How Long Do SD Cards Last?

The lifespan of an SD (secure digital) card is approximately 10 years. However, there are important variables that contribute to maximizing that life span. Depending on the age of the card, brand, and usage, the life expectancy may vary.

Hello everyone! My name is Lavelle and I am a professional photographer and a lifelong learner. For the past 30+ years, I have been exploring and experiencing the world of technology and trying to stay abreast of the constant changes in the field. As such, SD cards have been a primary piece of technology that I have used over the years.

In this article, I will go over some of the signs that help you to understand that an SD card needs to be replaced. Additionally, I cover some of the ways that you can expand the lifespan of an SD card.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose an SD card that comes from a reputable brand such as SanDisk, Lexar, or Transcend. These brands are known for high-quality cards that will last longer.
  • Store cards in cool places, and use a card case when possible, to maximize the lifespan of your card and keep your data safe.
  • Look for an SD card with a fast write speed of at least 100MB/s and with a large volume of 128GB.

5 Signs to Understand that Your SD Card Needs to be Replaced

Here are some signs that help you to determine that your SD card needs to be replaced. 

1. Physical Damage or Signs of Wear

If your SD card is cracked, smashed, or looks otherwise distorted, then there is a good chance that the card may not function properly. Be sure to keep your card in a case or store it carefully to avoid damaging it.

2. Slow Performance

In some cases, you may notice that your SD card begins to respond or perform slower than usual. If this happens, I suggest that you immediately save your data to another card or to an external drive to avoid losing your data altogether.

3. Errors

Typically, SD cards are not designed to give error readings or messages. Should you receive an error message of some sort, then you will have to decipher the meaning of that error on your own. However, if the error occurs and you can still access the data, immediately copy it to another source for safeguarding.

4. Missing Files

If you notice that you have missing files, you should immediately begin checking a few things:

  1. Check to see if the card is locked. There is normally a switch on the side of the card that allows you to lock/unlock the card. Many times this switch is accidentally moved to the locked position.
  2. Your files may be hidden. To check for this on a Windows device, go to your File Explore tab and then to the View tab and click on the show/hide button. Mac users need to plug their SD card into the computer and select it in Finder. To display the hidden files, press Command+Shift+Dot. This may reveal your missing files.
  3. The connectivity issue could be the culprit. Take out the SD card and then reinsert it. If the card does not make good contact with the device, it may malfunction, causing you to not see your files.

5. No Respond or Fail

The sign to indicate that your SD card needs replacing is when the card does not respond or fails. This is the most critical of all the signs. It may be that your card has been corrupted or that some sort of virus has attacked it.

In these cases, you may have to format the card, which will remove all data, and then you can try to recover the data using one of the data recovery platforms found online.

How to Expand the Life of SD Cards

Now, let’s talk about how you can expand the life of your SD card. 

Choose an SD Card from a Respected Brand

Brand matters when choosing an SD card. It is widely agreed upon that the most trusted brand in SD cards is the SanDisk brand. Look for cards that have approximately 100MB/S of write speed and a large volume capacity (somewhere around 128GB).

Some other notable brands include the Micro Center brand, Lexar, and Transcend. Each has a good industry reputation and good customer reviews. Again, the write speed and the volume capacity must be good.

Have a Few Cards

One thing I have learned while doing professional photography over the years is to have several cards on me. The SD cards fill up quickly, especially when taking high-resolution photos and videos. Therefore, it is vitally important that you keep extra cards on hand at all times.

Store Your Cards Properly

I strongly suggest locking your cards when not using them and storing them in a protective case. Also, store your cards in a climate-controlled space. Extremely hot areas may cause damage to your card, so avoid leaving it in a hot car all day or in a place where it is exposed to direct sunlight over a long period.

Maintain the SD Card with Care

SD cards like any other equipment, need to be maintained with care. Keep your cards clean, and in a safe place, and do not ever try to force a card into a card slot, as this may damage the card and/or the device into which you attempt to force it. Use caution and common sense when using your SD card.

This video shows 10 best practices you can employ when caring for your SD cards to help keep your images safe.


Here are some answers to a few commonly asked questions.

How Often Should SD Cards Be Replaced?

Depending on the specific card you are using, it is recommended that you replace your SD card every 2 to 5 years. However, if you see any signs of incorrect performance, then you should replace it sooner.

Can an SD Card Last 20 Years?

SD cards are typically rated to last a maximum of 10 years. It is rare to find a card that can last for 20 years, however, with technology improvements, who knows? It could happen. However, I would err on the side of caution.

How Long Does a 128GB SD Card Last?

Generally speaking, a notable brand SD card such as SanDisk with a 128GB capacity, should last for up to 10 years. Keep in mind that the brand, write speed, and capacity, all contribute to the lifespan of a card.

Final Thoughts

SD cards are an important part of data storage efforts. The truth is that these cards are convenient and work well in many capacities. However, as it is with any piece of equipment or technology, some limitations and variables contribute to the quality of these cards. 

Treat your card with caution and choose cards with a high-quality reputation.

What SD card has worked best for you? Share your experience in the comments below.

Until next time, protect your data and enjoy your craft!

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