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How To: Use Your Printer's SD Card Reader.

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Written by veryatlantic‚ĄĘ   

How To: Use Your Printer's SD Card Reader.

This article is provided as a basic service--in my line of work, I continually meet people who own digital cameras who do NOT know how to transfer the pictures from their digital camera to their computer.  It is very foolish to use your camera to store your photos.  Cameras get lost, stolen, and there is always the possibility that a dead camera battery will wipe out both your internal and removable memory (such as a memory card).

As a Rule of Thumb, you should not keep more than a single event or day's worth of photos on your camera, the maximum being around 200 photos.  I download whenever my camera is holding more than 48 photos, yet I still have experienced losses.  It is always risky to keep any photos in a camera for more than a week.

What you need to know first:

i) Avoid buying any digital camera that requires a cable or software to transfer digital pictures from your camera.  If you have no choice, buy a camera with BOTH the cable and a memory card.

ii)  Do not buy any camera that uses any non-standard memory card.  The current standard is SanDisk, which comes in capacities from 32MB (a free promo) up to 64GB ($350.00 in early 2010).

iii)  These directions work for any SD memory card (SanDisk), but the principle is the same for any other card for which you have a compatible slot (or a proprietory memory card reader).

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1.  Your computer should be turned on and displaying the "My Computer" screen, or similar window of your operating system.  In XP, you go to the green Start button, view the Start Menu (not the Classic Start Menu) and click on "My Computer".  Resize it if necessary.  Leave the window open, drag it to one side so you can see it later.

2.  Your printer should be plugged in, turned on, and connected to your computer.  You will be using the printer only as a device to read your SD memory card, then transferring the files from the card to your computer hard drive. (Many printers will automatically turn on when a memory card is inserted at Step 5 later.)

3.  Memory slots are located on the front panel of your printer.  Find the correct memory card slot.  Each slot will only accept the correctly matched card, so do not worry about accidents.  Still, use common sense and don't force a memory card into any slot.

4. Find the memory card on your camera.  These can be in an exposed slot in the casing, or inside a hatch such as the battery compartment.  To remove the card (usually a characteristic blue color), you push the card further into the camera.  It will then click and pop out of the camera.

Memory card slot inside battery compartment of Canon camera

Note: sometimes cameras are provided with a free 32MB disk which holds less than 30 pictures.  These disks are black in color and do NOT eject when pushed in.  You have to pull these disks out with your fingernail or similar object.

5. Insert the SD memory disk into the matching slot on your printer.  Look at your computer screen, and momentarily, you should see a new "Devices with Removable Storage" appear.  This is your computer detecting your SD memory card as a new small hard drive.

6.  Using your mouse, navigate through the SD card until you find a directory called DCIM (for Digital Camera Images).  You SD memory card is a flash drive that can be used to store other formats (text, MP3) in a pinch, but make sure you NEVER drag anything but pictures into and out of the DCIM folder.  (It messes up the hidden photo index.)

7.  Once you open the DCIM folder, you will likely see your photos labeled with the file names generated by your camera.  Switch to thumbnail view mode using the view menu to confirm you have the correct photos.

8.  Drag and drop the photos from the camera to your destination folder on the hard drive.  If you didn't have a destination folder read, read my article "How To: Keep your computer files organized." in Firehow.

9.  Both folders should be in thumbnail view.  Once you CONFIRM you have transfered all the photos, close the destination folder.  This is important, as it is too easy to confuse two open folders with the same contents.  Again, close the folder on your computer so only the camera folder is visible.

10.  Use standard Windows mouse commands to select and delete the pictures in your SD memory card.  The disk is now blank, ready to be removed from the printer card slot and placed back into your camera.  Congratulations, you did it.


It is ALWAYS easier to manipulate photos using your computer than trying to navigate around the tiny multi-purpose buttons on the camera.  There will be times you will be tempted to use the camera to delete unwanted photos to free up memory space, but beware.  It is far too easy to accidentally wipe out your entire collection.  Take my advice, use the computer to delete files from the SD disk.

Note that you should always use the computer to edit photos anyway, due to the effect of the small camera viewing screen.  On such small screens, you will always get the impression your photos are better than they really are.  Again, use a computer to work on photos.

Disk size is, of course, a matter of preference.  Many digital cameras will also double as a video camcorder, and the larger your disk capacity, the longer video you can take.  Most digital cameras require 1GB per hour to record video.  However, consider the following:

a)  The larger your memory card, the more you chance losing your pictures.  The card are small and easily lost in transport.  Also, a large card will encourage you to try and fill it up, further increasing your odds of loss.

b)  Most digital photos are intended to be displayed on a computer monitor or the Internet, which are best suited for jpeg format.  Unless you have a very good reason to use bitmap or some other format, you probably do not need huge memory card capacity.  Also, bitmap pictures produce bloated computer files that take forever to download.  Stick with jpegs.

c)  Most camera "video" is produced in AVI (audio-visual interlaced) format, which degrades in quality quickly as you increase the size of your playback window.  This is another reason for staying away from huge capacity memory disks--you will probably not like the picture quality.

Do not get distracted by the clutter of free offers, order forms, displays and other junk that can appear on your computer monitor when you try to download or transfer photos.  Focus on the task, stick with the plan.


Be very careful when deciding what capacity of memory card to purchase.  Experience shows that for normal consumer use, a 512 MB card is plenty.  That card will hold 4,000+ jpegs at 640x480 resolution, the size best suited for web pages, email attachments and downloading.  Any camera setting above 100 dpi is overkill for photos intended to be viewed on a computer monitor.  If you are tempted to buy larger capacity, it is wiser to have two 512MB cards than a single 1GB card.


Disclaimer: veryatlantic‚ĄĘ is a non-technical source for advice and entertainment and is not responsible for any damages under any theory. All posts sacrifice technical accuracy for user-friendliness. If unsure, get help. Please feedback errors for correction.


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