Gone in a Flash

Call them flash memory, memory cards, whatever but with everyone who owns a digital camera and other devices using them they are now an important part of our lives. Often they hold the only record of important occasions. Too often they are also a source of exasperation and disappointment. So what can be done to make them more reliable?

In some ways I feel a little under-qualified to write this as I have never lost a file off one of these cards. So I don’t really know what it feels like to have try and recover that important photo.

I have one card that has survived in one of my digital cameras for two and half years. It gets used too. It is the camera I drop into my backpack when I’m going out for the day. It is also used regularly to record activity at a worksite. Here is what I do, it’s not rocket science just a little common-sense.

The card stays in the camera, at least as much as possible. I use the USB cable to download files from the camera, not a card reader. Similarly I don’t take it to a photo booth and print from it. Either I print at home or I put the photos I want on a cd and take that to the shop. I bought the largest card available at the time as using a high capacity card will reduce the chance of filling it up and needing to change it.

If it comes out of the camera it goes in its storage box. How often have you seen people pull one of these cards out of their pocket, bag etc. and then wonder why they can’t read from it? These are fragile pieces of kit and should be treated accordingly.

If it does come out of the camera it doesn’t happen in a dusty, damp or dirty environment. Dust or moisture on the contacts or worse in the camera will prevent proper use of the card. Cleaning is difficult and if its in the camera, expensive. Keep the cover closed!

All my cards are formatted regularly. While new cards will sometimes work as soon as they are put in the camera I always format in the camera before using them. Rather than just deleting photos when they are copied off I often do a full format. I have heard advice to the contrary and even been told it causes the camera problems. This is old news, it appears early digital cameras would forget their number sequence when formatted and so old photos could be overwritten (who keeps the name cameras give the images anyway?). This doesn’t happen with newer cameras.

Get those files off there. As soon as I can I transfer the images to the computer. However unless I am going to use the camera immediately I don’t delete the files from the card until I have backed them up at least in one additional place.

So that’s it, a few simple ideas that work for me. Treat your card with respect and it will reward you with long life. Do you have any other ways of keeping the card contents safe? Please share them in the comments.

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