After reading this post, you will be able to detect fake and original memory cards, as well as how to correct a fake memory card.
Secure Digital (SD) cards are available every as they are useful for storing data such as pictures, documents, videos, and audio.
SD memory cards are portable and are used as external storage for smartphones/tablets, cameras, etc. making them essential to all gadget users.
There are lots of fake SD memory cards. By fake, we mean that the memory card is substandard, or the memory capacity is less than is supposed.
In most cases, termed fake memory cards are not durable, they easily get corrupt right inside your smartphone, or whatever device you insert them into.
Now over to the big question!
How To Identify A Fake Memory Card
When it comes to fake or substandard memory cards, you will find a large number of different types out there.
1. Low Speed
This one is common nowadays. You purchase a memory card that says for instance, “maximum 95 MB per second read and 90 MB per second write speed” and a “V30” label that is to be guaranteed a minimum speed of 30 MB per second.
But when you are copying a file using a fast SD card reader, you might not even get a speed of more than 5-10 MB per second.
Old and slow memory cards are always cheap, and some companies change labels on unsold cards to make them seem fast, but in reality, they are slow.
The best way to test memory cards of such is by doing file read/write operations. While such fake memory cards are unfortunate, they rarely result in loss of data and often they get used, without the owner even knowing a bit about it.
2. Reduced Capacity
Reduced capacity is another common issue, where the card reports a large size to your camera, computer, or storage device. But in reality, it contains a tiny part of the total capacity.
For example, a 512-gigabyte memory card might show up as 512 gigabytes on your PC, but in reality, contain only 64 gigabytes of storage cells.
Such can happen because the microchip (a part of the SD card that is reporting the total amount of available storage) in the SD card has been redesigned to report a false capacity to the host.
Memory cards of such nature are hazardous, reason because you might not be able to tell that they are fakes, not until you start filling them up.
In this kind of case, the first 64 gigabytes of storage may work very fine, but if it exceeds that size, it starts to produce data errors.
Counterfeit or fake SD cards with reduced capacities should be avoided because they will most certainly result in loss of data.
3. Fake Brand
Some SD cards have brand labels on them and are sold at a premium price, but in real fact, they are made of cheap particles by some unknown manufacturer.
It could be a small producer that sells “rejects” from big brands, and in some cases, it could be an OEM product from a legitimate producer with misrepresented specifications.
Such memory cards are often more challenging to identify and might require a call to the producer to verify the serial number.
4. Unrealistic Capacity
There are SD cards that are sold on platforms like eBay and other sites that advertise unrealistic sizes. I’m in terms of storage.
Take, for instance, if you search eBay for microSD cards, you can find cards as large as 2 terabytes. How can that be when the largest micro SD card capacity is 512 gigabyte?
But if you check on eBay. Similarly, you will find up-to. 1 terabyte and more SD cards.
SanDisk had made an announcement far back in 2016 which will be made available to customers by 2019. So where is the 1.5 gigabyte coming from? (should be a reprogrammed controller).
Funny enough, the real capacity of the card maybe just 32 GB or 64 GB, but they make it look like 1 or 2 TB on your system. It is impossible to tell the usable capacity of the card not until it is tested over its real size.
Some memory cards are sold at very low prices by sellers. If you buy one of these and you will regret your decision. These cards are ordinary pieces of plastic that don’t work at all.
You can forget about contacting the seller to return such memory cards.
6. Counterfeit Memory Card
so what happens when you have a fake memory card?
As said earlier, such issues range from getting a slow transfer speed to loss of data and unusable cards. Among all, loss of data is the riskiest, most especially when larger memory space is in use.
The major issue with most fake SD cards with manipulated capacity is that users may end up losing all their data on the memory card once it exceeds its actual size. In this case, all data may end up getting corrupt.
Everything may be working great at first, only for troubles to show up soon after. It may result in a big issue when, for instance, a photographer is on an expensive deal then the memory ends up failing, after some days of usage.
This is why I say the biggest risk is data loss. You surely would not want to end up there.
Even if photographers have a dual memory card camera, with fake cards, it still won’t help matters. For this reason, you should be able to detect fake memory cards from the original ones.
How To Detect a Fake Memory Card
After buying a memory card, there are the same few things to inspect and necessary tests you can run to identify a fake memory card.
Inspect The Product Packaging: First, you have to inspect how the memory card is packaged, if you still have it the package.
If the packaging looks cheap with odd, inconsistent, or blur printing and absence of seals, all these could be the first sign of identifying a fake card.
Make sure that the package back contains details about the product such as the card speed and specifications, also is, appropriate labels, warranty information, and a proper UPC.
Have in mind that if the package looks fake, then the product is likely to be fake.
Inspect Memory Card: If you don’t have the packaging of the product anymore, then you will have to inspect the memory card visually.
While inspecting, start with the label of the memory card – is it positioned evenly? Or does it look a bit tilted?
Is the label printed correctly in good quality? Or does it look as if it can be easily peeled off?
All these are all signs of likely fake memory cards.
However, the best sign is that it lacks a unique serial number that can be used to identify the card.
If there is no string containing numbers or letters with numbers, then the memory card is likely to be a fake one.
The serial number location varies depending on the type of memory and its manufacturer.
If you have a SanDisk memory card, you will have to take a look at this article, which details the possible serial numbers location on its storage products.
Some manufacturers may want to include watermarks and other types of marks to differentiate their products.
Take, for example, Kingston makes use of“Colorshift Verification” to identify their genuine products.
If your Kingston SD card does not have such a feature, then it is definitely fake.
Test Memory Card: This part is the most important, and if you are going to perform it, then just skip the first two. This test will quickly reveal if the card you are dealing with is real or fake.
I will start with a file copy test that does not require any software.
Since most fake memory cards underperform when compared to original ones, one can quickly identify such cards via a file copy.
First, you will have to make available a fast memory card reader; else the speed test will be pointless.
Next, is to grab a large file from your PC (for instance, a 2 GB video file) and simply copy and paste it into the SD card and sit to observe the write speed range.
If you don’t get a speed more than 20 MB/sec on a memory card that stated 90 MB/sec write speeds, you definitely have a fake SD card.
After copying the file, try to copy it back from the SD card to see the kinds of reading speed it has. Again, take note of the read speed differences.
If your OS does not show report MB/sec on read and write operations, you will need to use third-party software on it.
For example, on a Mac PC, check the Disk Speed Test by Blackmagicdesign. The software does a decent job at reporting both the read and write speeds.
Make sure to give it enough time to test the sequential write speeds, since SD cards do not do well with random write operations.
If you are using your computer, CrystalDiskMark is a fantastic piece of software to test the read and write speeds on any storage device.
If you are concern about your memory card reporting larger than its actual capacity, to identify such cards make use of the free H2Testw tool.
Please note that the test will take time – the tool will go through each sector as it writes data, then it has to read again and verify all that information.
Therefore, if you have a memory card with a large capacity but very slow, it could take many hours to complete.
If you are planning to perform this type of test, you should skip the speed tests above, because the tool actively reports the read and write speeds of the memory card.
To me, H2Testw is the most amazing memory card testing tool. It is designed specially to detect memory cards that falsely report their storage.
The tool is designed to work only for Windows. For macOS, you can run another tool called “F3 (F3X is the GUI version).
Unfortunately, after the download on a Mac, I could not. Get F3X to run on the latest Mac operating system Mojave, so finally, I ended up compiling F3, which is only a command prompt version of the software (if you don’t know how to compile software on a Mac PC, just find a Windows PC or run Windows on a virtual environment and use H2Testw instead, that should work also).
After downloading and installing H2Testw, run it, then pick the right storage volume and click the “Write + Verify” button.
The software will open up another window, which will perform all the read and write operations. After everything is completed, the software will give reports on its findings.
If you are using a fake memory card, it will report the errors and show how much data was written and read from the memory card.
In the case above, we used a genuine 64 GB SanDisk memory card, the software not only showed zero errors, but it also reported an average read and write speed of 70 megabytes per second.
If you perform a similar test and you come across errors, just know that it is a fake or a failing card.
This test is the most effective, and it will reveal any problems you might have on any memory cards. Before you put your SD cards to use, I highly recommend running this software.
Fix Fake MicroSD Card With DiskPart
DiskPart is a Windows disk partition utility. It can run using the Command Prompt, and it is an easy way to make a fake memory usable.
To do this, open “My Computer”. Make a note of the memory card drive letter. Input command into your Start menu bar, select the best match, and right-click and select Run as administrator.
Next, type diskpart, then list volume, and input select volume (your drive letter). You will then shrink the drive to its real memory capacity. Please note the command works only in megabytes.
For instance, if you are going to decrease the drive size by 1 gigabyte, you would type “1000.” Input shrink desired (number of megabytes), and press the Enter button.
If you purchased a 512-gigabyte drive, but its real size is 8GB, you can type “shrink desired 504000.”After doing this, the command will decrease the size by 504,000MB (504GB), leaving 8GB of working storage memory.
Reduce the memory card to just below the volume of working capacity. So, if you have an 8GB SD card, use the shrink desired command to reduce it to 7.9GB.
Even if the drive volume is within its working range, the microSD card controller will remain the same.
Thus, if you reach the 8GB limit, your data could start to overwrite the drive.
Once you have settled on capacity, head back to “My Computer”, Right-click the card, and select Format.
Wait for it to complete, you have a working SD card. Although, not the 512GB, you thought, it will be better than nothing.
Memory Card Buying Tips
Let’s round up this post with some tips for buying memory cards.
- Replace SD cards once every few years to reduce failure.
- Never purchased a used or refurbished memory cards.
- Avoid cheap memory cards, especially if the price is too good to be true. If the low price is based on a discount, then make sure the discount is coming from the manufacturer.
- If the discount is listed on one website, it might be a trick to scam you.
- A “One-day” special with some seller such as Amazon will show up on their front page as “today’s best deals” and always from those that are trusted.
- Order from other trusted sources such as Adriana and B&H Photo Video.
- When buying from a reseller such as Walmart, Amazon, NewEgg, etc.
- Always make sure the card is sold and shipped by the same company.
- Make sure you are buying from an authorized seller.
- Always test and inspect memory cards to make sure that it is a genuine cards.
- If you bought a fake, counterfeit or substandard product from an authorized seller, do your best to contact both the manufacturer and the seller and let them know about what had happened. By so doing, they can make an effort to identify the source of the problem and will stop others from getting such a fake product.
- Finally, always make sure to specify that the product is counterfeit or fake when returning it, and make sure you ask for a refund or exchange.