Memory Cards

7 top memory card tips

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Important things to know about buying memory cards for a digital camera and then using them correctly for optimal performance.

We get a multitude of questions about digital cameras and photography at Digicamhelp. But the number one inquiry through the years has been about memory cards. Memory cards are, of course, essential for taking digital photos so when they don’t work or become corrupted it is frustrating.

To help you get the most out of your memory card, follow these essential tips.

1- Before buying a memory card

Before purchasing a memory card, make sure it’s compatible with your camera and card reader. Check the manual specifications for the maximum card capacity your camera accepts. If you buy a card that exceeds the capacity, images will not be written to the card. And if the type of card exceeds the specifications of your card reader, you’ll be unable to transfer images to your computer. Even if your camera accepts high capacity cards, you may still need a new memory card reader. For example, Secure Digital High Capacity cards are not backwards compatible with readers that only accept the standard SD format (2GB and below).

2- First things first: format the card

The very first thing to do before taking photos with a new memory card is to format it in your camera. Don’t format it via a computer as it may result in compatibility issues that cause operational problems or slower data processing. The SD Association recommends using their free SD Formatter software.

3- Dedicate your memory card

Dedicate a memory card (or cards) to your digital camera. Avoid using the card in other electronic devices, even another camera. If you must use a memory card that was previously used in another camera, format the card in the new camera before taking any shots.

4- Reformat a memory card regularly

Reformat a memory card several times a year, particularly if its performance seems sluggish. Format more often if your camera is used frequently. Erasing a card simply deletes images. Formatting recreates the file system including new directories and folders where images are saved on the card. Formatting can improve card performance. Don’t forget to transfer images to a storage device before formatting. [Erasing vs. Formatting]

5- Delete images from a memory card correctly

Use the camera controls or menu system to delete images from a memory card, or use the photo management program that came with your camera. Don’t delete the files from a memory card using Windows Explorer or similar method found in other operating systems.

6- Memory cards and image processing

To avoid corruption or lost images, never remove a memory card or turn off the camera while images are being saved to it. Don’t shut off your camera while images are being transferred to a computer.

Make sure batteries are adequately charged so there is no loss of power when taking photos or when transferring images to a computer using a USB cable. Turn off your camera completely before removing a memory card. And don’t forget to eject the card from a card reader by following the correct procedure for your operating system.

7- Destroy memory card before discarding

In the event you have to discard a memory card, destroy it first so there is no chance that personal information is recovered from the card. A couple of hard bangs with a hammer works quite well.


  • Sandy, check the settings in the software you use to download images from your camera. It typically gives a choice to download all images on the card, or download only new images. Select the latter setting.

  • When I delete pictures I don’t want the card to open up and insert pictures from another day or time. I heard there is a way to correct this can you advise.

  • Hi – Haven’t been able to find answer in your many answers! I have downloaded onto my computer images from a SD chip. By mistake I deleted the file on the computer. I reinserted the SD chip to download again and I get the message that “there are no new pictures” to download. How do I get them off the SD chip (they have not been deleted from the chip). Thanks in advance!