SD cards die

So called ‘low cost’ developer boards (like BeagleBoard xM, PandaBoard, Snowball, MX53 Quick Start) do not have NAND flash on them so people are using SD/MMC cards as boot media and storage. So we, developers, went to shops and bought SD cards. Some got class4 ones cause budget was low already, some grabbed class10 ones hoping that they will be fast, other took class6.

I got some 4GB Transcend class10 ones. They worked, gave me 15MB/s on read and were fine. Until recently they started giving strange kernel output, MMC timeouts, I/O errors which resulted in filesystem going into read only mode. As I prefer to have working board then wondering how much time it will survive I trashed both cards. Good that I had some spare unknown 8GB microSD ones. But in last ~year I had to throw away 4 SD cards…

One of solution for it is moving rootfs to some more reliable storage. I did that with MX53 Quick Start — it has 320GB Serial-ATA harddrive connected. So for PandaBoards I could use 8-16GB thumb drives or USB connected hard drives. I had this in past when there was no mx53 hardware at my desk. But this means extra costs, additional cables, probably even another set of power cables…

Will have to check market for good reliable SD cards soon. 8-16GB ones so there will be space available for doing builds. Or will switch to old school NFS root which requires only 64MB cards — just to load bootloader, kernel, initrd. Other option is a network storage like NBD, AoE or iSCSI but this requires more configuration.

10 thoughts on “SD cards die

    1. Jon Smirl

      Appears to have been an error, now it is one unit for $199 instead of five. Still a pretty good deal.

    2. Marcin Juszkiewicz Post author

      Card was sitting in one device for most of time with ‘apt-get update/upgrade’ from time to time.

      mx515 is a nice cpu and people like it. I have EfikaMX Smartbook with this processor and think that it is quite slow device.

      And for table I am fine with Archos one.

  1. ssam

    if a memory card dies in less than a year send it back. most come with at least a few years of warranty. (this is also a good way to pressure the manufacturers to improve reliability).

  2. hanser

    hello what kind of file system do you use? something specific to flash like ubifs?

  3. Lumag

    +1 about warranty

    Anyway, we have checked several brands of SD cards in our boards. Not an advertisment, but we got good results only from SanDisk cards. Other were less reliable or provided less bandwidth.

  4. Jonathan Carter

    That goes for any solid state memory. USB flash drives, SD Cards, SSDs. Don’t skimp on price, the cheap stuff pretty much always fail within a year if you use it for an actual system.

    Also, you could use a small SD card to boot a minimal system, then mount a remote NFS/NBD/whatever share that contains the actual things you want to write to. You could also make your boards have less state this way.

  5. Philippe Garnier

    Just to correct the point that SNOWBALL has eMMC on board (4GB on SDK, 8GB on PDK). SNOWBALL is a professional design able to be used as a module and not just a “low cost board” as the other ones of your list.

    Back to your point you just don’t have selected the right board ;-). Thank to correct your post.

    1. Marcin Juszkiewicz Post author

      I know that Snowball has eMMC on board. But it is still “low cost board” nevermind how vendor names it. There were devices built with Beagleboard as a base in past.

      I had option to get Snowball but refused — I like to have USB host port without playing with OTG cables.

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