Used in portable electronics devices, compact flash card mass storage devices were originally developed by Samsung in 1994. Though most compact flash cards use flash memory, in products such as the Microdrive, hard disk memory is used. Compact flash cards are used in both portable and stationary devices such as mp3 players, laptops, professional cameras, consumer cameras, and standard desktop computers. There are two types of compact flash cards from which to choose. To ensure the proper compact flash card is purchased, buyers must evaluate the size and speed of the card, as well as the type of card needed by the device.
Compact Flash Card Standards
Compact flash card dimensions are created uniformly by usage. However, there are two general types of compact flash cards: Type I and Type II. Type I compact flash cards have smaller dimensions than Type II cards, though they have similar speeds, their current draw and storage capabilities are different. These two types of compact flash cards ensure the card is usable across a range of manufacturers' devices.
The thickness, current draw, and storage limit between Type I and Type II compact flash cards vary, but their uses remain similar. Only one type of card can be used in a device; the manufacturers' instruction booklet will specify which size compact card is necessary. Current draw is also important because this will determine the power usage of the card in the device. If the current draw is too high, the card will not be properly powered and will not function as desired. Finally, storage is also important because devices will utilise the memory differently.
Compact Flash Card Considerations
Speed and storage size are the two main factors to consider. Devices use the storage provided by the compact flash cards differently, thus the speed and size should be designated based on the needs of the device.
Compact flash card speed described by the manufacturer corresponds with how fast the data on the card can be read. This is an important factor with devices like cameras and video recorders, as a faster reading capability can mean the difference between a great and mediocre shot. Also, the speed of the reading capability will allow the device to save multiple shots in succession, without having to wait for the card to ready itself between shots.
Compact flash card speeds are a number followed by an 'x'. Many current devices boast speeds of 66x, which is more than the required 60x for most professional-grade cameras. Conversely, most mp3 players only need a 1x transfer speed, so the speed requirements are considerably less for these devices. It is important to consult the manufacturers' instruction manual to ensure the correct speed is chosen for the device in use, as delays in data access can inhibit the intended usage of the device.
Compact flash card storage capacity is an important consideration, especially when using devices that save regularly. As noted previously, cameras create many files in quick succession, but these files may also be large in size. Due to the nature of the memory, the cards can be written, deleted, and written on again without loss of integrity. Thus, larger sizes may be more useful if the card is intended to be reformatted and used again for another purpose – though this is not necessary if the device is meant to keep and store the same information for long periods of time.
Formatting Compact Flash Cards
Compact flash cards can have data written on them, deleted, and then have more information saved again. During the process of formatting, or wiping the card of all stored files, ensure the correct file system is chosen. On a Windows Computer, the compact flash card can be formatted using the Windows Explorer interface. First, the card is inserted in the compact flash card slot with the arrow facing up and inserted in the direction of the arrow. Then, the 'My Computer' icon is clicked, and the compact flash card can be located in the devices pane. Finally, the compact flash card icon is right-clicked, then the format option is chosen by the user to begin the process. During this process, FAT 32 or NTFS file systems can be chosen. Consult with the device manufacturer to ensure proper configuration with the device at hand.
Buying Compact Flash Cards on eBay
Search eBay to find a number of Type I and Type II compact flash cards for use with all types of portable devices. Authorised sellers on eBay may only sell Type I or Type II, so ensure before purchase that you are selecting the correct type of compact flash cards for your needs. Searching the term compact flash card will provide both Type I and Type II compact flash cards of various speeds and sizes, allowing the comparison of various models.