What’s The Difference Between SD And Micro SD Memory Cards?

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Here’s a 64 gigabyte micro SD card, along with its standard SD card adapter. To use a micro SD card in a device that takes standard SD cards, you just slide the micro SD card into the adapter’s card slot, then insert the adapter into your device the same as you would any standard SD card.

I won’t bore you with all the technical details of what makes a micro SD card different from a standard SD card, because I’m pretty sure all you care about is whether or not a micro SD card will work with your various devices. The answer is, so long as your device can accept a standard SD card, yes, it can accept a micro SD card — provided you have a standard SD card adapter or USB plug-in adapter (as pictured in this post).

You can buy micro-to-standard SD card adapters and USB plug-in adapters on their own, but plenty of micro SD cards come bundled with adapters, too.

To use a micro SD card in a device that takes standard SD cards (most digital cameras, for example), you just slide the micro SD card into the adapter’s card slot, then insert the adapter into your device the same as you would any standard SD card. Notice how the adapter looks almost identical to a standard SD card.

To use a micro SD card with a computer, you have two options. If your computer has a standard SD card slot, use the adapter method I just described. If not, you can use a USB plug-in adapter (pictured below, in this post).


Why Micro SD?

Micro SD cards were invented to provide extra memory on very small devices, like cell phones. In terms of functionality, from the user’s perspective they work just the same as standard SD memory cards. They’re just smaller.

Since micro SD cards are more versatile, in that you can use them in a wider variety of devices than standard SD cards, a micro SD card + adapter combo is generally the smarter buy, especially if you can find the micro SD + adapter bundle with the amount of memory you want at a lower price than the comparable standard SD card.


This bundle includes two micro SD XC cards with a capacity of 64GB each, together with a USB plug-in adapter. You slide the micro SD card into a slot on the end of the USB plug-in adapter, then plug the adapter into your computer or other device that has an available USB port. (Note that the micro SD cards are magnified in this photo. In reality they’re pretty tiny and will definitely fit into slots on the end of that USB adapter.)

What Does It Mean When The Card Is Labeled “SDHC” or “SDXC”?

HC and XC are designations that indicate the card uses advanced technology to speed up its file access and processing times, and provide additional memory capacity. HC cards can handle up to a 32MB capacity, XC cards can handle up to a 2 terabyte capacity. A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes, so that’s a LOT of memory to squeeze into such an itty-bitty memory card.

When HC, and later, XC cards first came onto the consumer electronics market, only certain devices could handle the faster file processing so you had to carefully check to ensure your device could actually accept an HC/XC card before buying one. Now, HC is pretty much standard technology for any recent-model device that accepts SD or micro SD cards up to 32 GB, and XC is the typical designation you’ll find on a card with higher capacity than 32GB.

XC cards can also handle MUCH more capacity than HC cards: up to 2 terabytes in the standard SD card size. As of this writing, the largest capacity micro SD XC card you’ll find is 64GB.


Buy The Right Capacity Card For Your Devices

Micro SD cards are commonly available in capacities anywhere from 1 gigabyte to 64 gigabytes and their prices are very much in line with standard SD cards, but different devices have different limitations on the amount of memory they can handle in an SD card or micro SD card so you shouldn’t just assume the largest capacity micro SD card will be the best value for you.

Most current-model cell phones, MP3 players and other devices that accept micro SD cards can handle a 32GB card, but there are some that will only use up to a 16GB card. Some can use the full 64GB on a maximum-capacity card, but this is less common. Check your user’s manual, or if the manual’s long gone try checking your thingie’s technical details on Amazon or at the manufacturer’s website.

When you insert an SD or micro SD card with higher memory capacity than your device can use, one of two things will happen. The first possibility is that your device will work just fine with the larger capacity card, but will only be able to use as much of the memory on the card as your device’s specifications say it can handle. The second possibility is that your device won’t be able to read the higher capacity card at all, and will show you an error when you try to use it.

Since you can’t know ahead of time which of these will happen with your specific device, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only use cards that meet the maximum capacity limit(s) of your device(s).


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  1. Comment by Yolanda:

    I really appreciate your straight forward information. Did not leave me totally confused as most sights do.


  2. Comment by Barbara Paulding:

    what does the slider on the side of the sd card adapter do

    • Comment by Mom:

      Barbara – that’s a locking mechanism. By default, the memory card arrives with the slider in the ‘unlocked’ position, so you can write files to it. To preserve those files and ensure nothing new can be written to the card, slide the slider as far as it will go in the opposite direction in its slot. If you remember the little tab you could pop out on a recordable VHS tape so nothing could be recorded over it, this is the same kind of thing.

  3. Comment by Kelbel:

    Best answer ever! Thanks for just getting to the point in everyday terms.

  4. Comment by MiowLin:

    Hi Digital Media Mom, I have a question: since the microSD tends to quite a bit cheaper to buy than the full-size one, there must be some difference. Someone said something about speed. We have a camera that takes the full-size card, and I thought of getting the microSD with adapter, but was warned that using it that way would result in slower speeds. Not sure what that means. Could you explain please? Thank you!

    • Comment by Mom:

      MiowLin – Apparently the speed difference thing used to be true, but has been a myth since at least 2013. According to this article on Tested, reporting on bench tests that put MicroSD and standard SD cards head-to-head, the bigger factor in processing speed is whether or not the card carries the “Extreme” or “Ultra” designation, which are available in both MicroSD and standard SD versions. From the article: “A bunch of speed tests later, I discovered the Extreme microSD nearly matches the full-size version I’ve been using for a few months, and I’ve found a few reasons that microSDs may be worth buying to use in full-size SD ports. Speed is no longer a limitation. But price is–unless you know you’ll want to use the card in both full and microSD devices, there’s not much reason to buy a microSD card.”

      My own reason for sticking with MicroSD is that they’re more versatile: whether I need one for a phone, tablet, camera or laptop, I know a MicroSD + adapter will cover all the bases.