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Using and Troubleshooting Memory Card Readers (Windows Vista and XP)

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This document pertains to preinstalled memory card readers on HP and Compaq computers with Windows Vista or XP.
Many HP and Compaq computers come with memory card readers preinstalled.
Figure 1: Memory card reader (yours might be different)
Memory card reader
Memory cards are used primarily for importing pictures from digital cameras, but they can also be useful for sharing pictures and files. The following list shows some common types of memory cards:
  • CompactFlash I
  • CompactFlash II
  • IBM Microdrive
  • Secure Digital (SD)
  • mini-SD
  • MultiMediaCard (MMC)
  • Reduced size MultiMediaCard (RS-MMC)
  • MultiMediaCard Plus (MMC plus)
  • MultiMediaCard Mobile (MMC mobile)
  • Memory Stick
  • Memory Stick Pro
  • Memory Stick Duo
  • Memory Stick Pro Duo
  • SmartMedia
  • xD Picture Card (xD = extreme digital)
For memory card specifications, see the HP support document, General Information About Memory Cards .
NOTE:If your computer came with a 6-in-1 card reader by KYE and was purchased before summer of 2003, update its card reading firmware by using the HP Software Download Web page (in English) for your computer model name. Updating the KYE firmware allows bad blocks messages to be displayed.

A high capacity SDHC card locks up or the SDHC card cannot be read

Many models of PC card readers do not work with "high capacity" formats. For example, a memory card reader capable of reading a 1 GB Secure Digital (SD) card might not read from a 16 GB SDHC card.
The computer might lock up when an SDHC card is inserted into a card reader that does not support SDHC. To immediately fix the lock-up, double-click the Safely Remove Hardware icon, (in the notification area in the lower right corner of the screen), select the USB card reader, and then click Stop. The card reader will not work until the computer is restarted. You can now safely remove the memory card and use the computer for other activities.
To use your higher capacity memory card without locking up the computer, do one of the following:
  • If you are using the card in a camera or other device, you can attach the device to the computer using a USB or FireWire cable. When connected, most devices appear in Windows as a Removable Disk and can be used in the same way as the card reader.
  • Use a USB memory card reading device that plugs into any open USB port. Make sure the USB device can read SDHC. These devices are inexpensive and can be used in any computer that has a USB port.
    Figure 2: SDCH to USB card reader adapter
    SDCH to USB card reader adapter

An SDXC card cannot be read

Make sure the card reader specifically supports the SDXC format. You can access the SDXC card by using an SDXC compatible USB reader or adapter. Look for an SDXC logo on the device or check with the device manufacturer for information.
CAUTION:Never format an SDXC memory card in a non-compatible device. Doing so will make the memory card incompatible with SDXC devices because it will erase the data on the SDXC memory card and format the card for a different file system.

Card reader stops working after using Safely Remove Hardware

CAUTION: Do not insert or remove memory cards while the light on the reader is flashing. Doing so might cause loss of data on the card or might permanently damage the card reader.
The following steps explain how to use memory cards in a card reader:
  1. Insert a memory card when the light on the reader is not flashing. You can have a memory card inserted in each slot in the card reader, at the same time.
    An autoplay window displays. If it does not, access the card through Windows Explorer.
  2. The memory card has a drive letter, like a DVD drive or hard drive. Use the memory card as you would use any other drive on the computer. For example, double-click the memory card icon to open a new window showing the files on the card.
  3. When you have finished working with the files on a memory card, right-click the memory card icon and select Eject. Make sure the light on the memory card reader is not on or flashing when removing the card from its slot.
    Figure 3: Eject feature in Windows Vista
    Eject feature in Windows Vista
    Figure 4: Eject feature in Windows XP
    Eject feature in Windows XP
Memory card readers are devices that use the Safely Remove Hardware icon in the notification area on the taskbar). Do not click Stop in the Safely Remove Hardware window. Doing so can disconnect the memory card reader from Windows. If this happens, restart the computer to reinitialize the memory card reader.
Figure 5: Safely Remove Hardware feature in the taskbar
Safely Remove Hardware feature in taskbar
An alternative to restarting the computer is to use the Optimize for Quick Removal feature in Windows as follows:
  1. Open Device Manager:
    • In Windows Vista, click Start , and type Device Manager into the Start Search field. Click Continue if a UAC message opens.
    • In Windows XP, right-click the My Computer, select Properties from the drop-down menu, select the Hardware tab in the System Properties window, and then select the Device Manager button.
  2. In Device Manager, click the + sign next to Disk drives to display a list of the drive devices on your computer. Memory card readers are seen as drive devices in Windows.
  3. In the list of drive devices, right-click the device that has stopped functioning to display a drop-down menu (for example, Generic USB CF Reader for CompactFlash media).
    Click Properties in this menu.
  4. Click the Policies tab in the Device Properties window.
  5. Select Optimize for quick removal, and then click the OK button.
    This setting disables write caching on the device and in Windows, so the media can be removed without using the Safely Remove Hardware feature in the taskbar. The card reader might experience a minor drop in device performance.
    Figure 6: Optimize for quick removal setting
    Quick removal setting

Memory card icons are missing in Windows

If you cannot access the memory card, or the drive is not listed in My Computer, use the following steps until the drive displays:
NOTE:If you are using a card reader that did not come with the computer, contact the manufacturer of the adapter for help.
  1. Remove and reinsert the memory card.
    If the AutoPlay window opens or if the memory card is now listed in the Computer window, you are done. Otherwise, continue with the next step.
  2. Restart the computer.
    If the AutoPlay window opens or if the memory card is now listed in the Computer window, you are done. Otherwise, continue with the next step.
  3. Reinstall each memory card device using Device Manager:
    1. Remove all memory cards, and unplug all USB storage devices from the USB ports.
      NOTE:Make sure you remove all USB devices.
    2. In Windows Vista, click Start , type Device Manager into the Start Search field, and press Enter.
      In Windows XP, click Start, right-click My Computer, select Properties, click the Hardware tab, and then click the Device Manager button.
    3. Click the plus sign next to Disk Drives to open the category.
    4. Right-click a "Generic" card reader device name and select Uninstall.
      Figure 7: Device Manager in Windows XP (Windows Vista is similar)
      Uninstalling the card reader
    5. Wait until Device Manager updates the list, removing the name of the Generic device.
    6. Continue uninstalling Generic card reader device names until they are all removed from the list.
    7. Restart the computer and use the card reader. If problems persist, continue to the next step.
  4. Try another memory card of the same type in the same slot. If this memory card works, the card reader is working correctly. Replace the original memory card. If the second memory card does not work, continue using these steps.
  5. If you are using Media Center, remove the memory card, maximize the Media Center window, and reinsert the memory card.
  6. Turn off the computer, disconnect the power cord, and press the power button on the front of the computer for five seconds. Reconnect the power cord and turn on the computer to test the card reader.
    If the AutoPlay window opens or if the memory card is now listed in the Computer window, you are done. Otherwise, continue with the next step.
  7. Some memory card readers use support USB devices. Insert a USB device into an open USB port to test whether the card reader can read from the USB device. If the device works correctly, continue to the next step. If the USB device also fails, there is a problem with USB. See the HP support document, Troubleshooting USB Connections in Windows Vista , or USB Device Troubleshooting in Windows 98, ME, and XP , for further troubleshooting.
  8. Turn off the computer and disconnect the power cord. Then shine a flashlight into the empty card slots in the card reader to see if any pins inside are bent. Straighten any bent pins with the end of a mechanical pencil. Replace the memory card reader or have the computer serviced if a pin is bent and is touching another pin.
    If the AutoPlay window opens or if the memory card is now listed in the Computer window, you are done. If there were no bent pins, continue to the next step.
  9. The memory card reader software is usually set up through a plug and play process in Windows. Some computers that came with Windows XP and built before 2003 might come with separate software for the memory card reader. If so, reinstalling the memory card reader software and then restarting the computer can fix problems with the memory card driver. To reinstall the card reader driver on HP and Compaq desktop computers, see the HP support document, Using Recovery Manager to Restore Software and Drivers in Windows Vista , or Using Application Recovery (Windows 9x, Me, and XP) .
  10. Reset the cable connections and memory card firmware:
    1. Remove the side of the computer case by unscrewing the two retaining screws on the back of the computer and sliding the side panel towards the rear of the computer. Set the panel aside.
      WARNING: The edges of metal panels can cut skin. Be careful not to slide skin along any edge of the computer's interior metal.
      CAUTION:Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is the release of static electricity. ESD can damage components inside the computer. To reduce the chance of ESD damage wear an ESD grounding strap and work on the computer over a hard, noncarpeted surface.
    2. Find and disconnect the cable from the back of the card reader and leave it disconnected.
      Figure 8: One type of connection on the reader (your computer might be different)
      One type of connection on the reader
    3. Make sure that the other end of the cable is correctly connected to the motherboard or an electronic card connected to the motherboard. Make sure that the unconnected end of the cable is not touching any electronics or components inside the computer, particularly the fans.
      Figure 9: Connector on the motherboard (your computer might be different)
      Connector on the motherboard
    4. Replace the computer side panel and turn on the computer.
    5. After Windows starts and the desktop displays, wait about five minutes for Windows to make the necessary hardware changes.
    6. Turn off the computer and remove the computer side panel.
    7. Reconnect the cable into the back of the card reader, replace the side panel, and turn on the computer.
    8. Check to see if the drives appear in My Computer or Windows Explorer:
      • If the memory card drives appear in Windows and work correctly you are done.
      • If the memory card drives do not appear in Windows, the drive might need to be serviced or replaced.

Memory cards appear in Windows but errors occur when writing or reading

If you are having problems reading and writing data to memory cards, use the following troubleshooting tips:
  • Try a different memory card of the same type in the same slot. If this memory card works, the card reader is working correctly. Replace the original memory card.
  • Some cards have a read/write security switch on the card. Make sure the switch is set to Write Enabled before trying to write data to it.
  • Make sure that the amount of data you tried to store has not exceeded the capacity of the card.
  • Inspect the ends of the memory cards for dirt or material closing a hole or spoiling a metal contact. Clean the contacts with a lint-free cloth and small amounts of isopropyl alcohol. Replace the memory card if necessary.
  • Make sure the memory card is supported by the card reader.
  • Make sure the memory card is fully inserted into the slot.
  • Remove the memory card when the light is not flashing and shine a light into the empty slot to see if any small pins inside are bent. If the pins a slightly bent, turn off the computer and straighten them with the tip of a mechanical pencil. If two of the pins are touching, replace the memory card reader or have the computer serviced.
  • If errors continue, replace the memory card.

Resolving other issues with memory card readers

Card reader drivers can become corrupted or stop functioning correctly, and new drivers and firmware are occasionally released to address issues. New firmware for your memory card reader might be available that could resolve the particular issue you are having.
To be sure you are using the latest driver and firmware, periodically check for new releases of this software on the HP Software Download Web page (in English). Type your product name on the Web page to view a list of available software for your product.
NOTE:If you are using an adapter for a type of memory card not supported by the reader and the memory card does not work, contact the manufacturer of the adapter for support.

Formatting memory cards

Use the following steps to format a memory card:
Show me how
  1. Insert the memory card into the memory card slot. If an Autoplay window opens, close it.
  2. In Windows Vista, click Start , and then click Computer.
    In Windows XP, click Start, and then click My Computer.
  3. Under Removable Storage, right-click the memory card icon, and then click Format
  4. Type in a Volume label name into the label field. This is the name that displays next to the drive letter in Windows.
    Figure 10: Format window
    Format window
  5. Click Start.
  6. Click OK on the Format Complete window.
  7. Click Close to finish.

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