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Photography Question 
Camilla Mecham
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/1/2006

How Long Do Memory Cards Last?

I have been using my memory card for more than two years, just erasing pics when I have them saved to disc. Do they ever wear out? How long is too long to use them?

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10/28/2006 4:58:21 PM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  I don't know about them wearing out - but they can corrupt, at any time! I was given advice to not just delete my images, but to always re-format my card. But be very sure you've saved the images first!! By re-formatting, you erase all those teeny little bits of info that are left behind, so I guess, if you just keep deleting, you're going to get a sort of build-up. If you delete, you'll be able to 'save' and recover lost images. If you re-format the card, and THEN shoot again, the original data will be gone forever.

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10/29/2006 3:01:28 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Camilla,
Your question depends on a number of factors. 1) How often is it written to? 2) What duration is it written at? 3) Operating temperature?
There are currently two types of memory "cards" for digital cameras:
1) "CF" and/or "SD" The only difference in the two are physical size, and the CF card uses a "controller" in it's circuitry.
2) Micro drives: These are essentially tiny hard drives. While they have tremendous capacity, they also have moving parts.
CF and SD cards do not have moving parts; hence the word "Flash" in CF, or flash memory. They are EEPROMS... eraseable.
A microdrive has more disadvantages compared to its high capacity advantage. 1) Mechanical shock can damage it more easily than a CF or SD ... and, the moving parts within are always being degraded when accessed.
Whew! That being said, the short answer to your question is this: CF and/or SD show a failure rate somewhere around 40,000-70,000 cycles. This is an average; again depending on operating parameters. The card will probably wear out mechanically before this will occur (i.e., the edge card pins will wear out unless you never remove it from the camera).
1)If your question stems from a safety point of view, I suggest you ALWAYS have extra cards on hand.
2) Avoid large-capacity cards (4MB and up). While it may seem a time saver NOT having to change the card as often, this is what I call the "eggs in one basket" philosophy. Let's say you shoot on a 4GB card... Lots of images of that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Then your card "crashes" or you lose it... You have nothing to take home.
Shoot several 1 MB cards - at least if one crashes, you'll have images on the others. You'll thank me for this advice someday. LOL
While considerably more durable than "microdrives", CF and SD cards are still prone to electrical, mechanical and environmental shock. Treat them nice. :)
Finally, yes!... There are quality differences between card manufacturers. Cheap brand X cards have poor circuit board construction...poor component tolerances. These will lead to premature and more frequent corruption.

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10/29/2006 6:29:33 AM

Carolyn  M. Fletcher
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/6/2001
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  I don't have a lot of experience with the cards, but my Sony memory sticks are mostly around 5 years old and I've never had a failure even after running one of them through the washer and dryer. They are quite amazing.

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10/29/2006 7:30:40 AM

W.    Flash memory (cards) are probably the safest, most stable method of digital data storage today. But expensive.

If you have a memory card from your camera that you know HAD certain images on it which you cannot find anymore, you can try some image rescue software:

It doesn't always work of course, but when it does it is heaven sent.

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10/29/2006 11:24:55 AM

Tina Brinkley
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/4/2006
  Memory cards usually have a certain number of times they can be written to. I do not know what this number is and I think it may vary depending on the brand name. If you lose data on your card, you can often recover it with software.

Microdrives are a bad deal. They often go bad without warning. They cannot be easily recovered as they have moving parts.

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10/31/2006 8:10:45 AM

Tim Marshall   Pete H's answer may confuse you if you are not quite sure about memory card sizes. In his 2nd tip, the card sizes should be listed as large capacity (4 GB and up) and to shoot several 1 GB cards. His tip mentinoned MB cards (Megabyte) which are currently in the ranges of 64, 128, 256 and 512 MBs in size. GB cards (Gigabyte) are currently 1, 2, 4, and up, and are more prevalant in the marketspace.

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10/31/2006 11:07:07 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Thanks Tim,

I must have been getting tired, transposed MB & GB. LOL

"several MB cards?" LOL That would be a lot of cards!

Camilla, I meant to say, shoot several (512Mb) cards rather than just one or two (4GB) cards.


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10/31/2006 6:38:54 PM

Camilla Mecham
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/1/2006
  Thank you for all the information. I appreciate each of you taking the time to help clarify a situation for me.

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10/31/2006 6:57:12 PM

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