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What is an SDHC Card Reader?

By T. Raleigh
Updated May 16, 2024
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Secure digital high capacity (SDHC) cards usually are used as additional storage in various electronic devices. They have the ability to store more information than their standard secure digital cousins. An SDHC card reader allows the card to be used in compatible devices with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, such as a computer.

SanDisk Corporation, in cooperation with Panasonic and the Toshiba Corporation, developed the first secure digital (SD) memory card in August of 1999. Since that time, there have been numerous developments on the original design. SD memory cards continue to get smaller and have larger storage capacities.

SDHC cards use the Secure Digital Association (SDA) newer specification version 2.0. Many newer electronics, such as cameras, MP3 players, and mobile devices, can utilize the benefits of this quicker and more advanced protocol. Digital devices that are SDHC compatible can use these larger-sized memory cards.

Standard SD cards typically are no larger than 2GB. Using the latest technology, the SDHC cards begin at 4GB and, as of 2009, reach a maximum of 32GB. A benefit of the greater size means that more of the higher resolution music, photos, or videos can be stored on them.

The SDHC card reader makes transferring files from digital devices to computers and back again easier. Many computers have a USB port for input devices. Card Readers have a USB connection and a slot to slip in the memory card. Frequently, these card readers will accept additional memory card formats, such as Memory Stick, MultiMedia Card (MMC), or xD.

Like the device the memory card is being used in, the SDHC card reader must be compatible for these high capacity cards. Some of the older model card readers are only able to read standard SD memory cards. Readers that will allow the use of an SDHC card generally are marked as such.

Electrical connections at one end of the SDHC card reader allow communication of the data to the USB port. This type of connection allows the reader to function much like a USB flash drive. Files can be transferred to and from various SD and USB port devices.

Often, mobile devices use these smaller types of SD cards for data storage. The higher demands in mobile technology help drive the need for higher capacity memory cards for these devices as well. An SDHC card reader will accept miniSD and microSD cards with the use of an SD card adapter.

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Discussion Comments
By animegal — On Jul 23, 2011

Does anyone know what to do if your SDHC card reader is suddenly having trouble reading certain cards?

I have been using the same SDHC card reader for eons and would really like to know if there are some cards that are just not compatible with a standard SDHC card reader.

The package of cards I bought were on sale, and I am worried that I may have gotten ripped off by buying them. They look perfectly fine, and I can see the stored pictures on my camera, but the SDHC card reader just won't work with them. It is really strange.

By lonelygod — On Jul 22, 2011

If you are starting out as a digital photographer the good news is that you are unlikely to need a separate SDHC card reader. Most cameras can link directly up to your laptop through a USB connection. The camera itself works as a SDHC card reader in this case.

For those who would like to have a separate SDHC card reader for backup they are pretty inexpensive these days. Because of the different sized cards though it is a good idea to take your SDHC card into the store and ask them for a reader that will work with what you are using. Nothing is more frustrating than buying the wrong card reader.

By malmal — On Jul 21, 2011

@VivAnne - Media card readers are great, but you have to pay careful attention to the specifications if you order them online and can't see the card slot.

My digital camera uses SDHC cards, and so I figured it would be good to have a media card reader for all of the reasons you commented about -- it's quick, it's easy, it gets rid of the necessity to carry USB cords around all the time, etc. So I ordered my card reader, and when the package arrived I excitedly opened it up only to find that the card slot was tiny!

The card type the reader took still called itself SDHC, so I was understandably confused until I looked up media card types and found that there is a newer, smaller kind of SDHC card called the Micro SDHC card.

This was quite a bummer -- I ended up having to buy a whole other card reader and double-checking to be sure it didn't say micro anywhere on it. Why do they make so many different kinds of media card, anyway? I wish there was a universal type.

By VivAnne — On Jul 20, 2011

I love media card readers! As a digital photographer, I do a lot of file transferring from the media cards that my camera saves photos onto to my computer, and I used to do this using the original method: USB cord from the computer to the camera.

My new camera does still have a micro USB port for plugging the camera to the computer directly by cord, but I find the card reader method so much quicker and easier. You just pop the card out of the camera, into the reader slot, and ta-da, files -- it's as easy as using a USB thumbdrive!

My first media card reader was a little black external one that attached to the computer by a USB cord. Nowadays, both of my computers (I have a mini tower and a Netbook) have built-in media card readers that handle quite a few different formats, including SDHC, SD, xD and more. If you use digital cameras a lot, a media card reader is a must.

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