What Is The Lifespan Of A SD Card

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Chances are you’ve used an SD card before, whether to take photos on your phone or transfer files from a computer to another device. And how can you prolong its life?

This blog post will explore the answers to those questions and more. So read on for everything you need to know about SD card longevity!

How Long Will A SD Card Last

According to SD Association, current technology for typical card usage has a lifespan of 10 years or more. Typically, an SD card can perform up to 10,000 write-and-erase cycles before it wears out.

The write-and-erase cycle encompasses the process of writing and erasing data on the NAND chips, which gradually will degrade the chips to a stage of unusable. Just like an eraser slowly removing all of your writing until you are no longer able to erase it anymore.

SD cards use NAND flash memory to store the data. Depending on the type of NAND flash being used, the lifespan of the card is different:

  • Single-Level Cell (SLC) NAND flash memory – the Program Erase P/E cycle is 90K ~ 100K
  • Multi-Level Cell (MLC) NAND flash memory – the Program Erase P/E cycle is 10K
  • Triple-Level Cell (TLC) NAND flash memory – the Program Erase P/E cycle is 3K
  • Quad-Level Cell (QLC) NAND flash memory – the Program Erase P/E cycle is 1K

SD cards with SLC chips on it is very expensive and rare. You will need to pay a premium for them and they are mostly catered for enterprise and industrial usage.

Most consumer-grade of memory cards uses MLC and TLC type. The prices of these cards are more affordable to the mass market and have larger consumption.

Factors That Affect The Lifespan Of A SD Card

(1) How frequently do you use the card. The more often you use it, the faster it wears out.

(2) The brand that you are using. SD Association has a few approved brands which you can trust: SanDisk, Lexar, and Transcend are a few of the brands you can consider. SanDisk and Lexar offer lifetime limited warranty for most of their cards.

(3) Higher temperatures will affect the data stored on the card. The higher the temperature, the shorter the data lifespan.

(4) Storage conditions play a role in how long your SD card will last. Clean and dry places are preferred locations for storing your SD cards.

(5) How you handle the memory card can determine its lifespan too. If you frequently drop or mishandle the card, it is not going to last for long.

Tips For Preserving The Lifespan Of Your SD Card

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(1) Don’t let your card get wet or dirty, and do not expose them to extreme temperatures.

(2) When removing the card from devices, be careful and gentle.

(3) Remember to eject your card from the SD card slot before taking it out.

(4) Avoid writing data to the SD card if there is a risk of a sudden power loss.

(5) Avoid filling the card to the maximum capacity.

(6) Do not let your SD card lie unused for too long. It is advisable to use it often, so the flash memory chips on the card are being charged to maintain the integrity of the data on it.

Common Signs You Have A Faulty SD Card

  • files or data corrupted or disappeared
  • the device you insert the SD card cannot recognize your card
  • no SD card is detected when you insert the card
  • there is a reading or writing error message
  • you can see physical damages on the card like torn or crack
  • slow performance during data transfers

How To Replace A SD Card When It Dies

  • try using another USB port or card reader
  • try fixing the card using the CHKDSK command
  • use SD Card Data Recovery Software to recover the files on it
  • assign a new driver’s letter
  • reinstall the software driver on the card
  • repair the SD card using Windows Repair Tool
  • format the card to FAT32
  • using the Diskpart Command in CMD
  • use SD Memory Card Formatter (see below YouTube)

FAQs About SD Cards

Here are some common questions and answers regarding the SD Cards.

When should I replace my SD card?

Your SD card should be replaced when it becomes full, you have difficulty writing or reading data from it, you detect a bad sector or not enough memory.

How often do SD cards fail?

SD cards have a very low failure rate. However, they will eventually fail if they are written to and erased too many times. The number of write-and-erase cycles an SD card can sustain depends on the type of card and how it is used.

The failure rate for SD cards also depends on the manufacturer. Some brands are more reliable than others. So it’s always a good idea to buy from a reputable source.

How long can an SD card hold data without power?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including the type of NAND flash chip used in the SD card, the card manufacturer, and the algorithm used. Single-level cell (SLC) chips can typically hold data for 10 years or more, while multilevel cell (MLC) chips will last shorter.

Some newer SD cards use 3D NAND flash chips, which are achieving higher bit error rates and are able to hold data for longer periods of time without power. However, these cards are still likely to lose data if they are not used for a while. Therefore, it is always important to make sure you backup your data regularly!

The manufacturer and algorithm also play a role in determining how long an SD card can hold data without power. For example, Samsung’s EVO line of cards uses an algorithm that allows them to retain data for up to 10 years, even without power.

Do SD cards wear out?

SD cards do wear out over time, but with proper care, they can last a long time. Poor handling is one of the main causes of SD card failure. Exposure to extreme temperatures and moisture can also damage them. And, of course, continual use will shorten their lifespan.

SD cards are not designed to be written to and erased millions of times like a hard drive. So if you’re using your camera regularly and saving photos onto an SD card, it’s going to wear out more quickly than if you just used it for storing files on your computer.

One of the most important things you can do is to avoid physically damaging the card. Drops, scratches, and sudden impacts can all cause lasting damage.

The type of data being written also makes a difference; writing large video files or other high-resolution data is likely to cause more wear than writing smaller files such as text documents or emails.

How do I check the lifespan of my SD card?

There are several ways to check the lifespan of your SD card. First, it depends on what kind of NAND flash memory chips are used.

For example, MLC chips typically have a shorter lifespan than SLC chips. Second, the total number of write cycles also impacts the lifespan of an SD card.

Even if you use high-quality chips, if you write to the card too often, it will still eventually fail. Finally, environmental factors such as heat and humidity can also affect an SD card’s lifespan.

How to check and repair SD cards for errors using Windows Built-in SD card tester?

Step 1. Click the Start Menu, and enter Windows Explorer at the Search Bar and press Enter.

Step 2. Open Windows Explorer, right-click the drive containing the SD card, go to Properties, and right-click it.

Step 3. Select the “Tools” tab, and click the “Check now…” button.

Step 4. Tick both “Automatically fix file system errors” and “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” and click the “Start” button.

Step 5. The Windows PC will start scanning the SD card and correct any errors if found.

In Summary

To ensure that you have an SD card that can last for 10 years or more, choose a reliable brand and spread your storage into a few enough capacity SD cards.

SD cards with capacities of 128GB and 256GB are the ideal choices you can consider. They offer the right storage for you and the price is also very attractive at the moment.

Check the marketplace below and choose the one you like!

Here are few other articles about SD card which you may want to know more about:

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6 thoughts on “What Is The Lifespan Of A SD Card”

  1. I am not much tech guy, but this really great information to consider what to buy.

    So for smartphones it is better to buy 256/128 GB , rather than 1TB right?

    Is this applied for gaming computers too?, I mean what is the best for faster gaming without freezing?

    I changed my laptop HDD to SSD I saw sole difference, but actually I didn’t know there are many types of SSD.

    Anyway, this is really informative, I should have read earlier a post like this.

    • Hi Moses,

      I would prefer to use a smaller capacity of an SD card to store my data. Either 128GB or 256GB is better for me and if you need more storage you can get 2 or more of this card. 

      Putting all the data on a single SD card like 1TB could risk losing all the data in one go if something goes wrong.

      For a gaming computer, SSD is preferred, not for an SD card. 

  2. Thanks for your in depth explanation of SD cards. I have a little experience with SD cards but not a significant amount. I now realize how my previous SD card may have become damaged. SD cards stand up to a lot, but still need to be handled carefully to extend their life. If the life expectancy of a SD card is 10 years, can data be transferred from one SD card to another to extend the life of the saved data?

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Glad that you find this article useful for you!

      You can transfer the data on your SD card to a computer, and then use a new SD card to save back all your previous data from the computer.

      For Macbook which comes with an SD card slot, it is very strict forward. Just insert your existing SD card in the slot, and the computer will detect the card and open the Photo apps on the computer. 

      You will then offer various option to import your photo if your data contain photos you have taken. Just click “import selected items” or “import all items”. All your data will be saved on your computer.

      Eject your old SD card from the slot and insert a new card inside. Go to your computer and transfer all the data to the new SD card.

      For Windows PC without an SD card slot, you can use an SD card reader to transfer the data to the computer and save the data back to a new card.

  3. This article answers my curiosity, perhaps my ignorance about the technology of SD cards. I have been wondering why my SD cards (use to save HD videos) run so slow. Thank you for the tips on how I should use SD cards properly. It save me from the hassle of keep changing SD cards and securing my files. It’s helpful to understand as well the difference of MLC and SLC chips. Thanks Thomas.

    • Hi Ana,

      Good to hear that you have learned some useful tips from our article here, and are able to make better-informed decisions. 

      Based on data in 2021, Samsung has a market share of 34 percent of the NAND flash memory chip market worldwide. This makes the Samsung SD card one of the reliable brands you can consider when you are planning for an additional SD card.  


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