Sony Memory Sticks... durability?

All righty, for Christmas, our family got a digital camera. Damn good one, too. We also picked up a 64-meg memory stick to go along with it (to take hundreds of pictures). In addition to that, we bought a memory stick reader (on a USB connection) so we don’t have to hook up the camera every time we want to transfer files from the computer.

A couple weeks ago, I formatted my computer. After reinstalling Windows and everything, there were a couple files on the family computer that I didn’t have on my personal computer. Rather than use 30 floppy disks to transfer the data (we haven’t networked the computers together yet, and I was impatient), I simply brought the 64-meg memory stick (and reader) downstairs, transferred the files, and brought them back upstairs and put the files on my computer. Simple.

However, I’m wondering… do memory sticks get “worn out” if there’s too much data transfer going through it? I know that floppy disks can sometimes burn out, and Zip disks are vulnerable to the Click of Death… so should I use the memory stick (a $150 thing) only for pictures, or should I have no fears about wearing the thing out?

I’m not sure about the Memory stick MTBF (that’s Mean Time Before Failure), but it’s a solid-state device. It has no moving parts, and therefore nothing to wear out. It’s essentially the same as RAM, but in a portable package. Think about how much your computer’s RAM gets written and read from every day (oh, a couple trillion times a day), and I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll wear out the RAM itself. On the other hand, the connections between the stick and the reader/camera could get worn out. I wouldn’t think that this would happen for many years, but I think that will fail far before the internal parts of the stick fail. Disks of all sorts are electro-magnetic (or optical) / mechanical type objects, which can be prone to failure due to the mechanical parts. Just don’t step on it!


While I’m not a fan of the Sony MemorySticks (another proprietary format, thanks Sony) I’ve never heard of any duribility problems. It’s solid state, nothing to wear out. Sony uses them in all sorts of applications, for transfering lots of stuff besides photos.

Use it and enjoy.

Actually, even though they’re solid state, memory sticks *do wear out. Sony memory sticks use NAND Flash memory technology. Here’s a datasheet on a typical NAND Flash chip, the MBM30LV0064, a 64MB chip. The datasheet specs it at 1 million writes, with error correction, which means that the chip controller must verify each block (528 bytes) after it’s erased (which must be done before a block is rewritten). If the block didn’t erase, it’s flagged as bad in the block table. Thus, the chip gradually dies, as blocks fail. It’s a graceful failure, though- you just gradually lose capacity.

One million writes is a lot of writes, though, so I wouldn’t worry about it :slight_smile: Although the “one million” spec is a little vague, that generally means one million writes that fill up the chip, which would mean 64 million megabytes of total data transfered. By the time it’s dead, you’ll be using the latest Sony 1GB memory sticks anyway …


Another thing to be aware of, at least with Compact Flash and Smart Media. The PCs operating system (OS) may create a recycle bin. This recycle bin uses card memory and may reveal itself as reduced picture capacity. Formatting the card in the camera solves this problem. I learned of this issue on the message boards at

This is an excellant place to learn about digital cameras.

This may not be a problem with the Sony Memory Sticks.

I have a Sony camera that takes a memory stick for about two years now. I had originally bought a few sticks but lost all but the 32MB stick within months.

I have been working with that one stick and haven’t had any problems despite repeated DLs (I have a toddler and two grandparents with Ceiva frames) for probably 18 months now.

Plus, my husband and I have our own computers in the house and I frequently use it to transfer data between the two (they are both Sony Vaios).

I can’t say enough about Sony products. They, despite proprietary formats, consistantly make great products that last and last and last.

Hmmm, maybe I should buy some stock.