What Is a Media Card Reader?

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Many types of electronic devices contain removable memory cards that can store files and data. Examples include removable memory cards in digital cameras, cell phones, portable gaming systems and some MP3 players. A media card reader allows the user to access the data stored on the card on their computer and allows files to be transferred between the card and the computer.



There are a few types of memory card readers available. Some media card readers are installed internally on a computer or laptop as a media card slot while others are external devices that connect via USB or Firewire. A media card reader may be a single card reader or a multiple card reader.


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The difference between single card and multiple card readers is that a multiple card reader often has slots for multiple types of memory cards such as Smart Media, Compact Flash, SD, and microSD. A single card reader is designed to read only one type of memory card.


Memory card readers--if they are single card readers or internally installed--are usually about the same size as the actual cards they are designed to read. External card readers that have multiple slots can vary in size but are usually slightly larger than a deck of cards and are easily portable.



A memory card reader allows the user to transfer files between the memory card and the computer without having to directly connect the device that the card came from to the computer. The reader also can free up USB or Firewire ports by allowing multiple cards to be read on a single device connected to one port.



While a single card reader may cost less and fit a user's immediate needs, such as the user only has a device with Smart Media cards, a multiple media card reader may be a better choice. This is because the reader can accept a range of different media cards and sizes. If you buy another device that uses different card technology, the multiple card reader may have a slot for that card.


Other Devices

Media card readers are being built into devices other than laptops and desktop computers, reducing the need for external card readers. One example of internal media card readers in other devices is the presence of the readers on some printers. The printers often have card readers relevant to the types of storage cards found on digital cameras such as SD cards. The addition of a small screen allows the user to view and print photo files directly from the printer without a computer.


Stores that offer photo processing often have kiosks that allow users to edit and print their own photos. These kiosks sometimes have media card readers built right into the machine.