiny, fragile items prone to being lost and broken. We can’t follow these six rules all the time and, even if we did, the potential for corruption still exists.
So, hedge your bets and don’t store large volumes of images on one card. Instead, spread days or weeks worth of shooting out onto multiple smaller cards. That way, you won’t lose all of your vacation photos because of one corrupted SD.
For everyone out there who loves a good skimmable summation, here’s a breakdown of how to avoid corrupted SD cards:
- Read or write to a card at least once a year.
- Always format your SD card in the camera.
- Don’t use the same card in multiple cameras.
- Always use a card reader to transfer photos.
- Never use an adapter to put a microSD card in a camera’s standard SD port (unless it’s natively in phones, action cameras, and drones).
- Use low capacity cards when possible.
In terms of general card usability and speed, we also highly recommend doing a little research on the recommended SD card for your camera. This seems like an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how many people buy the first card they see and hope for the best.
For example, the SanDisk Extreme PRO CompactFlash is a fast, high-capacity card for filmmaking. Alternatively, their Extreme PLUS microSDXC is an ideal choice for drones, phones, and action cams.
If all of this hoopla seems like a bit much for such a small part of your camera, remember this: you can spend thousands of dollars on your dream DSLR and lens arsenal. But none of that will matter if you ignore the linchpin element where the execution of your vision is stored.
Hi laura, Awesome information sharing! In my case, SD card got corrupt during shoot all wedding photographs in the SD card, then I tried a data recovery software such as Stellar Photo Recovery which help me to recover all wedding photos from my SD card.Thanks!