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Troubleshooting CF Memory Cards

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Troubleshooting CF Memory Cards

CF memory cards are a bit larger than the more popular SD memory cards, but some older digital cameras make use of the CF type of card shown here.

Delkin Devices

Although more and more digital cameras include internal memory, nearly all photographers rely on memory cards to store their photos. Memory cards, which typically are a little larger than a postage stamp, can store hundreds or thousands of photos.

Consequently, any problem with the memory card can be a disaster ... no one wants to lose all of their photos. That's why it's important to download photos to your computer as soon as possible, and then to back up the images that you have stored on your computer. Having multiple copies is important to maintaining your images safely.

Although most newer digital cameras make use of SD memory cards, there are at least six different memory card types that have been used in digital cameras in the past several years.

One of those types of cards that was pretty popular a few years ago was the CompactFlash, or CF, cards. These CF cards remain in use today, but they're aimed more at high-end cameras. Although these types of memory cards are pretty sturdy, you may experience problems occasionally with your CF memory cards. Use these tips to troubleshoot your CF memory card problems.

  • The CompactFlash Association keeps track of digital cameras that make use of CF memory cards. Just click the link in this paragraph to see the list.

  • The CompactFlash standard was initially developed in 1995, and it was aimed at the professional imaging product market, rather than at consumer-level cameras. The latest CF specification is version 6.0, and these CF cards can support transfer speeds up to 120MB per second.

  • When using high-capacity CF memory cards -- usually at least 16 GB -- you may experience problems with having your camera recognize the card or with having the camera read the full memory space on the card. If this occurs, your camera may need a firmware upgrade to recognize the large-capacity CF card. Check with your camera manufacturer’s Web site to see whether any firmware upgrades are available.

  • If your CF card’s downloads seem to run slower and less smoothly than you expect, it’s possible that the card does not have UDMA protocol support. Older CF cards use PIO protocols, which transfer data more slowly than UDMA. Because the CF cards that support UDMA are more expensive than the PIO CF cards, you might have some of both types of cards in use.

  • When you have a CF card that appears to malfunction with a potential loss of photos, you need to follow a few steps. First, try to read the CF card in another device, just to make sure the problem is with the card and not the original device. If the CF memory card still won’t work, you might need a data recovery service. You may be able to find such services at camera repair stores or at computer repair stores, or you can download data recovery software. Check with your CF card’s manufacturer for specific recovery software recommendations.

  • When formatting your CF memory card using your computer, make sure you use a file system that will work with your camera. Some older cameras cannot read CF cards that are formatted as FAT32 or NTFS. If this is the case, format the CF card with an FAT file system.

  • Finally, some cameras cannot read CF cards formatted by other devices, no matter which file system you select. Try formatting the CF card using the camera itself. It's pretty easy to format a memory card in your camera. Just scroll through the camera's settings menu, and a "format" command should be available. Select this command, and then click Yes when you're asked whether you want to format the memory card, which will erase all of the data stored on the card.
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