256GB microSD cards have gotten much less expensive recently, and so I am wondering if they are suitable for image (photograph) editing and management.

I typically store images on platter-based external USB hard drives due to their lower cost/GB ratio.

But editing and managing the images (resizing, cropping, applying filters, reorganzing, finding the best photo in a series, etc.) can be slow and somewhat tedious when using platter-based external hard drives.

I'm thinking perhaps it would be reasonable to copy 100-200GB of images onto a microSD card, manipulate them as needed, and then copy them back to the appropriate external hard drive.

Each image varies from 2MB - 36MB, with the median size being around 6MB.

Although the total time required would likely be more than just working on the external hard drives, the total time requiring user interaction would actually be much less (I don't have to be present during the file transfers).

Is this a reasonable use of microSD cards, or would the reading/writing required for image editing and management result in quickly wearing out the microSD card?

  • 3
    I would strongly advocate for not using SD or MicroSD cards in this manner... even if you overlook the concerningly common issues that SD cards present, and what that would might mean in a professional setting (lost time / data). An SSD will be much more performant, will have better longevity and will have a better $/GB ratio... External (i.e: USB) or Internal (i.e: SATA / NVMe) would all be better than an SD / MicroSD card.
    – Attie
    Commented Jun 25, 2020 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


microSD and SD cards in general are not designed for heavy workloads like this, they are meant for initial storage of data and then transferal of that data to another media on which they will be worked on. Even the fastest SD cards (as of now) are limited to 275 MB/s, which is nowhere near as fast as cheap SATA SSDs. Those super-fast microSD cards are also relatively expensive and I haven't seen one larger than 256 GB.

You would be much better off using a portable/external solid state drive as opposed to a portable media card such as an SD card. Mechanical hard disks are usually limited to around 150 MB/s transfer speeds. SATA SSDs usually perform at above 500 MB/s. You can purchase a USB 3.0 drive enclosure to make your own portable SSD using an SSD you purchase on your own, or you can buy any of the pre-made portable/external SSDs. Keep in mind that if you wish to keep using a portable drive enclosure you will need to make sure that it is operating over USB 3.0 or greater to get the full speed from your drive.

All that said, I'm not sure your original issue is due to a hard disk issue. As I mentioned earlier, mechanical disks can be expected to perform at around 150 MB/s. Since your image files only range from 2 to 36 MB in size, I cannot see you gaining any performance in editing files, although sifting through multiple files and picking the best ones out is definitely an area where an SSD would perform better.

Whether or not you are using USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 would also have a major impact on the performance you will see, whether you are using a mechanical drive or a solid state drive. USB 2.0 is limited to 400 Mbps, which is only 50 MB/s. If you were using USB 2.0, you are probably getting less than half of your mechanical drive's maximum performance!

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