I recovered all the files from my corrupted SD card today.

What should I do with it now?

  • Reformat and continue using it
  • or throw it away and buy a new one

Here's the details on the card and how it got corrupted, if that matters:

  • Transcend 16 GB SDHC card (class 6)
  • I had it for seven months
  • I used it like a hard drive for my Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook (but no programs stored on the card)
  • The SD card stores documents, video, images, and MP3 files
  • I am not sure how it corrupted; I started the netbook one day to find the card corrupted
  • The netbook used Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook Remix operating system at the time of corruption

Start by using a utility like fsck or chkdsk to check the file system for bad sectors. If you don't find any, that implies the corruption was caused by a transient data problem, and might be safe to reuse--although I wouldn't use it to store anything irreplaceable. Bad sectors might indicate a deeper problem with the media.

If it were me, actually, I'd probably just chuck it either way, unless money were particularly tight. Even a 16GB card can be had for about $30 (US) these days. The problem may never recur, but you have to weigh the value of your time in dealing with it if it does.

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Reformat, fill it, check if everything saved ok. If it does then fine, use it. If not, chuck it. If at any point the size shows different than what it originally said, then chuck it. If it corrupts a second time, then chuck it. That's my basic theory of trustworthiness of flash media from digital photography experience.

Also, Transcend isn't on the top of my list of trustworthiness. But I'll not get into that because there's all kinds of arguments over that.

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  • 1
    Yeah, Transcend lost my trust. I'll buy SanDisk next time. – Bill Paetzke Nov 4 '09 at 5:43
  • They work for me :) And I find Costco of all places usually has good prices on them. – emgee Nov 4 '09 at 6:37

It'll be corrupted in one of two ways. First, the hardware could be failing. If this is the case get a warranty replacement, or throw it out.

Second, the data stored on it is corrupted. Either something wrote garbage to it, or more likely, it was removed before the OS had finished writing all it had in it's disk buffers. All modern operating systems us write-behind caching, where disk writes are stored in memory buffers, and written to disk later. This makes a big difference in response times. If you removed the SD card before all this was written, then could explain he corruption.

So how do you tell if it's a hardware failure or not? As other replies have said, chkdsk/fsck or another program to test it; reformat it and do a write/read test; or just reformat and us it for non-critical stuff.

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If you are using an SD card 'like a hard drive', does this mean you're doing lots of writes every day? If so, I would expect eventual failures and would not store anything too important on it. An SD card is typically good for about 100,000 erase-write operations before it fails.

That sounds like a lot, but if you're writing a ton of temporary files to it, a computer can do something 100,000 pretty quickly. Some higher-end devices may have write limits of 10 to 100 times greater than this, however. This limitation applies to writes only, not reads.

In my experience, these devices don't catastrophically fail, they tend to give advance warning. Once you've reformatted this device one or twice, the more write you do, the more damage you're going to do to the device, and it will be time to replace it.

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