7 Awesome Uses for an Old SD Card

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Do you have any old SD cards or microSD cards (with a suitable adaptor) lying around? If so, don’t throw them away – there are plenty of projects that you can complete with these compact flash storage devices.

Whether your old SD card is a meager 64 MB or a massive 64 GB, various projects exist for you to make use of these storage cards. Smaller cards may be used as portable media storage, printing from SD and building a digital photo frame. Larger cards, meanwhile, might be used for providing emergency boot support to your PC, modding a Nintendo Wii or even installing CyanogenMod on your Android device.

Emergency Boot Device

Perhaps the most important use you can find for an old SD card is as an emergency boot device, to assist with problems when your computer won’t start up.

Typically, this might be something you can do with a Linux distro, although it is also possible to boot a “live” version of Windows XP, something a Windows user might be more comfortable with.

Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Hold on, these links are for USB flash drives,” and you would be right. However, with a device like this one below, you can turn your old SD card into a USB stick, something that proves pretty useful in a number of different situations.


Portable Media Storage

The more space you have on your spare or old SD card, the more suited it will be for various multimedia-related projects.

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One popular use is to store your favourite photos on it, and view them on a suitable digital photo frame. You might even use the card to install an operating system and add photos, ready to be used in a custom-built digital photo frame, one that perhaps started life as a notebook or netbook.

If you use a digital camera, you might use a spare SD card as a means of quickly checking your photos on your phone or tablet (assuming you have a suitable card reader).

There are also a couple of ways in which an old SD card can be used to create a media centre…

Softmod A Nintendo Wii

Using an SD card with the useful Letterbomb software installed, you can softmod your Nintendo Wii to allow various homebrew software applications to run.


You might, for instance, use the device as a DVD player (standard DVDs cannot be read as standard by the Nintendo Wii; this mod will work on the older models, however), or to play homebrew and retro games.

Alternatively, you can use the mod to turn your Wii into a media centre, capable of playing movies from your SD card or a storage device on your local network.

Print from SD

Another use for an old SD card is printing. You don’t need to have a wireless card or a wireless printer to send print jobs over your Wi-Fi network – you could just save the job to be printed to the SD card and then use your printer’s card reader (assuming it has one) to find the file that needs printing and begin the print job.


Depending on the printer, this will probably work universally for images – although some printers can print documents without a connected computer. If you have any local photo printing booths that accept SD cards, this is a useful thing to be aware of.

Run a Raspberry Pi

Do you own a Raspberry Pi? If so, you’ll probably be aware that an SD card is required as the primary boot device, and can also be used for storage.

With multiple storage devices you can have access to different operating systems, customised for particular projects; you might, for instance, have RaspBMC installed to use the little computer as a media centre, or a RetroPIE installation for retro gaming.


The Raspberry Pi can be used for so much more, however; who would have thought that an SD card could form part of a low budget space programme?

GPS Expansion Card

If you regularly use your GPS device for travel and have found it seemingly running out of space, you might use the expansion slot to provide the space you need to download new maps and voices.

Surprisingly, GPS systems are still widely used as distinct units, as opposed to the various smartphone-based systems such as Google Maps and Nokia HERE.

Given the price of a new GPS unit, it makes sense to get as much use as possible out of these devices, so if you have a suitable slot for your SD card or microSD card, this might be a great way to solve two problems at once.

Install CyanogenMod On Your Android Device


Finally, if you’re using an Android phone or tablet and are less than happy with the installed version of the popular mobile operating system, you might take advantage of your SD card or microSD card (depending on the size of the card reader slot) to change this.

Perhaps the most popular alternative to stock Android is CyanogenMod, and you’ll find the details for installing this to your Android device (the initial steps for which often require a one-time installation to your SD card) by searching for the appropriate hardware on a site such as XDA-developers.com.

Are There Anymore Uses for an Old SD Card?

These are just seven of many uses for an old or spare SD card. We’re sure that there might be several other uses that we haven’t mentioned here. Have you found an interesting new use for an old SD card? If so, let us know about it in the comments below.

Image credit: Community History SA/flickr, camknows/flickr

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35 Comments - Write a Comment


Jorge B

I’d say running portable apps


Fred Schechter

It works great in the RaceCapture!
but I’m biased.



shot glass coaster



You can download a program call LiberKey which has hundreds of different apps you can use and upload it to your SD card, that way you’ll have hundreds of apps on one SD card.

Nathan Passen

Is Liberkey only Win. or is there a Mac version?


I believe it only supports Win right now.



I think in the GPS Expansion Card section you meant to say Google Maps not Google Drive.

Christian C

Thanks Bob, I’ll have that changed! Nice spot :)



I love reading your clever ideas for all sorts of stuff. Stikes me as funny that I didn’t even know SD cards were old and needed new uses – go figure. Thanks MUO! Ruth


James Katkus

How about the old 156 mb cards?

Christian C

Maps or printing from SD would seem suitable for a low capacity card like that.


Jim Gibson

I use mine to play guitar, they make ideal plectrums.

Christian C

Seriously? What’s the attack like? Can you get any interesting tones from the metal connectors?


Jean-Francois Messier

I use some of them as a secondary backup for documents I don’t want to loose. Never mind music or videos, but some income tax forms, source code, current working documents, etc… are surprisingly small in total for, say, a 4G card. And the speed does not matter, so those older cards can become very useful. Here, I am talking about documents, not ebooks or long static texts to read, but personal documents. Some of those cards can also be left in a safe at the bank.


Ashwin D

Nice Article!.I Never Knew there were so many uses.


Guy M

Depending on the type and size, you could use it with your Windows computer to ReadyBoost the RAM.

I’ve yet to make it work on my laptop, but if I can it would help out greatly. Or I’ll just go Linux on it.


readyboost is complete crap.



For “PC USB device” applications, very cheap readers can be found in UK 99p / pound stores (probably in dollar stores too), including a style that is SD card only and carries the card inside a cover, making it a somewhat bulky pen drive.

One advantage of using a reader + SD card, is that the write protect on the card can be used to protect it, handy if it contains malware cleanup tools that are used in a hostile environment






Use it in Arduino projects.



Now if you could hook them up in RAID, that would help.


I thought of that too, and have searched but with no luck
I have so many leftover cards and sticks.

Simon Livings

You can use them in raid if you are running a linux distro, Ubuntu has the option to configure any drive in software raid.


Colin Dean

I was just introduced to the concept of USB storage as dead drops. SD card in a USB reader? Please.



I would be wary of deaddrops as this a habitat for usb based malware, trojans and virus’s sort of the opposite allowing people to have open access to your usb ports…why??


Chromium boot off sd card is my input to uses for a sd card. Small light fast.


Sajan P. Thomas

It works with a USB FM Transmitter.



I have 32MB full-sized SD card from Canon (as a freebie for buying old Canon digital camera). Quite useful to be used to save headaches on public printing machines (loads slowly on high capacity cards or having too many files inside it, and less risk of getting your files messed up by computer viruses).


Jon S

Hello, all.
Having survived a house fire in ’05, I learned a few things.
SD/microSD cards are obligatory for keeping digital copies of important documents.
Many, if not all,
can be saved by adjusting the on-screen size till the entire document is visible,
then press Printscreen [Prtscn] to save it to the clipboard.
Paste it into a blank Irfanview window & save it w/ an appropriate name.
Next, copy it to the Sd/microSD card.
[Important point—COPY it, so you have TWO (2) copies, not just 1.]
Don’t forget to copy either Irfanview’s portable version or the executable installer to the card as well.
Now, save the card in a “SAFE!” place, & you’re ready for the next disaster,
digital, literal, or otherwise.
BTW, none of this will needed for the so-called Apocalypse.

Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

Christian C

Excellent post, Jon, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.



How about a use for a 16MB? I think I will store one special photo on it and see how the test of time treats it.



I use them for old cameras that I give the kids to use. And for back up storage for our cameras. You never know when you may need just a little more room. ^_^


Joe P

I rip movies from DVD and store the mp4 on old SD cards. Then using a wireless SD card reader, I play the movies on an iPad.



I know a good use. Use it for a dashcam.

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