Corrupt memory card when I use my camera: Is it the Card, Camera, or a Computer fault?


There are a number of reasons why your digital memory card may be corrupted. First let's note the warning signs:

(1) Your camera screen displayed information to say that the card is corrupted and you are unable to see any pictures!
(2) You have downloaded your pictures to a computer and deleted the images but when you try to take new photographs with your camera the card is showing corrupted!
(3) You have used your digital memory card in another camera or device and after putting it back into your camera it is corrupted!
(4) And finally, I can't access the photographs on my memory card!

The above symptoms are often the fault of using several different devices to read and write to your card, i.e. your camera, your computer, your notebook and even putting your memory card into a friends camera to transfer/copy their pictures to yours. 
I've seen a lot of incidents where camera memory cards become victims of the 'corrupt message' sign, where people cannot format the card anymore or use it in their camera. Sometimes one can format a corrupt card on a computer and then make it readable in the camera again after using the correct file allocation table (FAT) code, but there are a number of Do's & Don'ts when you connect your camera to a computer!

Connecting your camera or card reader to a computer.
If possible always connect your camera or card reader to the computer with the supplied lead and use the product software to up-load your images to your computer hard drive. Once your computer is connected to the camera information is being passed forward/backwards between the two devices as your images are up-loaded.
 
Warning... Never disconnect any leads or switch either the camera/computer off when the pictures are being transferred. This will disrupt the flow of data and could corrupt your memory card as noted above. 

The best and safest practice is to up-load your pictures into a file on your computer hard drive, then close the product software window that you used to up-load your images to your computer. When that is complete and you are certain that no data is passing between the camera/computer - switch off the camera if still running, then disconnect the leads.

I strongly advise that you never try to do any 'photo manipulation' direct to the images on your camera via the computer, as this is a prime suspect of memory card corruption. Many instances have occurred after an image had been altered with Adobe Photoshop/ PaintShop Pro and saved direct to the camera card via the computer. Copy and Paste between a camera/computer is a similar practice and should be avoided. So what do we do.. 
Transfer your images to your computer as recommended above. Disconnect the camera as advised then if possible burn these 'Original' images onto a CD for safe keeping. You may well mess up a picture in Adobe Photoshop/ PaintShop Pro during manipulation, then at least you can make a new copy to work on from the originals saved on the CD. When you have completed all your photo manipulation, copy your images onto a second CD so you can take them to a retail photofinisher for printing, or send your completed images off to one of the many online photofinishing service via the web direct from the saved picture files on your computer.     

I've seen many people post advice on the web to 'always' format the memory cards in your camera before you use it, which is what I would recommend - Every 3rd or 4th  time I use it after uploading/deleting or so, I quickly format and be done with it. I've worked with large memory storage cards and Micro-drive storage devices up to 64 GB, these too can be easily formatted in the same way. However, remember to fully re-charge your camera battery before using your camera again, as you will use a considerable amount of battery life when up-loading, deleting, and finally formatting the memory card.

There may be one more solution to access your pictures on your memory card if you are still unable to retrieve them. There are a number of 'Digital Memory Recovery' software packages available on the web and in the high street stores. It is very difficult to recommend a specific product to solve your card problem. You would be advised to seek advice from the retailer or from the product information sheet. If this seems a little technical take your camera and memory card to a retail photofinisher in the high street, they often supply a 'picture recovery service' for a modest charge; however you may still have to replace your memory card as a final solution.

Still can't see the media? As a last resort try using the memory card in a working camera or a card reader that uses the same memory type. If you can't get the media to work there either, you probably have a corrupted data, shorted or physically damaged card in need of replacement. 

On the other hand, if you do manage to get the card to work elsewhere, the problem could be with your camera...

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