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Live Long Your Memory Cards

Friday, November 30th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Live Long Your Memory Cards

Memory cards are the lifeline of digital cameras, so it’s imperative to prolong their life as much as you can. Below are some things you can do to accomplish just that. Read on!

Avoid Deleting Images One at a Time

The more you reduce the number of erase cycles, the longer your memory card will live to store your pictures. In other words, it’s better to erase all of your images at one time after uploading them to your computer, instead of deleting them one at a time. Similarly, the fewer times you add or remove data to your card, the better off it will be. Deleting images from your card while the card is still in your camera can actually prolong its life quite a bit.

Safely Remove Hardware

When your camera is hooked up to your computer, make sure you use the Safely Remove Hardware option in your system tray to remove the card, card reader or camera. If you don’t do this, you could not only damage the card, but also lose the data stored on it.

Remove Images Before the Card Gets Full

Some cards can behave in peculiar ways. If you fully load the cards with images, you’ll increase the likelihood of the card malfunctioning. Therefore, it’s best to regularly remove the images from your cards and store them on your computer or burn them to a CD, rather than waiting until they are full.

Reformat Cards at Regular Intervals

Since memory cards don’t have a defragging system like you have on your computer, the best way to keep them in optimum condition is to reformat them once every few days. This will wipe out any data, images, file names, etc. on the card and it will set it up fresh for your camera. Now, how many times you need to do this depends on your usage patterns. If you use your camera frequently, you should reformat it at least once a week. If you use it infrequently, once a month should do. Ideally, it’s advisable to reformat your cards every time you download all of your images onto your computer. One more thing: formatting the card in your camera, rather than someone else’s, helps, especially if the other camera is of a different make than yours. In cases when you do reformat your cards on another camera, make sure you reformat it again on your camera after you have all of the images saved on your computer.

Power Off Before Removing the Card

For those of you who read your camera’s user manual, this tip isn’t new. But, to those who don’t, please note that it’s best to switch off your camera before removing the memory card to either replace it with another one or to use it on a card reader to download the images. Either way, it’s best to do this when the voltage fluctuation is kept at bay.

Update When Needed

Manufacturers are always fine tuning camera software and fixing several bugs along the way. Therefore, it’s important to keep tabs on those updates to keep your camera up to date with any fixes for errors or problems that are identified with a camera. Some of these can relate to the camera’s interaction with the memory card.

Keep Your Batteries in Optimum Condition

If your batteries die on you, that could result in card errors. This usually happens when an image is not fully written to a card. The best way to avoid this problem is to keep an eye on the battery power and either recharge them or change them over for a fresh set before they completely run down.

Don’t Switch Off Too Soon After the Shoot

When you’re taking pictures at a constant clip (this is particularly true when using the “burst” or “continuous shooting” mode), make sure you don’t switch off your camera too soon after the shoot, because you could lose your images and even find yourself with a system error. Cameras need time to write all of the data you’ve taken to the memory card. If you’ve taken numerous images very quickly, your camera will be buffering those images and that requires some time. Some high-end cameras continue to buffer even after they are switched off, but that’s not the case for every camera.

Store Cards Properly

This goes without saying, but some people do abuse their cards by not storing them properly. If you are not using your cards for a long period of time, it’s best to store them in a plastic casing to give that extra layer of protection. Also, make sure you keep them away from liquids and extreme temperatures. And yes, don’t drop, bend or puncture them. It’s best not to expose them to electromagnetic currents as well.

Here’s to a long and prosperous life for your memory cards!

~ Zahid H. Javali

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