How Do Flash Drives and Memory Cards Work with Windows 10? - dummies

How Do Flash Drives and Memory Cards Work with Windows 10?

By Andy Rathbone

Digital camera owners are acquainted with memory cards — those little plastic squares that replaced the awkward rolls of film. Windows 10 can read digital photos directly from the camera after you find its cable and plug it into your PC. But Windows can also grab photos straight off the memory card, a method praised by those who’ve lost their camera’s cables.

The secret is a memory card reader — a little slot-filled box that stays plugged into your PC. Slide your memory card into the slot, and your PC can read the card’s files, just like reading files from any other folder. Some tablets, laptops, and PCs include built-in memory card readers.

Most office supply and electronics stores sell memory card readers that accept most popular memory card formats: Compact Flash, SecureDigital High Capacity (SDHC), Micro-SecureDigital High Capacity (SDHC), Micro-SecureDigital Extended Capacity (SDXC) and a host of other tongue twisters. Some computers even come with built-in memory card readers on the front of their case.

The beauty of card readers is that there’s nothing new to figure out: Windows treats your inserted card just like an ordinary folder. Insert your card, and a folder appears on your screen to show your digital camera photos. The same drag-and-drop and cut-and-paste rules still apply, letting you move the pictures or other files off the card and into your Pictures folder.


Flash drives — also known as thumbdrives — work just like memory card readers. Plug the flash drive into one of your PC’s USB ports, and the drive appears as an icon in File Explorer, ready to be opened with a double-click.

  • First, the warning: Formatting a card or flash drive wipes out all its information. Never format a card or flash drive unless you don’t care about the information it currently holds.

  • Now, the procedure: If Windows complains that a newly inserted card isn’t formatted, right-click its drive and choose Format. (This problem happens most often with brand-new or damaged cards.)