What is a memory card reader and what is it used for?

A memory card reader (also known as a USB card reader and an SD card reader) is a small device that is used to access, read, copy and backup data from a wide variety of memory cards such as SD (Secure Digital), CF (CompactFlash), MMC (MultiMediaCardC) and others.

Nowadays some PCs, laptops, tablets, printers and smartphones are equipped with a built-in card reader. However, card readers as separate devices are still very common.

As well as flash memory cards, card readers come in all shapes and sizes. While some of them have integrated connection plugs, others are only equipped with special connectors to attach USB cables. Most of the readers are connected via USB ports.

Additionally, they may have one or more slots for cards. There are card readers that accept only one particular type of card and multi-card readers that can take a wide variety of flash cards.

Last update: December 30, 2021

Time to read: 3 min

How and why to use a flash card reader?

USB card readers are very easy to use: just insert a memory card into the appropriate slot of the device and then connect it to your PC’s USB port. Please avoid forcing a flash card into a slot. If it doesn’t fit one slot, please try another. In case of a horizontally mounted slot, a card should be inserted label side up, and if it’s a vertically mounted one, try putting it label-left (or as indicated in the manual of the device).

As a rule, card readers are immediately detected by a computer’s system, but in case something goes wrong and an operating system doesn’t recognize your device, please make sure that all its cables are properly attached and that your computer has all the required drivers. Then you can try using a different USB port or another card reader.

One more thing to keep in mind: please use the safe removal option to disconnect a card reading device from a PC.

Most often, card readers are used to access flash cards from PCs that don't have integrated card slots. In addition, readers usually offer a relatively higher transfer rate compared to the rate of a device connected directly to the USB port. And when you use them, you shouldn’t worry about the battery dying during the transfer and the files getting lost or corrupted because of such an interruption.