SD & microSD memory card problems continue in 2014

This updated post (first published five years ago)  is not about retirement or Asia. However, mobile devices like cell phone, smartphone, tablet, notebook, netbook, computer, digital camera, pda or mp3 player are used daily by people of all ages, in all walks of life, all over the world. Most of these devices have removable extra storage ‘flash’ memory – a fingertip size card (micro SD) inside the device, accessible through an external slot or small flap on the casing. In some phones, battery removal is necessary for access.

Pointing the finger at microSD manufacturersMemory storage prices continue to drop and there are many brands on the market from leading manufacturers like Kingston and SanDisk whose 64 GB micro SD now sells for under $50. China also supplies cheaper products which can be less reliable. There is always a risk of loss of valuable data and photographs, not always retrievable, whether the genuine or cheap copy card fails or the camera or other device itself is lost or even stolen!

Therefore, the best ‘solution’ is to MAKE REGULAR BACKUPS of your SD card contents to another drive or data storage service. Leading brand names like Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Buffalo etc make small, portable external hard drives in 500 GB and higher capacities from around $50 or £35 in the UK. Note that today’s USB 3.0 drives can also be used in older computers and laptops with USB 2.0 ports. These external drives are ideal for any computer with the hard drive filling up. Changing the internal drive and reinstalling the operating system, software and data can be a nightmare. There’s also the security aspect; drives can be stored off the premises or anywhere.

But back to the post topic of SD card problems that may have already begun. Most users are not concerned with their removable extra memory as it functions as part of the system, without needing any special setting; they may not even be aware of the card or its features. But problems can arise when the card is nearly full and files need deleting, transferring to other storage, or replacing the current SD card with a higher capacity one.

More importantly, in many cases the SD card just quits or locks up for no apparent reason. It’s now already too late for backup. Perhaps read the paragraph above again? Prevention is better than cure.

Having had SD issues myself, I created a Micro SD page on the R-A website several years ago. Since then it has been consistently one of the most popular, receiving hundreds of hits every day – approaching 220,000 by the end of 2013. There’s no doubt that many have problems and card failures; there are numerous forums where people post, including phone and card manufacturer support sites. Quite a few of these refer back to my SD pages and posts too!

Common issues:  file access from phones with locked or encrypted SD cards, files lost

sandisk2g1.  If a microSD cannot be recognised by a computer (read, write, format etc), it may not be the card itself but a microSD to SD adapter typically needed for it to fit in a standard size card reader slot. The adapter usually comes with it. This is the first thing to check for a fault. Try using a different adapter (Kingston seem to have faulty ones); if you don’t have one, borrow one or get a USB card reader with Micro SD slot for about $4 or just over UK £2.

2.  Nokia phones with locked microSD cards that need a password for access (happens suddenly without user intervention). Retrieving or removing the password depends upon the model. Some Nokias have an “MMC store” folder; copy this to a computer and open with Notepad to find the password. Reformatting the card (losing all content) allows a new password e.g. 1234 to be set if needed.

3.  BlackBerry card encryption (.rem) problems were originally addressed in February 2013. A summary of comments and replies was posted on May 13. See all comments below.

4.  Android phones and tablets card data loss/files unable to be read. New 2013 software for data recovery from Android devices including messages, contacts, photos and videos. Download Android Data Recovery (free trial – Windows).

5.  Android 4 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) phone and tablet SD cards are managed differently from previous versions, creating file transfer problems. See August comments below.

How to copy/move files between SD cards or transfer to and from a computer

There are different options for working with files. One is with the USB cable supplied with the phone and used in conjunction with a software program also supplied by the manufacturer. e.g. Nokia Data Suite. Another is Bluetooth – a wireless link between the two, as also is WiFi. If you have a built in or USB card reader, removing the microSD card from the phone and connecting it directly to a computer is easiest, but it doesn’t always work.

Some card readers now accept a micro SD card directly (see above); previously it needed a micro to standard size SD adapter often but not always supplied with a micro SD purchased separately and often the cause of problems, one of which is the write protect switch on the adapter – the micro SD itself does NOT have a switch.

Whichever way you connect the card to a computer,  a file manager such as Windows Explorer should see an extra external hard drive . The drive letter (G in the image) depends on how many drives are already in the computer, including the CD or DVD drive.

Tsd-exphe card’s folders and files (not always all of them) will be visible too and can be copied or moved by dragging and dropping them to a folder on another hard drive or perhaps burning a CD for archiving purposes.

Sometimes they are hidden or copyright-protected by the manufacturer and other means are needed to move or copy them. See our main MicroSD page for how to copy all SD card content to another location.

Due to the sheer scope of this topic, and the different problems that users experience, the web page  is long and rambling – even more so than this post, especially for someone looking for a ‘quick fix’ which may simply not be available for a particular issue.

I have done my best both here and on the more comprehensive R-A Micro SD web page to offer solutions, workarounds and utility programs I have found by searching forums for users with card problems. SD and microSD cards have issues that have never been fully addressed by card, phone or camera manufacturers or operating system providers.

If you have a problem, you need to read all the information, and/or download and run certain programs to read and manage your card. However, chances are high that your data and card format are already lost. You will need a replacement card.

Most importantly, begin BACKING UP YOUR CARD DATA REGULARLY as soon as you acquire a device that contains or has the option of adding an SD card. Don’t wait for the problem to start!

If you don’t see your problem listed here, look below in comments from others and my replies. If you cannot fix it yourself, be prepared to replace the card (under warranty if possible); you could also try visiting a phone shop or service centre. Good luck!

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Updated Feb 17, 2014.

MicroSD page at Retire-Asia.com

252 Comments

252 Comments

  1. If you have no success after trying all the suggested tools and utilities, you have probably lost your files and need to replace the SD card.

  2. If you have tried all the tools suggested, then you probably need a new card.