SD Card Report…how archival are they?

Part of the SD card hoard transferred to Blu-ray disc

I’m in the process of backing up about 10 years worth of SD memory cards to Blu-ray disc. This project has been eating at me some time. I can’t sleep and wake up at 5.30 A.M. and think about the 513 SD cards slowly decaying away that need to be transferred to disc. So last week I got my ass in gear to start on the project. As of now I have transferred 111 cards to disc out of 513 cards.

But lets go back to the beginning as to how I got into this mess…

When I first got into digital photography, after leaving film in the early 2000’s, I never saved my cards. I would transfer the data to the computer, erase the cards and reuse. But periodically, due to being a scatter brain, I would lose the original photos and had no way to retrieve them as the memory cards were erased. That made me pine for the old film days were I had a negative or chrome to always access.

So one day I got the brainstorm to save my memory cards and use them like they were film. And that did save me more than a few times were I would lose the original photos on the computer. And it is not like I would not back things up from the computer to HDD; but, all the backups were missing the lost info as well.

If SD cards were archival it would be no problem. But they only hold data for a certain time due to losing their electric charge. If you access them periodically it is not a big deal. But if you don’t plug them in every 6 to 8 years, they can lose data. I’ve read they are good for 10 years without plugging them in. I’ve tested them for 5 years with no plug in and they worked. So 5 years is all I can attest too. But whether it is 5, 8 or 10 years…they are not archival.

I have been working on the oldest cards first going back to 2011. Out of the 111 cards I’ve transferred so far, only (1) 4GB card had corrupted data on it. About 25% of the card was readable. Once the project is finished I will have a bigger sampling to go by. Now, I have had a few cards go bad that were actually being used and not in storage. But on the whole, SD cards have proven to be pretty reliable. Once I’m done with the SD card transfer to Blu-ray, I will start the project all over again transferring the Blu-ray discs to Blu-ray M-Disc. That will give me 2 optical discs of the material…plus the original SD cards.

If I had to do it all over I would not save the cards, I would back up to Blu-ray and Blu-ray M-Disc to form an optical disc library and use them in place of the cards. But it took me a decade to figure this all out.

Now, some people swear by the cloud. The cloud is as archival as your account. Once your account goes into arrears 30 days…your cloud gets deleted. I learned this the hard way using the Internet Archive as a cloud for about 5% of my data. One day, out of the blue, they pulled the plug on me and shut my account down. They would not give my missing data back either.

Here is the story…and how I retrieved the data.

Update 8.11.21

I’m up to 396 cards transferred to disc. Today I found a second corrupt card. A 8GB SanDisk made in 2016. About 40% was unreadable.

Update 8.18.21

I’ve finished the project transferring 513 SD cards to optical disc. I only found 2 partially corrupt cards out of the 513 cards. Although none of the cards date back to 2011 without being plugged in for a charge at least 4 or 5 years ago.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is before-photoshop-rppc-d.d.teoli-jr..jpg


Selection from Before Photoshop by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Advertising Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. VHS Video Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Audio Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography

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