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I purchased a 64 GB SD card from eBay. It works fine when I burn an Arch Linux ARM image to it and use it to boot up my Raspberry Pi.

However, when I try to create a single ext4 partition on it to use all capacity of the card, errors occur. mkfs.ext4 always finishes happily; however, the partition cannot be mounted, always throwing an error and dmesg shows kernel messages includes Cannot find journal. This has proved to be the case on at least two platforms: Arch Linux ARM and Ubuntu 13.04.

On the other hand, I can create and mount a FAT32 partition without error (a full capacity check has not been done).

I heard that some bad guys can change the SD card interface to report a wrong capacity to the OS (i.e. the card is really only 2 GB but it reports itself as a 64 GB) in order to sell the card at a better price.

I know that tools like badblocks exist for me to check the SD card for bad blocks. Can badblocks detect problems like this? If not, what other solutions exist for me to test the card?

I'd ideally like to know whether I was cheated or not; if the result shows I just received a bad item, I can return to the seller only, rather report to eBay that somebody tried to cheat me.


operations and messages:

~$ sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/sde1
mke2fs 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
Filesystem label=
OS type: Linux
Block size=4096 (log=2)
Fragment size=4096 (log=2)
Stride=0 blocks, Stripe width=0 blocks
4096000 inodes, 16383996 blocks
819199 blocks (5.00%) reserved for the super user
First data block=0
Maximum filesystem blocks=4294967296
500 block groups
32768 blocks per group, 32768 fragments per group
8192 inodes per group
Superblock backups stored on blocks: 
    32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208, 
4096000, 7962624, 11239424

Allocating group tables: done                            
Writing inode tables: done                            
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done   

~$ dmesg | tail
~$ sudo mount /dev/sde1 /mnt
mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on /dev/sde1,
   missing codepage or helper program, or other error
   In some cases useful info is found in syslog - try
   dmesg | tail  or so

~$ dmesg | tail
[ 4199.749118]...
[ 4460.857603] JBD2: no valid journal superblock found
[ 4460.857618] EXT4-fs (sde1): error loading journal


I have run badblocks /dev/sde but it reports no error. That means the remain causes are:

  • The SD car is good but for some reason mke2fs or mount or the kernel have a bug that causes the problem.

  • I was cheated in a way that badblocks that cannot detect the defeat. This is plausible because I think badblocks is just doing some in-place write-read test. However, the cheater can make the access to outbound areas link back to some inbound block. In this case a in-place write-read check is not able to detect the problem.

If there is no application can do the proper test, I think I can try to write a simple C program to test it.

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Have you tried it in a SDXC USB card reader? –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 22 '13 at 4:14
Also, do any messages appear in the system log at the same time as the errors? –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 22 '13 at 4:14
I tried both with the native Raspberry Pi card reader, and an external card reader for my Ubuntu desktop as well. I have said that dmesg shows kernel messages and I am sure it is appear at the same time as the errors because I did that before and after and compared them. I have not check syslog because I believe dmesg will show the messages. –  Earth Engine May 22 '13 at 4:21
Does it show any other messages? –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 22 '13 at 4:22
The external card reader I used is working for my other cards, includes SDXC cards. However that problematic one has one difference: it is a micro SD card with a SD adapter. –  Earth Engine May 22 '13 at 4:24

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If anyone sees this later: Someone wrote an open source tool called "F3" to test capacity of SD cards and other such media. It can be found here.

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The simplest way to test the full capacity of an SD card is to fill it up with files, then verify the files are correct: diff -qr /directory/on/computer /directory/on/SD

Alternatively, you can use programs to write patterns, or chains of hashes, to a file, and then verify that they are correct.

As @Earthy Engine pointed out, it's important to fill up the SD card, then read the data, as traditional approaches that simply write a small block of data, then read it, are fooled by fake SSD cards.

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The cheating has now been confirmed by the following steps:

  • Generate a random data file. (4194304 = 4 * 1024 * 1024 = 4MB, total size=40*4MB=160MB)


dd if=/dev/urandom of=test.orig bs=4194304 count=40
40+0 records in
40+0 records out
167772160 bytes (168 MB) copied, 11.0518 s, 15.2 MB/s
  • Copy the data to the SD card. (2038340*4096 = 8153600KB = 7962.5MB)


sudo dd if=test.orig of=/dev/sde seek=2038399 bs=4096
40960+0 records in
40960+0 records out
167772160 bytes (168 MB) copied, 41.6087 s, 4.0 MB/s
  • Read the data from the SD card back.


sudo dd if=/dev/sde of=test.result skip=2038399 bs=4096 count=40960   
40960+0 records in
40960+0 records out
167772160 bytes (168 MB) copied, 14.5498 s, 11.5 MB/s
  • Show the result


hexdump test.result | less
0000ff0 b006 fe69 0823 a635 084a f30a c2db 3f19
0001000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000
1a81000 a8a5 9f9d 6722 7f45 fbde 514c fecd 5145


What happen? we observed a gap of zeros. This is an indicator that the random data have not been actually written to the card. But why after 128100 the data comes back? Obviously the card have an internal cache.

We can also try to investigate the behaviour of the cache.

hexdump test.orig | grep ' 0000 0000 '

provides no result, which means the generated rubbish do not have such a pattern. However,

hexdump test.result | grep ' 0000 0000 '
0001000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000
213b000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000
407b000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000
601b000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000 0000

have 4 matches.

So this is why it passes badblocks check. Further test can show that the actual capacity is 7962.5MB, or 8GB.

I conclude that this is very unlikely just random hardware failure, but kind of cheating. I would like to know what action can I take to help other victims.

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First of all, read the F3 answer by @Radtoo. It is the correct way.

I have somehow missed it, and tried my own way:

  1. create 1gb test file: dd if=/dev/urandom bs=1024k count=1024 of=testfile1gb

  2. write copies of that file to sdcard (64 is sdcard size in gb): for i in $(seq 1 64); do dd if=testfile1gb bs=1024k of=/media/sdb1/test.$i; done

  3. check md5 of files (all but the last, incomplete, should match): md5sum testfile1gb /media/sdb1/test.*

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This is a easy and quick approach. –  Earth Engine Jan 27 at 23:55

I wrote a small script that does the following.

-creates a temporary directory to the target USB or SC card

-creates a 5MB randomly generated reference file with md5sum checksum

-copies the reference file to the target and generates a md5sum check from the target to confirm read/write success

-fills the target to capacity (100%) or stops when a checksum error occurs

-once the script stops naturally, it displays the target reported size, Used and Free amounts.

With this script I have concluded that I was ripped off by an ebay seller who passed a 8GB microSD for a 64GB

#Save file as 'filltext' and remember to set the executable flag to run it
if [ -d "$1" ]; then
 if [ -d "$1/tmp" ]; then
  echo "."
  mkdir $1/tmp

#Make a tmp file and fill it with 3MB of junk
 base64 </dev/urandom  | head -c 5000000 > $TMPTSTR

 TESTVAL=$(md5sum $TMPTSTR | awk '{ print $1 }')

 while $CHECKEDOK; do

  FL=$( tr -dc A-Za-z0-9 </dev/urandom  | head -c 5).TEST

  cp $TMPTSTR $1/tmp/$FL
  TESTTMP=$(md5sum $1/tmp/$FL | awk '{ print $1 }')
  if [ "$TESTVAL" != "$TESTTMP" ]; then   
   echo "Checksum ERROR"
   echo "Original: $TESTVAL Temp File:$TESTTMP"
   df $1 -Ph
   echo "Removing test files"
   rm $1/tmp -r
   rm $TMPTSTR
   df $1 -Ph
   #echo -n "$FL..."
   df $1 -Ph

 echo "Error: Directory $1 does not exists."
 echo "Usage: filltest [PATH]"
 echo "Try the PATH of a mounted USB dongle or SD card to confirm it's capacity"

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