Why you should not delete images on your memory card using your camera – and other memory card tips!

How to use your memory card correctly!

Are you using your memory card correctly? If you’re not sure check out what Jeff Cable (@jcable12) wrote in a great post about the use of a memory card. As the former director of marketing at Lexar, he knows a thing or two about the do’s and don’ts of memory cards:

As many of you know, I have been writing this blog for 8 years now, and I also spent many years of my life as Director of Marketing at Lexar dealing with the ins and outs of the memory card business. And in all that time, I have never written a blog about the do’s and don’ts of memory cards. Now that I have left Lexar and not on that side of the business any more, I feel that I can write this objective piece for you without any conflict of interest.

And if you are taking digital photos on a memory card (and you probably are), YOU WILL WANT TO READ THIS!
First, let me explain the memory card in simple terms for you.

Most people look at a memory card as a piece of plastic or metal, and they don’t think much about them. But inside those covers, there is a LOT of intelligence. There is flash memory, a controller and much more. The quality of that memory and controller often determines the speed and quality of your card.

Your memory card has something called a File Allocation Table, otherwise known as a FAT Table. Think of your memory card as a book and the FAT Table as a Table of Contents. When you format a memory card, you are not actually erasing the card, you are just clearing the FAT Table. So…you have removed the Table of Contents, but the chapters of the book still remain. Yep, all the images will remain on your card until you shoot more and overwrite them. This is why you can use a program like Lexar’s Image Rescue, SanDisk’s Rescue Pro or other data recovery software to recover images from a card even after it is formatted.
And now for the tips, which I am going to write in the order of importance:
1. DO NOT erase images from your memory card in your camera! Clarification: What I mean by this is: Do not go through your photos and delete them one by one using your camera. I see people (including professional photographers) doing this all the time and it is a REALLY bad idea. Your camera is awesome at taking photos, but it is not very smart at managing the data on your memory card. Deleting individual images from the card using your camera is a great way to scramble the FAT Table. DON’T DO IT! And heck, memory cards have gotten so inexpensive and large, that you should not have to delete images to save space. Just pop in a new card and keep shooting. Once you have downloaded to your computer, and backed up the images THEN format your card to use it again.

2. Format your memory cards in your camera, not on your computer. I have seen countless web sites which tell people to format their memory cards on your computer. This is just bad information! You want to format the cards in the camera. And you should do this on the camera your are shooting with. I am currently shooting with the Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 5D Mark III, and I format the card in the camera I am using. You are reading this correctly…I do not format in one Canon camera and move it to another. Will they work?


1 2 Next

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Safeguard your data (keeping data safe starts way before the backup) - 8 months ago Reply

[…] Once the card comes out of the camera, the only copy of your file is on that chip. It does not live anywhere else and can get messed up easily. Sometimes cards fail, readers malfunction or people unwillingly overwrite an older file, because the filenames are the same. Take you’re time, double-check and don’t erase the card until you have the data imported and backed up at least once. I’ve imported files that got messed up somewhere, there are programs and services that recover or restore files, but it’s easier not to have to deal with it. Some cameras today allow you to write data onto two cards simultaneously. Do that. Here’s a great post from my friend Jeff Cable on memory cards. […]

fflavin - 9 months ago Reply

That is how I clear & format my cards. I did have 1 card fail. After extensive file crunching my tech recovered 90 %. I have had some scary moments with card readers and would like to hear recommendations on card readers. Thank You

Sarah Anderson - 9 months ago Reply

Thank you for the critical info! Great to know that I’ve been doing it right (except the good card reader!). Thanks!

Leave a Reply: