Memory Cards

Memory card readers

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Using a memory card reader has several advantages over using a camera cable to transfer images to a computer.

Memory card readerA memory card reader is used to transfer images from a memory card to your computer. It can be a stand-alone reader that connects to the USB port on a computer or one built-in to a computer, laptop, netbook or tablet. Even some printers and computer monitors have a built-in reader.

Upon inserting a memory card into its slot, images are transferred from devices such as digital cameras, video camcorders and MP3 players.

Depending on your operating system, you may have to install a driver for the card. For some operating systems, no driver installation is required. If a driver is required, install it from the CD that came with the card reader. Drivers also can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.

Stand-alone memory card readers come in two styles:

  • those for a single type of memory card – some are quite small and require no cables, making them very portable
  • multi-card readers with two or more slots that accept different types of cards

When purchasing a card reader designed for the USB 2 or the newer USB 3 ports, make sure it is backwards compatible to the USB port on your computer. When using high-speed memory cards, there is a noticeable speed difference between USB 2 and 3. However, when using slower cards there will only be a slight speed advantage using a USB 3 unit.

Advantages of using memory card readers

The main advantage of using a memory card reader, rather than the camera cable, is that you will not put additional drain on the camera batteries. Using a card reader can also reduce wear and tear on the hinges and the terminals within the cameras memory card compartment.

In addition, some card readers transfer images to a computer faster than transferring from a digital camera.

Use a memory card reader correctly

Always check that you are inserting the memory card correctly. You shouldn’t have to use force to get a card into a reader. If a card is inserted backwards or upside down, it can cause damage to a camera, card reader or the card itself. If using a Secure Digital card, make sure it’s unlocked.

Never remove a memory card, or disconnect the reader or camera cable, while images are being transferred to your computer or other storage device. Besides possibly losing images, you may also corrupt the card.

Note: if your camera uses xD picture cards, make sure a memory card reader matches the type (eg. Type M, Type H).


  • Maria, your notebook may take an Express card, such as the SanDisk Multi Card card adapter. But check your manual for the model it takes because there are two types of ExpressCards, numbered 34 and 54. If your slot is an older PC Card adapter, the types of memory cards it takes will be limited, so you’d be better off getting an external usb multi-card reader. Transcend makes a 9 in 1 card reader that’s relatively small and lightweight. But a larger one that stands upright may be easier to use at a party such as the SanDisk ImageMate 12-in-1. There are plenty of card readers to choose from. For reliability, stick with name brands such as Kingston, Lexar, Sandisk and Transcend and check the user ratings. Have fun at your party.

  • Hi I am arranging a party and would like to be able to transfer from various digital cameras from my guests cameras and mobile phones to a laptop which I’m planning to take on the night. I’ve found that I need to purchase a multi card adaptor but am confused as to which one to get to be able to transfer my guests photos to my laptop. Can you help thanks

  • Gail – thanks for the link, I need to get a new reader to access the sdhd card – Tesco on line do a cheap one for £4.99 which should do the job.

  • Keith, you didn’t mention the model of your camera model but, from what you write, my guess is that it only takes memory cards 2GB and under. A 4Gig card is a Secure Digital High Capacity Card and will not work with cameras or card readers that do not accept larger capacity cards. Here’s more information about SDHC. Check your camera manual specifications for a listing of compatible memory cards.

  • I bought a new sony hc 4gb card for my Lumix camera.  i can review photos ok on camera but when i try and download via my ‘flash gear’ card reader it freezes my computor and won’t let me access the card reader.  The reader works fine with my old  2gb card.  i have the same problems when i take pictures with the card in a different camera.  is the card duff or is it an incompatiblity problem with the reader?

  • Barb, if you haven’t, you should install the ZoomBrowser (PC) or ImageBrowser (Mac) software from the CD that came with your Canon digital camera. The program should automatically launch when you insert a memory card into a card reader. Check the manual or help files to set the software to download the images and leave copies on the memory card, or download and remove copies from the card. Use the Acquire & Camera Settings buttons (under the Task window) to get images from your card if it doesn’t launch automatically.

  • I have a memory card reader for my computer and I’m still learning how to download pictures from the digital cameras memory card!  Someone told me to start by clicking on “Start, then computer, insert your memory card, click on DCIM, then 101 Canon and all the pictures on my card would then be on the computer.  I would then put them in a folder and then into my pictures.  But when I put my memory card back into my camera, all the images were erased.  Now when I do it, there is no more 101 Canon, it’s 100 Canon, the pictures don’t come on the computer, just the number.  If I click on the number, the picture will come up, but it also still erases from the memory card.  I am so confused!  I don’t want them erasing from the memory card, I want to be able to do that myself.  Can you help me?  Thank you so much.

  • cherry, make sure the small write-protection switch on the left side near the top of the SDHC card is not enabled. Sometimes a card gets locked when inserting it into the camera or card reader. Gently slide the write-protection switch down to unlock it.

  • i have a problem on uploading my photos from sdhc card to my laptop..before, i can upload photos, its automatically transferred once i inserted it..why now  my laptop can no longer read the sdhc memory card?i dont know if i press something in my laptop.whats the problem?can anyone help me about this?thank you