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sd memory cardsSD memory cards are one of the most common forms of mobile storage, but they also tend to be very specific in their purpose. They’re great when used with devices like smartphones and cameras because their thin profile and high storage capacity makes it possible to keep these devices slim. On their own however, these cards tend to be less useful than USB thumb drives and portable hard drives.

That doesn’t have to be the case though. There are quite a few cool ways to re-purpose old SD memory cards and drag some extra life out of them.

Convert To A USB Drive

sd memory cards

The reason why SD cards can be a bit unwieldy is simply the format. These memory cards come in many different sizes, which fit into different slots on a computer. Some computers have support for many types of memory cards, but some don’t support any cards at all. Desktop computers are particularly bad about this.

Fortunately, you can side-step any such compatibility issues by simply turning your SD card into a USB drive. It doesn’t require any fancy tricks, just an SD card to USB adapter that’s compatible with the card you have. You’ll find these at local and online electronics retailers with a typical price tag of around $10.

Once you have converted the SD card to a USB drive, a world of possibilities opens up The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive Flash drives today are not just about storing your important files: you can use them to run programs and even entire operating systems. Read More . You can load mobile applications 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) 100 Portable Apps for your USB Stick (for Mac and Win) Read More , use the drive for encrypted storage Encrypt Your USB Stick With Truecrypt 6.0 Encrypt Your USB Stick With Truecrypt 6.0 Read More , and do anything else you could do with a USB thumb drive. That’s not to say some of these options aren’t available on stock SD memory cards, but converting the card to USB makes it possible to use it with a wider variety of PCs and programs.

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Create A Boot Drive

uses for sd memory cards

SD cards are quick, so they make a good candidate for a boot drive. Not every computer will present you with the option of booting from an SD card (you’ll have to check your BIOS) but if the option is available, your SD card could become the host of an alternative operating system.

It’s possible to run Windows (with WinToFlash) or Mac OS X off a SD card, but both of these operating systems require a fair amount of space, so it’s unlikely an older memory card will be able to accommodate them. A Linux variant is always a good option, and one of the easier programs for installing to your memory card is UNetBootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More . It’s possible to install an OS to not only an SD card that’s by itself, but also an SD card that is in another device. I can boot Linux on my PC off my HTC Thunderbolt phone, for example.

Of course, if your computer is having trouble booting off the SD card, you can always just slap it into a USB adapter as suggested above. That should make your memory card bootable by most PCs.

Geek Accessories

sd memory cards

Like USB thumb drives, SD memory cards are a great candidate for wearable data storage because they’re small, they’re lightweight, and they’re durable. In fact, a card is often smaller and lighter than a thumb drive, so it’s really the best choice.

There are many different ways to convert an SD card to something wearable or pocket-able. Perhaps the best option is a necklace lanyard or holder. This lets you keep you keep the card accessible at all times, but the card remains out of the way and safe from danger, and can also be hidden beneath your shirt or jacket easily (hey, a 32GB card isn’t cheap).

Alternatively, you can forego the wearable option and just go with a keychain or wallet option. Although less visible and accessible, these options may be more practical, and often can hold multiple cards at once.

Conclusion

There are many other ways to use SD cards, but I’ve focused on methods that actually keep the cards usable. Recreating the Mona Lisa with memory cards might be geek-cool, but probably isn’t practical.

Feel free to leave comments with your own ideas of cool ways to use SD cards.

  1. Sourav Chakraborty
    May 28, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    SD cards are a order of magnitude slower than pen drives(usb drives). If you can live with that, it is great.

    • itztoxik
      May 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Not for long. ;]

  2. Zsi
    May 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    my 4Gb is enough for moolux

  3. Srivatsan Venkatesh
    May 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Do you think 8g would be enough for Windows 7? I usually put .swf files on my SD card, embed them into an html web page and run them off my phone. I figured my phone supported flash, might as well have some fun with it.

    • M.S. Smith
      May 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Windows 7 requires 16GB for 32-bit installations and 20GB for 64-bit installations. So, an 8GB card would not be enough. Sorry :(

  4. Alex Shen
    May 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    pretty cool i must say.
    I might try out converting it to a usb drive.
    are there any other things which can be done with SD cards? I have a 32GB card which, having been given it by a friend, and not having a camera, is currently next to useless

    • M.S. Smith
      May 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      32GB is a lot of space. Making it into a USB drive would be nice. And you can certainly fit a full OS installation on there if you have any interest in that.

      • Alex Shen
        May 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        so does that mean that i will have more space on my macbook if i move the OS X things to the SD card? i just need to keep the SD card-usb drive in the computer when i turn it on?
        im not very techie... haha

        • M.S. Smith
          May 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm

          You may be able to do this. My only concern with a MacBook would be getting it to boot off the SDcard. I'm not very familiar with changing the boot order on a Mac. 

          You can always give it a shot, just don't go crazy and delete your hard drive OS X install until you confirm the SDcard works :D

        • Alex Shen
          May 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

          yeah i think i'll just play it safe and stick with an SD card usb stick :)
          thanks for the article, its really good!!

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