Not all Memory Card Readers are Created Equal

Anyone with a digital camera has probably used a memory card reader to transfer their photos to their computer. Here’s what I learned this week: not all memory card readers are created equal.

I have a Secure Digital (SD) card reader that I use primarily for transferring files between my Treo and my Mac. I manage my storage pretty efficiently on my Treo so I only have a 256 MB card.

Recently, I purchased a 4 GB SD card for my Zoom H4 Handy Portable Recorder. Of course, it was only after I purchased it that I discovered that the H4 only supports SD cards up to 2 GB. Apparently, the SD standard only considers cards up to 2 GB. Upwards of that, SD cards use something called the “SDHC” standard (HC means “High Capacity”). SDHC supports capacities up to 32 GB.

Since the online retailer I purchased it from charges a 15% restocking fee (note to self: read the fine print), I decided to keep it and turn it into a USB flash drive using a mini card reader. I currently have the ioGear Pocket SD Card Reader (GFR202SD).

I like this reader and have never had any trouble with it. Last week, when I finally opened up my 4 GB SD card, I put it into the card reader and mounted it on my MacBook. The computer told me that I only had 1 GB of storage available.

Scratching my head in confusion, I tried inserting the card into my Treo 700p. The Treo recognized it as a 4 GB card. Was it OS X (doubtful) or was it the card reader?

I quickly Googled for an answer but didn’t turn up anything substantive.

Yesterday, I was in Radio Shack buying 100 feet of speaker wire so I could set up one of my new Christmas gifts – a home theatre surround sound system – and noticed a new, inexpensive SD card reader. As this was the only component I hadn’t troubleshooted, I decided to purchase it and give it a try.

Sure enough, my 4 GB SD card works just fine with my Mac, making the full capacity of the drive available to the OS.

So, a lesson learned: Make sure the card reader you’re planning to buy supports the SDHC standard or you could be out of luck when you upgrade to larger capacity flash memory.

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