Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I ordered a “new” micro SD card from Amazon Marketplace. However, it was sent in a small cheap plastic bag instead of the original package. I put it into my PC and found it to be empty but formatted.

Do SD cards normally come formatted out of the box? Does that mean it was already used? If not, is there any method to tell if it was used?

I don’t really mind as long as it works properly, but I don’t think it is OK to list something as “new” in Amazon although if it isn’t.

share|improve this question
up vote 16 down vote accepted

Did you buy it from Amazon itself or from one of their (many) “associates”? If you bought it from an associate, then it is effectively no different than buying from someone on eBay (a lot of Chinese sellers on eBay will ship the item without its packaging so that they can offer free shipping). In that case, it could be in any condition, though of course the description should be accurate. If you bought it from Amazon itself, then you may consider exchanging it.

Memory cards and flash drives do usually come formated as FAT32. That said, if you have not written to it yet, you could use a hex-editor like HxD to open the drive and examine it at a low level to see if there is any residual data on it (simply deleting or quick-formatting does not remove the actual data). Of course even then, the drive being filled with 0’s does not really disprove it’s previous use (by a user, obviously the factor will have “used” it during manufacture).

The best way to check a memory card or flash-drive for previous use is to closely examine the pins to see if there is evidence of it having been inserted. Obviously you can only do this before inserting it yourself.

(Whenever I buy something online, used or not, I have someone grab the camera and record a video of me opening the package for the first time and examining it, so that I have proof should I need it.)

share|improve this answer
The most likely case if it's an associate is that it's new but counterfeit. I'm not sure how that falls under your "I don’t really mind as long as it works properly" scale, but I would not be pleased. – smackfu Mar 12 '12 at 21:40
Unless it’s a terrific counterfeit, then it would probably be easy to tell by looking for small markings and such (fakes usually don’t bother with extra work). Whether or not it is reliable depends on whether it had free shipping or not and what the associate’s feedback ratings are. – Synetech Mar 12 '12 at 22:06
The counterfeit cards are usually modified to report more capacity than they actually have. You need a program like H2testw to make sure this is not the case. – user55325 Mar 12 '12 at 23:29
Who said anything about counterfeits? The OP was just asking if there is a way to tell if it is used or not. I didn’t realize that tin-foil hats had come back in fashion. – Synetech Mar 12 '12 at 23:34
@smackfu: this is also a good point. The micro SD card is already tiny and I don't think I can tell if it's fake without using a magnifier. But the seller is in Switzerland (they don't usually tolerate such things in Europe) and it has 100% five stars from 61 buyers. So I don't think it would sell counterfeits. I was only concerned if it could be used. Thanks for all answers BTW. – ercan Mar 13 '12 at 9:19

Don't be too concerned about the packaging. Many products sold in bulk or as OEM or as budget level forgo any fancy packaging as part of lowering the price of the product. This is especially true of electronics and computer products. It should not usually be considered relevant to whether or not a product is new (although sometimes it is an obvious sign).

share|improve this answer

I think file recovery software can help you to find out if used or not. Run the recovery software and see if any erased files exist. The manufaturer may wish to comment if you contact them directly

share|improve this answer

Most SD cards do come pre-formatted. Assuming there was a previous user, if they only did a quick format, then the file table was wiped but not that actual data, meaning that just about any forensic toolkit (e.g. Encase or FTK) will be able to tell you if there's anything there. However, if they did a full format, then there is no publicly known method for determining whether there was previously data there or not.

share|improve this answer

Though I appreciate it's not a clear answer to your question (on you can download a free file recovery utility that will show you things you wouldn't believe exist on all your drives - then, if you wanted to retrieve the data, you have to buy a license but chances are you will want to clean rather than retrieve the corruption).

For cleaning / wiping a SD card, I've been reliably led to believe the official formatting utility available for free on > Downloads (Windows and Mac only) is the best utility. You'll want to select the "long" format / overwrite option, of course.

I think common-sense suggests your gut instinct is correct, in this instance. I'm not sure what the comment about OEM packaging is referencing. I've bought many products packaged for OEM, and whilst the packaging lacks the 'frills''s still going to be packaged.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .