Troubleshooting Memory Card Readers

Card readers often fail, but most failures are easily fixed

The portable nature of SD card readers and their generic form factor means that they often fail—but most failures are relatively easily corrected.

EC Technology SD Card Reader
EC Technology

Computer Cannot Find or Recognize External Card Reader

First, make sure the memory card reader is compatible with your computing system. Older readers might not work with newer operating systems, for example. Second, verify the USB cable you use for the connection isn’t broken. Next, try a different USB connection slot on the PC, as the reader might not be drawing enough power from the connection slot you used originally. You also might need to download the latest software and drivers from the memory card reader manufacturer’s Web site.

Reader Doesn’t Recognize SDHC Cards

Some older memory card readers won’t recognize the SDHC memory card format, which allows for SD-type memory cards to store 4 GB or more of data. Memory card readers that can read SD-type cards of 2 GB or less—but that cannot read cards of 4 GB or more—probably are not SDHC compatible. Some memory card readers might be able to recognize the SDHC format with a firmware upgrade; otherwise, you’ll have to purchase a new reader.

The External Memory Card Reader Doesn’t Seem to Be Moving Data as Fast 

It’s possible that you have a reader designed for use with USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 that is connected to a USB 1.1 slot. USB 1.1 slots are backward compatible with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 devices, but they cannot read the data as fast as a USB 2.0 or a USB 3.0 slot. USB 1.1 slots cannot be upgraded with firmware, either, so you’ll have to find a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 slot to achieve faster data transfer speeds.

My Memory Card Won’t Fit Into the Reader

Double-check that the slot you’re using matches your memory card. Insert the memory card correctly; with most readers, the label should be facing upward as you insert the card. Cards should fit precisely in the reader. Some readers accept converters to scale, e.g., a micro-SD to a standard-SD format, but compatibility with these conversion cards varies.

My Memory Card Doesn’t Seem to Work After I Used It in the Reader

Clean grime on the memory card’s metal connectors that could affect the card’s performance. Also, verify the connectors aren’t scratched or damaged.

If you unplugged the memory card reader while the memory card was being read, causing a loss of electrical power to the card, it’s possible the card's file system corrupted. Fix the problem by formatting the card, which will cause all of the data on the card to be erased.

No Power to the Memory Card Reader

If you're using an external memory card reader with your computer, it will need power through the USB connection. It's possible that some USB ports on your computer don't carry enough electrical current to power the memory card reader, so the reader won't work. Try a different USB port on the computer to find one that can provide the proper level of power.

Check the Cabling

Another potential reason your memory card reader could be failing is because the USB cable you're using to connect the reader to the computer could have some interior damage, causing it to be unable to work. Try replacing the cable with another unit to see if the old cable is causing the problem with the memory card reader.