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Memory Card Reader Basics

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Using Memory Card Readers

Seems like everyone is using memory card readers. If you want to find out what the fuss is all about, read on.

First off, most of these work in pretty much the same way. You plug it into your computer, Windows XP / ME automatically installs it (win 98 usually needs drivers), and you’re ready to start reading your memory cards.

Once you have the reader plugged into your computer, you’ll need to take the card out of your camera. Since there are about as many ways to pop out cards as there are cameras, you’ll need to consult your owners manual for this part.

Note that whatever you do – DO NOT remove the card while the camera is on and especially when the camera is writing to it (like after you’ve taken a photo). Not only will this cause you to lose data on the card, but it will occasionally render a card useless.

Now, pop the card into your memory card reader. Most card readers support “hot swapping” – meaning you can plug in and pull out your memory card while the unit is plugged into the computer. Again, if you’re unsure, check with the documentation that came with the reader (yes, the one we’re featuring today is hot-swappable).

OK, if you don’t already have a folder on your computer where you keep images, now’s probably a good time to make one. Personally, I have a main “photos” folder, with a bunch of sub-folders for various topics inside. That way, I can keep all the “family” photos separate from all my “lighthouse” photos, etc.

Once you have a folder for pictures, it’s time to actually transfer your photos from the memory card to it.

When you plugged your card in, Windows may have automatically opened it (or given you an option to). If not, don’t worry. Card readers show up as “removable drives” under My Computer. Oh, and yes, you guessed it – they also work just like disk drives.

Note that if your reader can read several different types of cards (always a plus), you may see several removable drives. You’ll have to jump from drive to drive until you find the one your card is in (you’ll get a “Please insert a disk” error on the rest). Once you discover the removable drive you’re using, write it down and you won’t have to hunt around again.

That’s the background info. To transfer images, you just open up this removable drive (again, if it didn’t open automatically), and you’ll find all the picts from your memory card. Then just drag and drop (or copy and paste) the images to your Photos folder. No software required, no messing with your camera, and no trying to find lost cables. Just drag and drop – it’s really that easy. (See why I love these things?)

Oh, you can also “play” with the images on the reader if you like before you transfer. You know, delete the bad ones off, turn on thumbnail view, open ’em up, even edit them in your favorite imaging software. That said, I usually just get them to the hard drive first and then play – the HD is much faster than any memory card :-)

A word of warning though – DO NOT yank your card out of the reader while it’s working (i.e. transferring photos to your computer). At best, you’ll mess up a photo or two – at worst you can damage the card. Wait till it’s done, then pull the card.

Once you’ve copied the photos to your hard drive, you may be able to delete them off the card right from your computer.

However, before you do, check the owners manual of your digital camera – some manufacturers recommend only deleting the images via the camera. Personally, I’ve never had a problem with deleting them from the computer, but I haven’t used every camera out there either. So, it’s probably best to double-check before you do.

If you can delete the from card in your computer (and that’s a strong possibility) it makes it just that much easier to deal with your images.

That’s it – everything you need to know for using a memory card reader :-)

~ Steve

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