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Updated: Jan 26 '15
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SD and Micro SD (TransFlash) Flash Memory Card problems continue in 2014; they are as varied as are their uses in phones, cameras, audio and video players, tablets, notebook and laptop computers.
Issues include locking, lost format or files, card or drive recognition in device, adapter or card reader; upgrade to higher capacity etc. In essence, failure – often permanent
SD card problems are still very common, such as the card being recognised by the phone or device but not by a computer. This can be temporary and fixed by removal and reinsertion of the SD card, SD or MMC adapter into the same or different card reader slot or USB port, and/or reloading Windows Explorer or other file program.
Android 4 ICS and later versions phone and tablet SD cards are managed differently from previous ones, creating file saving and transfer problems. See August 2013 comments on our related R-A Blog post.
Rebooting the computer should reset the USB ports and may fix the card reading problem. See a whole range of USB powerd devices on our related page.
The write protection tab on an SD adaptor, if locked, will prevent copying files to the card (see below). There is no lock on a micro SD card.
If your phone doesn't display images or play music you have copied to the card, you may have to put them in correctly named folders for your phone to recognise. You may also have to set the storage location: phone memory or card.
If the above didn't fix your problem, or you have another SD card issue, read on, as there are quite a few for which there are solutions or workarounds.
There are three sizes of SD cards: Standard, Mini and Micro
SD stands for Secure Digital. SD cards are made by Kingston and SanDisk (most popular), but also Polaroid, Panasonic, Sony, Nokia, Fuji, Samsung and others. They are used as removable extra memory storage for mobile phones, cameras, video recorders, MP3 players, handheld computers, PDAs and GPS devices. SD cards, also known as MMC cards, are small flash drives, ranging from 128 megabytes to several gigabytes. 32GB and 64GB cards are common, for cameras especially.
The card which is supplied with the device may not be of sufficient useful capacity; it may already contain operating system files, utilities or application programs.
8GB and larger SD cards are now more common. The MicroSD card is tiny, similar to a mini SIM card for a cell phone – smaller than a paperclip. Dimensions are 11mm x 15mm x 1mm thick. There is also a MiniSD card 20mm x 21.5mm, while the standard or full size SD format is 24mm x 32mm.
While it's tempting to upgrade to a higher capacity flash memory card by spending just a few dollars or pounds, it's important to first check whether your phone or camera will recognise it and it will work properly and at full capacity. There are other issues described further down the page, with a workable solution I found for my own problem.
Valuable data and images should not be kept exclusively on an SD card; they sometimes fail. Make regular backups of card content to another form of data storage such as a hard drive. Leading brand (Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, Buffalo etc) 2.5 inch portable drives in 500 GB and higher capacities (as pictured) are available from less than $50 or £35 in the UK. Note that USB 3.0 hard drives can also be connected to computers and laptops with only USB 2.0 ports.
How to connect an SD card to a notebook or laptop computer
While an SD, MiniSD or MicroSD card fits directly into the phone or player, an MMC or SD card reader is usually needed to connect the card to a computer. Some newer devices and readers also have a microSD card slot.
Multi-format flash card readers come either as slots on the front panel of a PC or built-in on a notebook, or as small USB devices, such as in the picture,
Mini and Micro SD cards are usually supplied with a standard size card adapter. The combination seen in the picture is a MicroSD card, adapter and MMC card reader and is simply plugged into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of a computer. A 'new' USB storage device is usually 'found' automatically and appears as another hard drive; data or file transfer (read and write) should now be able to take place between the SD card and the computer. On some older Windows systems, a software driver for a particular USB device may be required.
The files on the card will be in several subdirectories or folders for audio, graphics, images, applications, tones, video etc. If you can't find the files you know are on the SD card, they may be stored in the phone memory. Change the settings. Different phones have different requirements for named folders or directories.
Direct connection between phone/camera/player and a computer can also be achieved using a USB cable or wireless link such as infra-red or Bluetooth. If you're using a computer without this built in, a USB to Bluetooth adapter or 'dongle' is available quite cheaply and useful to have. Connected this way, you will be able to see the phone or device's folders as well as the MicroSD card contents. See also Preparation for Upgrade below.
SD Write Protect Slider Tab/Switch/Format Problems
There is no switch on the Micro SD card itself, but a standard-size-SD adapter (which the MicroSD typically needs to be plugged into for use with a card reader) and SD cards such as the SanDisk 4/8GB have a sliding write-protect switch similar to a 3.5 inch floppy disk. Data cannot be written if the slider tab is in the 'lock' position. The tab could be damaged or missing altogether. This is probably the first thing to check if you have an SD card write error problem. Using sticky tape (Scotch tape etc) to cover the switch slot might solve this problem, but it may need two or more layers before it works. Some SD adapters need the tab to be placed somewhere between the lock and open positions before data can be written to the card.
Built-in or external card readers often don't recognise the SD card (or microSD in adapter) when it's inserted, or come up with an error such as "unformatted card". It's not advisable to reformat the card this way when offered. Try the format utility you can download here.
Moving or copying programs and data from the old to the new card
As well as multimedia files, you will probably need the files already on the card when you bought the phone or camera, and this is where problems can arise as conventional file copying techniques may fail for various reasons.
In the case of certain phones it is due to intentional prevention of copying copyrighted programs. For example, Nokia uses this in some phones to protect certain programs from being modified or copied. This can be of great inconvenience to genuine purchasers who want to upgrade their phones by transferring these files to another Micro SD card.
The problem could be avoided altogether if the phone had sufficient internal memory to store programs and applications that Nokia doesn't want to be copied.
Manufacturers are often reluctant to inform users about these issues and leave it to independent forums and members to find their own solutions to problems of this nature. Phone purchasers should have the right to transfer files between removable media, especially if the original supplied has insufficient capacity. This is surely one of the main features of removable media! If the method exists, it should be better explained in the manual or on support sites.
However, if normal file copying methods like Explorer, xcopy or manually changing file attributes do not work, then another means needs to be found.
It's possible to make a copy of the card contents as a 'disk image'
See below how to successfully transfer all the contents of one MicroSD or TransFlash memory card to another by using disk imaging software. This enables you to include encrypted applications and folders that give error messages like write-protected, access denied, unable to copy, disk full or write-protected. These might be utilities, applications or games installed on many phones, including those based on Nokia's own S40 3rd Edition software platform (not Symbian) which only runs Java programs, such as some of the 6xxx series and others. There may be similar copy issues with Symbian OS platform phones too.
However, file copying is not the only problem with SD cards or readers, as well as MiniSD and MicroSD card adapters which make them usable in a standard SD card reader.
Sometimes the card needs to be moved around in the adapter before it can be recognised or read on a PC or laptop. I recently found this after purchasing an LG KG200 phone, supplied with a SanDisk MicroSD 512MB card and adapter. It needed several attempts at unplugging and re-plugging the reader from the USB port, as well as removing and replacing the card from the adapter/reader before it was recognised. Fortunately I had a second set to compare results with. In the end there was no fault with any of the components!
Others have found the small write protect slider tab on the MicroSD Card Adapter is in the locked position, broken or missing. This is not the main cause of file copying problems though.
Some users find that files and folders can be copied but the phone or camera recognizes only a portion of the new SD card's total memory. Reformatting to the full capacity does not help.
Problems vary between cards, adapters, phone firmware versions and software platforms. It seems there is no single 'fix-it' for Micro SD card problems. So read on.
How to Solve SD Memory Card Upgrade Problems
While it's cheap to increase the 6300's memory by purchasing a 1, 2, 4 or more gigabyte Micro SD, it's not possible to copy everything across to a new SD card. Some games, utilities and other applications software preloaded or moved to the original card cannot be backed up or restored to a new card by the Nokia Data Suite or other normal means. This is very frustrating as it's only then you realise that this is not an unknown problem. But there are few solutions on offer, and Nokia avoids mention of them because it involves their own as well as third party developers' copyright issues they are not prepared to address directly.
Many mobile phone and digital camera owners with problems ask their questions in forums, but there are few answers to this one. Nokia doesn't like discussions about 'copyright violation' in their own or sponsored forums and will have messages with links to pages like the one you are reading now removed by administrators. However, the solution that they and others offer such as copying the files to the phone first, then to the new card, does not work for all the files.
Disk Imaging Software Program
Proprietary programs do exist to take care of file copying problems on Nokia and other mobile phones and multimedia devices. One is WinImage and it has a lot of other useful features. However for the SD card issue it can take some time to figure out how to use it correctly.
Retire-Asia.com does not condone software piracy. For the benefit of device owners with licensed programs, here's how to backup or copy the contents of one SD card to a hard drive in order to move or restore them to another SD card using a proprietary software program called WinImage – without the 'learning curve'!
Preparation for Upgrade
As there is the risk of inadvertently losing everything on the original card by 'pushing the wrong button', you should back up as much as you can using the Backup option on the Nokia DataSuite (free to download if you don't have it). Some Nokia phone models like the N82 use a proprietary-plug USB cable, while others like the 6300 have a standard 5-pin 'mini USB' port (the 6300's is under the plastic tab next to the charger and headset sockets). Otherwise, use an external USB or other hard drive in a computer or laptop.
Wireless transfer like Bluetooth (or infra-red) can be used but cable is quicker and recommended by Nokia, but the required 5-pin mini USB data cable doesn't come in the 6300 box. Luckily this type of USB cable is cheap and easy to find in PC accessory shops. If you have other USB devices like an mp3 player or GPS, you might already have a cable that will work. Nokia sells their own at a high price! The somewhat slower alternative to using a cable is Bluetooth.
Google Moto G 16GB Android phone (8GB is only $20 less) and no SD card to worry about!
USB Cables and Connectors
Note that there are several versions of USB connector and port: 4- and 5-pin mini USB and also micro-USB. Check you have the correct USB data cable for your own device by looking at the plugs and sockets. The most common standard USB cable (left) are the older 4 and 5-pin plug suitable for many devices including phones, external hard drives and cameras but the micro USB is now usual for phones and tablets.
5-pin USB cable Nokia 6300 USB 4-pin USB Micro USB plug
Procedure for Data Transfer from SD card to PC
Download and install WinImage onto your Windows XP machine. There's no need to add the optional Virtual Hard Disk utility offered, but it may be useful for some people with different requirements.
Connect the MicroSD card to your PC either by using an adaptor and built-in or USB card reader, or direct from the device using a mini USB cable (rather than wireless connection). Set the phone or camera for data storage/transfer if asked.
If you are using WinImage, select 'Disk', and check 'Use Removable disk X'. X will be the drive letter assigned to your SD card when you connect to the PC.
Next go 'New', and choose 'Import format from currently selected disk'.
Then choose where to save the image file of the card contents, by creating a new folder on your hard disk. Name the file and save it as an Image file (.IMA). Do not choose the .VHD option.
You should see the folders and files listed once this is done.
Here is a screenshot of
showing the original Nokia 6300 card contents after making the
image, and some of the files that probably cannot be
copied by Windows Explorer, xcopy or other
Go back to 'Disk' and check 'Use Disk X [X is the drive letter for the hard disk you want to use to store the backup]. Create a new folder for the card image files.
Remove the old MicroSD card from the adaptor or phone and insert the new one. There is no need to format a new card before use.
Use the 'Disk' 'Inject Folders'
option. This lets you add the files and folders you want to
transfer but leaves the rest of the card's full capacity
The 'Disk', 'Write disk' option allows you to restore the image to a new card, but will reformat the card to the same size as the original. You almost certainly want to put the files on a larger capacity SD card, so injecting as above is the correct option.
You should see all the files listed on the new card as shown above. If there were errors encountered with some files that couldn't be copied, they will be listed in a report. The couple that weren't copied don't to seem to have affected anything.
Disconnect the cable, turn the device off and on again and check the various menu options to see if everything has moved to the new card and you have access to all the features and applications you had before.
If there's a problem, you still have the old card which you can use, and also a backup of it on your hard disk.
Now you can transfer other stored music files and photos using normal file transfer or via the DataSuite to whichever folders you want. You can also give the new SD card a name.
I recommend you make a new backup of the whole card with WinImage, but also use the Backup feature of your Nokia Data Suite or equivalent phone management software.
WinImage is a very useful disk management program and it worked fine for me, but obviously is not a guaranteed solution to all transfer or recognition problems encountered with the MicroSD or other flash memory storage cards. While these cards have the advantage of being cheap and readily available in many countries, there are still issues that device manufacturers and software developers need to address.
By the way, you can also download a trial version of WinImage.
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