Beware of fake microSD cards! Here's how to tell a counterfeit from the original

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It is an amazing invention if you think about it. The humble microSD card may be no bigger than the nail of your thumb, but is capable of storing immense amounts of data – anything from the full discography of Queen to all episodes of The Big Bang Theory or The IT Crowd. And all this information is accessible instantly on a phone or tablet. Anytime. Anywhere. It is just mind-blowing!

Fake microSD cards, on the other hand, aren't exciting. In fact, they suck quite a bit. They're a bad investment, they're risky to use, and worst of all, they may cause you to lose data forever. Alas, the unassuming buyer may not be aware of that, as the counterfeits can be nearly indistinguishable from the real deal. They come in convincing packaging and are labeled under familiar brand names – Samsung, Kingston, SanDisk, to name a few. But worry not, as we're here to show you how to spot a fake microSD card.

Technically, what's the difference between fake and real microSD cards?


We were inspired to write this post when a buddy of ours complained about his phone acting up after having a new 64GB microSD card installed. He was right to assume that the card was to blame, but wrong to think that his phone was technically incapable of handling cards of this capacity. Simply, he had bought a fake microSD card.

Мany of today's counterfeit microSD cards have much less actual storage than advertised. For example, a card may have as little as 8GB of actual storage space, but the label on it may read 64GB. The worse part is that your device may also “see” it as a 64GB card – firmware hacks are a common practice and allow this to happen. In fact, your device can and will try to write data to the gigs that don't exist. This will either overwrite existing data or result in an error. In either case, your data may get corrupted irreversibly.

On top of all this, fake microSD cards are guaranteed to be slow at reading and writing data. They can be so painfully sluggish that they may have a serious impact on a phone's performance, causing it to lag or even crash. If your device is having these symptoms, you might want to check if the microSD card in it is genuine. We'll show you how to do that in a bit.

What do fake microSD cards look like?


There's this thing about Chinese culture – copying isn't and has never been considered a bad thing. That explains why some of the best product imitations come from China. It is common for a fake microSD card, as well as its packaging, to look almost like the real deal. But they're never an exact reproduction. If the print on the package seems off and if the logos don't look quite right, you're probably looking at a fake. If the text on the microSD card itself is misaligned or poorly printed, then it is most likely a fake. If the price of the product is too good to be true, then – you guessed it – you most likely have a fake on your hands.


How to avoid buying a fake microSD card?


As always, common sense is your friend. Buying your smartphone accessories from a well-known retail chain is a wise thing to do. Shopping from a reputable online electronics store is also a safe bet. Fakes, however, are easy to come by if you go to eBay or its Chinese counterparts, such as AliExpress.

For the record, we haven't actually bought any from the fakes listed there, but we don't think that's necessary when the scam is so obvious. Right now, SanDisk's 200GB microSD card is the largest in existence and costs $99 at BestBuy. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that a 512GB card on sale for under $10 is a fraud.



How do I check if my microSD card is fake?


There's an easy way of checking if your microSD card is genuine or not. If you have an Android phone or tablet, go to the Play Store and download SD Insight (pictured on the right). It is a free app that lists details about the microSD card installed in your device. Real microSD cards will have data about them listed, including their manufacturer. Counterfeits, on the other hand, will have no manufacturer name stated.

But while SD Insight is a reliable piece of software, it might not be able to read the data from each and every card in existence. So to test your microSD card without relying on the app, just fill it with data. Copy a bunch of files onto your microSD card and fill it up as much as you can. Or record a test video using your phone with the microSD card set as storage location. Once your card is nearly or completely full, see if the data you just put on it is accessible. The best thing to do if you get an error is to forget about ever using that microSD card again.
 
  • Download SD Insight from the Play Store right here

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