Buying guide for
Micro SD Memory Cards
If you have tech devices in your life, chances are you’ve run across a microSD memory card. These tiny storage cards are the go-to for data storage in everything from drones to smartphones.
MicroSD memory cards were first designed as a compact storage option for smartphones, but today they are everywhere, from smartphones and digital cameras to tablets and gaming devices.
There are three distinct format types for microSD memory cards (and SD memory cards in general), and they are not backward compatible. The format you need depends on the device you’re getting the card for.
- MicroSD: This format can be used in any microSD slot and has a capacity of up to 2GB. It offers a transfer rate of 25 MB/s and uses either the FAT12, FAT16, or FAT16B file system.
- MicroSDHC: With a capacity of between 2GB and 32GB, microSDHC memory cards can be used in microSDHC and microSDXC slots. File transfer rates are between 50 MB/s and 150 MB/s, and the card will typically use the FAT32 file system.
- MicroSDXC: This card can only be used in microSDXC slots. Supporting a capacity of 32GB to 2TB, it has transfer rates of 50 MB/s to 312 MB/s and uses the exFAT file system.
One of the primary considerations when choosing a microSD memory card is how much data it can store. Generally, storage options start at around 16GB and go up to 400GB or even 512GB, with the majority of cards selling in the 64GB to 128GB range. The amount of storage you need depends largely on how you plan to use your microSD memory card. Do you just need extra storage for a smartphone, or are you an avid photographer or music collector who needs more storage capacity for large files? Not surprisingly, the higher the storage capacity, the more you should expect to spend on a microSD memory card.
Data transfer speed
With microSD memory cards, both read and write speeds are measured in MB/s, and the faster this rate, the quicker you can move files on and off the card. This is particularly important for photographers, videographers, and others who work with large files. Conversely, speed will be less vital for the average smartphone user who transfers smaller files or transfers files infrequently.
MicroSD memory card manufacturers offer a number of different rating systems to measure transfer speed, including Speed Class, UHS Speed Class, Rated Speed, and Relative Speed.
Though microSD memory cards are tiny, lightweight chips, there are durability differences between different models. Will you just be using the card in a tablet that won’t take much abuse, or will you be using the card in the smartphone that goes with you everywhere, from skiing to airport scanners? If it’s the latter, search for a microSD card that is designed to resist extreme temperatures, shock, water, and even X-rays.
You can extend the use of your microSD memory card if you get it with an adapter. This allows you to use the card in either a microSD or regular SD slot.
You could save a few bucks by choosing a microSD memory card from an unknown company, but you are taking a risk. Companies like Samsung, SanDisk, and Kingston are popular because their products provide excellent reliability and performance.
The price of a microSD memory card depends largely on how much storage it provides. Prices start out at under $10 for a 32GB card, while a 128GB card ranges from $20 to $40. Expect to pay more for larger capacity cards or those with faster transfer speeds, enhanced durability, or other advanced features.
- When using microSD memory cards with your computer, be sure to use the “eject” or “safely remove hardware” features to avoid corrupting files or other issues.
- Unless you plan on shooting HD video or taking a ton of pictures with your smartphone, you probably don’t need to spend more for a high-capacity microSD card. Similarly, don’t bother getting a card with a capacity under 4GB because that amount of storage won’t be worth the price.
- Keep in mind that formatting can consume a chunk of drive space, so a 32GB card won’t actually be quite 32GB.
- If you want to use your microSD card with your computer, be sure that your computer supports the file system of the card. Older Mac systems, in particular, may not.
- Both microSDHC and microSDXC cards offer support for the UHS (Ultra High Speed) bus interface, which can greatly increase data transfer rates. Your hardware must also support UHS to utilize these faster speeds, however.
- To choose the fastest microSD memory card, note the manufacturer’s speed rating, which should be listed on the card or the documentation that comes with it. These are manufacturer-tested numbers, however, and will not take weaknesses in your own system into account.
- If you suddenly experience a problem with your memory card – either a data loss or error message - stop using it. If you continue to try to use the card, you may end up overwriting the information or images on it before you have a chance to recover them.
- If you need to format your microSD memory card, do so from the device you intend to use it in for the greatest compatibility.
- Some companies also supply software or apps with their microSD cards so that you can easily manage or recover files.
Q. Is there a special kind of microSD memory card that I should use in a camera like a GoPro?
A. To be on the safe side, go with an action camera microSD card. While overkill for use in a regular smartphone, these cards are ideal for GoPro cameras because they have a more rugged design and can handle some contact with water.
Q. Are microSD memory cards safe to get online?
A. The selling of fake microSD cards has become quite the online cottage industry, so you should take care when looking online. Often fakes won’t work or have the capacity or other specifications that are claimed. To avoid this, only get microSD cards from reputable sellers. One way to check this is to read through the product’s online reviews.
Q. Can microSD memory cards die?
A. Like any other data storage, microSD cards can stop working or lose data. If possible, back up important data frequently. For options in the event that something does go wrong, try to choose one from a manufacturer that offers free recovery software or protection with their card.
Q. My laptop doesn’t have an SD or microSD slot, just a USB port. Can I still use a microSD memory card?
A. There are many adapters that you can use to plug a microSD card into a USB drive. The best adapters allow you to transfer files from an SD or microSD card to your computer and also between two cards.