It’s a story I hear quite often from all sorts of different people; One day they were out happily taking photos, then suddenly, out of the blue their memory card fails.

Of course this isn’t something that happens all the time, but when it does it’s usually at the most inappropriate of times, either you still need the card to work so you can take more photos or the ones that are already on it are important and you can’t take them again – this goes for the casual photographer as much as it does the hobbyist / professional.

To some people the idea of trying to limit the impact a card failure has is an alien concept, they just expect things to work forever, but the more technically aware know that this is never the case, so the best thing to do is try to stop or reduce it from being a big problem.

Carry a Spare

It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many people only carry around 1 card, or perhaps even more worryingly, only own one card.

Having a second (or third) card will present you with an option if your first card fails during a crucial moment – you just swap out the failed one and replace with the secondary one – leaving the data on the first in a better position to be recovered and allowing you to carry on shooting.

Small but many

With the cost of memory cards so low these days it can be tempting to buy the biggest card you can get, and while this is good for situations where you will be taking a lot of photos – it’s not very good if it fails since all your photos are going to be lost.

The solution is to buy multiple, smaller cards. Yes this does mean that you will have to change them more regularly, but it means that if one goes bad, you haven’t lost all your photos.

Backup on-the-go

Although not exactly an exciting task – it does pay to backup your photos as you go.

You can do this using a Laptop / Netbook, or even using a dedicated device, each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

A Laptop / Netbook will allow you to see the photos that you have taken on a nice display as well as being able to back up the photos, but is less convenient, it takes time to boot up and can have limited battery life – which once depleted can be difficult to recharge on the road, not to mention having to carry it around all the time.

A dedicated device such as the Epson P-3000 Multimedia Storage Viewer or the Nexto-eXtreme (and there’s many more) will allow you to plug in the memory card and copy the photos onto its internal hard drive. Some of these devices come with a small screen to view the photos on but it’s going to be no way near as good as viewing them on a laptop for example. If you don’t really care about reviewing them at this stage then this is probably the type of device to get, and it’s going to fit into your camera bag better than a laptop.

Out with the old

Memory cards don’t last forever, and the older they are the more chance there is of them failing. If you have had a card for a few years and used it quite a lot, then maybe think about replacing it. Or maybe even get a new one and use the original as your backup.

If all else fails…

Not really a mitigating step – more of a last ditch attempt to salvage the wreckage is using a recovery tool such as PhotoRec to recover the photos on the failed card – it’s not guaranteed to work all the time but does present you with a final option.

Posted in: Photography, Technology