What Does Your Device Need – An SD Card, Memory Card or Pen Drive?

The tremendous growth in the technology of cameras, drones, mobile phones, and other portable gadgets has led to the surge in demand for compact high capacity storage solutions. Whether memory cards, flash drives or high-end SD cards, portable personal data storage has come of age and so has the risk of data loss. Here the blog explains how to choose the right portable storage media – memory card vs sd card vs pen drive

Portable Storage Media – Make the Right Choice

Companies like SanDisk, Sony, Samsung, Kingston, Transcend, and others are coming up with several variants of portable media with higher storage capacities and faster read & write speed. Global Industry Analyst (GIA), a market research company, projects the global market of SD memory cards to $11.2 billion by 2020. No wonder users are left with abundant choices from memory cards, SD cards, SDXC, flash drive or pen drives showcasing more storage and higher speed.

But the most important question is still least answered, ‘Which one is the most viable solution to save ‘your’ data?’

Here we will assess the most portable personal data storage solutions in the market – Memory cards, SD cards, and pen drives, concerning their capabilities and applications as per your data storage needs.

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Memory Cards

Given their compact size and vast storage range, memory cards have gained easy popularity among users. They are widely used in DSLRs, digital cameras, mobile phones, MP3 Players, game consoles, drones, etc., and can store videos, audios, movies, music, and documents.

Since the inbuilt memory of portable devices is not enough to store a significant amount of multimedia data, memory cards serve as the perfect storage solution.

Memory cards are device-specific that come in varying size, storage capacity, and read & write speed. There are various types of cards such as MMC (multimedia card) SDC (Secure Digital Card), Micro SD cards, Mini SD cards, CF (CompactFlash), Memory Stick etc., available from 4GB to whopping 512 GB capacity.

The durability of memory cards depends upon their usage. They have a limited lifespan measured in write and erase cycle. Mostly the companies offer a 5-year warranty, and if kept in ideal conditions they claim it to be usable even more than ten years.  But the reality is that they are vulnerable and prone to corruption and data loss anytime.

SD Cards

SD card is a type of memory card – compact, device-specific, and available in different storage capacities and different read & write speeds. Over the years SD cards have evolved from meagre 2 GB capacity to impressive 1 TB storage.

The latest SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and SDXC (Secure Digital Extended Capacity) are much better regarding technology, speed, and capacity. The new SD cards aim to meet the increasing demand for high storage and speed. Experts predict the latest SDXC cards would completely replace soon old 2 GB SD cards.

The SDHC is available in 4 to 32 GB while SDXC from 32 GB to 2 TB. They are most apt for videographers and photographers who want to store a large number of ultra HD 4k high bitrate videos.

Commonly used Micro SD cards fit in portable devices like mobile phones and small digital cameras that have smaller memory card slot.

Like other memory cards, the durability of SD cards also depends upon their usage. Although the card’s manufacturer claims the wear controller technology guarantees about 100,000 read & erase cycles, the SD cards are susceptible to physical damage and corruption. It is always advisable to have a backup of your card data.

Pen Drives

Unlike memory cards, pen drives have plug and play feature. You can connect them to your computer, laptop, PlayStation console, TV, or printer etc., through a USB port. Not just for storage and data backup, they are also widely used to transfer data from one system to another.

Protected in a plastic casing, these portable pen drives are faster and much advanced offering massive storage up to staggering 2 TB.

Most commonly used pen drives are of 8 to 64 GB capacity sufficient for home/ office users, and photographers. The small casing is also available in 128, 256 and 512 GB capacity saving large data.

The lifespan of pen drive is contingent on many times you write and erase data on it. When used and handled carefully, the USB drive can last over ten years.

Although pen drives are the convenient storage media to carry, they are also the most vulnerable ones. Connecting to the USB port of different devices expose them to the risk of infection, corruption, and eventually data loss.

Memory card vs SD card vs Pen drive

As mentioned above, all three – Memory card, SD card, and pen drive, are portable storage solutions for handheld devices. They all are compact, need device support to function, come in different storage capacities and read & write speeds. They all use NAND technology, regardless of the device with which they are used.

While the essential function remains the same for all, the difference occurs in performance for the speed of the media. Higher the speed, better the performance of the pen drive or memory card. Unlike memory cards, pen drives have transfer limitation as cameras and phones do not have USB ports.

How to choose the right portable storage media?

Which among the three is the best option for you? The decision should be based on requirement rather than the latest available or only the brand.

Are you a photographer or videographer who wants to store the significant amount of full HD videos and high-resolution photos? Or do you need a memory card to save mobile data like photos, contacts, and documents?

For saving high definition videos and photos, you require high capacity and faster cards. Video shooting cameras, drones, and smartphones use SDXC cards. You might prefer USB pen drive for transferring data from one system to another.

Here are the essentials to check while buying the removable storage drive:

Device compatibility: Buy the one that is compatible with your device. Your device should support the memory card and be able to recognise it. Whether DSLR, digital camera, surveillance camera, PlayStation, or mobile phone, it is best to read the device manual or website to check its memory card compatibility.

Storage capacity: The storage capacity of media should depend upon the data to be stored, whether you want to save 4k HD videos or just simple office documents.

Photographers and videographers are recommended to shop for a higher capacity SDHC and SDXC cards to save a significant amount of multimedia files. They can consider 64 GB and above card for storing photos and videos. For Android phone users, usually, 4-16 GB memory card is sufficient to meet the requirement.

The speed of storage media: Higher the speed of the memory card, faster your device will be able to read & write it. High speed ensures you do not have to wait for long while saving or transferring your videos and photos.

The speed in memory cards is determined by ‘Class.’ More the ‘Class’ better the speed. The highest speed SD card is of Class 10 (10MB/sec), a preferred choice for 4K ultra HD videos shooting cameras. However, the new UHS-I (Ultra High Speed – 1) and UHS-II are gradually shoving the Class 10 SD cards with data transfer speed of 104 MB/sec and above.

When buying, check the card slot on your camera and the memory card reader. They should be compatible with the Speed Class; else you will face performance issues. Look into your camera manual to see which speed Class it supports.

Price: Typically, higher the storage capacity, more expensive would be the memory card or USB drive. When shopping for an SD card or pen drive do not simply pick the cheapest one. Check its read & write speed and never ignore the brand. Reliable the provider, better the chances of your data to be safe and secure.

Data Loss & Data Recovery Complexity

Regardless of the storage media, your saved data is always at risk. It is the bitter truth that none of the storage media is loss proof. As much careful you are, ideal conditions to use the memory cards or pen drives are difficult to obtain. Also, accidental formatting, corruption, virus infection, deletion, error messages, and physical damages to the memory card or the pen drive can happen anytime.

But you cannot afford to lose your data. They are your important documents, videos and photos – the result of hard work and valuable time. Thus, data recovery is essential.

Data recovery process is based on the severity of corruption in the storage media. There is software available that can retrieve lost files and folders from the formatted, deleted, virus infected memory cards, SDXC, SDHC and USB drives.

In case the media is severely corrupt or physically damaged due to dust, heat, liquid, malware, scratches, electrical surge, etc., the recovery becomes challenging and is only possible in specialised data recovery labs.


With the proliferation of high-end cameras and smartphones, the demand for high capacity faster memory cards is surely the trend to continue. So will be the efforts to protect, recover, and secure the data stored in them.

Always make informed decisions while buying SD cards, memory cards, or USB drives, based on your needs and follow the best practice of backup.

While data loss situations can be safely tackled by the professional data recovery service provider like Stellar Data Recovery, have absolute infrastructure and technology. They provide optimum data recovery from severely corrupt memory cards and pen drives in their class 100 clean room labs, safeguarding their customers’ privacy.

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