Is my SanDisk card borked? Help me troubleshoot.
October 1, 2006 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Troubleshooting a SanDisk 2GB card, is it broken or is there another problem?

I bought a SanDisk 2GB card via mail order from I put it in my camera [Canon SD400] and took a few pictures, no problem. I tried to put it into my USB card reader which I have used with all my previous cards and got an error [OSX 10.4] which said that my disk couldn't be read, did I want to initialize it? I said no and got the pictures off of my camera via the cable. Then I tried to initialize the card and got an I/O error. I can't do anything with the card using OSX's disk repair -- I ran a checksum but anything else gets an I/O error -- and when I put the card back into my camera I now get a "memory card error" message and can't format it or otherwise use it. This happens when I use it in other cameras, not just mine. My camera also uses other SanDisk cards with no problem.

So, are there any troubleshooting steps that I should try, or is this card just borked? Is there anything about the card being a 2GB card that might be a problem with the camera/card reader?
posted by jessamyn to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I am no flash card memory expert, but it sounds like you either have

a. A defective flash card
b. A defective card reader

From your story it sounds like the reader may have actually toasted your card (completely possible, I can't tell you whether it's more likely you just have a bad memory card). You should be able to get a replacement card either way from ZipZoomFly by sending this one back, but I would be wary when using the flash card reader in the future on memory cards of this size.
posted by onalark at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2006

check your reader for bent pins, with CF they can happen pretty easily and they can cause problems like this.

i'd say you have a bad card, because it's happening in other cameras, too.

personally, i don't buy sandisk anything anymore. something they do with their flashcards makes my nikon d200 malfunction, which really irks me. could be the similar slight non-standardness that's getting you, too. currently i buy transcend memory. it's cheap and reliable.
posted by fake at 9:26 AM on October 1, 2006

I know that some memory card readers can't read SD cards greater than 1 gb. The internal card reader in my Dell doesn't read 2gb SD cards, as an example. Is it possible that this is the case with your card reader? Although, if it's still borked when you put it back in your camera, that's kinda screwy.
posted by antifuse at 10:06 AM on October 1, 2006

Have you tried everything in the third question of this Sandisk FAQ?
posted by bim at 10:45 AM on October 1, 2006

Let's try that again.

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posted by bim at 10:54 AM on October 1, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah most of those instructions are for Macs running OS9, so the directions they give don't really have analogs in the OSX world. When I get to the initialize option, it opens Disk Utility which gives me the option to Erase or Partition among other options. When I try either of these options, in any of their various permutations, I get this error

sandisk error

You can see that it sees the card, but I don't see it as a drive on my desktop or anything else which I normally would. I've tried a few other card readers, but the SanDisk brand one that I have seems to be the only one that recognizes that it has a card in it at all.
posted by jessamyn at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2006

Normally, flash cards are extremely reliable; they will all eventually fail, but it takes a LONG time for that to happen.

The fact that it did work fine, and then stopped after you put it in your card reader, leads me to think that either A) the card is just bad, and just happened to randomly fail, or B) there's something amiss with the reader that borked the card somehow. Bad reader is less likely, but possible. Have you ever used a 2gb (or larger) card in that reader before? I see you are using a Sandisk; they make good readers. Is it very old?

The next troubleshooting step, if you have access to a Windows or Linux machine, would be to try to reformat/repartition from one of those. Windows' tools for doing this (Disk Management under Manage Computer) are nicely graphical and much easier to figure out. Linux's tools are a bit cryptic (cfdisk from the command line is a good utility) but usually the error messages are better. Linux tends to be good with the lower-level stuff like this.

Do the reformat/repartition first from a different reader, and then from your reader plugged into that same machine. This will give you an idea of whether it's A) the card, B) the reader, or C) some weird OSX incompatibility. (it could be more than one at once, so don't take it as a final absolute diagnosis, just a strong hint.)

If you don't have access to either kind of machine, one of the $25 readers at, like, Best Buy would be something else you could try. That would let you return it if it didn't help you. But you've tried other readers already, so I'd call that a low-probability fix, and not worth the time unless you are bored and/or desperate.

If you're on an Intel Mac, you *probably* can boot a Ubuntu LiveCD, although I'm not certain they will work with Mac hardware yet. If you get one going, open a console and type 'dmesg'... a huge stream of gibberish will scroll by. Leave that window open, plug in your card, wait 30 seconds, and then open another console and type 'dmesg' again. The second console should have a few lines at the end that the first console didn't.... post those lines back here, and that may give us more troubleshooting info.
posted by Malor at 11:54 AM on October 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice. I don't have a Windows machine handy today but I will on Tuesday. My reader still works fine with my 16MB card and I've tried two other offbrand readers with the card and neither seems to even get to the "I can't read this card" part, though I haven't tried them with my other card yet. In the meantime I called SanDisk at their toll free number which I was a little suprised to see that they had, and they said if I couldn't get access to a Windows machine and the card did seem borked, to try to return it to the original company, but if not, they'd swap it out for me. Very impressive, though I'd certainly rather fix the problem instead of dealing with RMAs etc. Oddly, I do have an ubuntu CD handy, so I can mess around with that and see if it changes anything.
posted by jessamyn at 12:06 PM on October 1, 2006

I'm on a Mac as well (10.3.9 and 10.4 depending on my mood). After an update, it failed to recognize my USB card reader, which was shipped with the SanDisk 1 gb card. Since I was shooting a ton of raw files anyway, I figured it was time to discover the joys of the firewire reader. It has (knock wood) never given me one second's trouble. I was even able to reclaim a card that, like you, I thought my old reader had fried.

Maybe it'd be worth the $30 or so dollars to give it a shot? In addition to possibly solving your problem, you'll have faster transfers as I can use cards to quickly move 2 or 4 gigs at a time, which has come in really handy and saved some wear and tear on the ole iPod.

Barring that, have you tried TechTool and/or DiskWarrior? Those might work as well.
posted by nevercalm at 1:11 PM on October 1, 2006

Instead of looking for a Firewire reader a USB2 reader will be pretty fast and much easier to find. You should be able to pick one up for less than $20 to see if that is the problem.
posted by TedW at 7:01 PM on October 1, 2006

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