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Can a card reader that accepts SD and SDHC cards support SDXC cards with the appropriate software support, or is a card reader specifically designed to accept SDXC cards needed? I'm looking for an answer that applies to card readers for PCs in general.

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Given software support, any SDHC card reader is capable of reading SDXC cards.

From Secure Digital # SDXC - Wikipedia:

Compatibility with SDHC

[...] SDHC host devices will accept SDXC cards that follow Version 3.0, since the interface is identical, but the following issues may affect usability:

  • SDXC cards are pre-formatted with Microsoft's proprietary and patented exFAT file system, which the host device might not support. [...] FAT32-formatted SDXC cards can be used in a host device built for SDHC if the host device can handle 64GB and larger volumes.

  • SDHC host devices will not test the new capability bits defined for SDXC 4.0 cards. It will therefore not be able to use the new features of SDXC, such as transfer speeds above UHS104 (104MB/s).

SD/SDHC/SDXC Specifications and Compatibility confirms this:

SDXC cards will work in SDHC compatible readers (not SD readers) if the computer OS supports exFAT. For more information on exFat see: Operating Systems that support the exFAT File System

The provided link contains information on how to obtain software support for Windows and OS X. For BSD or Linux, exfat - Free exFAT file system implementation - Google Project Hosting may be used.

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Just do not format the card in non-sdxc readers. It happened to me and it renders it useless. Most of the SDXC cameras won't be able to reformat it. I don't have a clue why.

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I bought an SDHC card (32GB) for my DSLR and tried to read it in my economy SD card reader that I normally used - not an expensive model. I'm only guessing but I think the reader couldn't handle the card and it's now worthless - the SD card that is. So make sure the reader indicates that it can handle SDHC or SDXC or SDHC UHS-I before you buy it.

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That doesn't quite answer the question. SDHC requires hardware support; a reader not designed to handle SDHC won't be able to read SDHC cards regardless of software support. Don't confuse SDHC with SDXC. – bwDraco Jun 2 '14 at 17:09

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