Caring For Your Retropie SD Card

Although it may seem second nature for you avid computer users out there… there are some that need to read and understand how to properly use an SD Card. Especially SD CARDS that are used as a “boot device” for a computer, like the Raspberry PI.

Do you remember all of those old game cartridges you used to have. Those things were pretty indestructible! They just always worked. They could take a lot of physical and electronic abuse because they were made that way intentionally! The manufacturers knew that would used as a consumer device. Consumers can and will break anything!

An SD Card is not the same at all!!! First off, the cartridges for your old Retro Gaming Machines are designed using ROM. (Read Only Memory). The data that they contain cannot be altered after they are made. Therefore, it can not be corrupted after the fact like and SD Card can.

SD Card’s, especially your new RetroPie Card, can easily be damaged! By its very nature, it can write data, and therefore can be corrupted. And since it is the “hard drive” in your PI, it is always writing data, for swap space, keeping your settings, updating memory, and other things that all modern operating system do. So, treat it gently, like you would the hard drive in your computer.

Here is a list of things do’s and don’ts to insure you keep your card working properly.

  1. When your PI is running and on, and the OS is booted… NEVER just unplug the power or switch it off at any random time. Although your PI is small and seems simple, it IS A FULLY FUNCTIONING COMPUTER SYSTEM. Your SD CARD is the “hard drive” for this tiny computer. So, just like your laptop or desktop computer, you need to use the shut down or restart functions and commands that are built in the OS when ever possible. That gives the OS time to property shut down the OS, and not corrupt and data. Yes, the restart and shutdown functions of RetroPie are always in the root of the main menu.
  3. Don’t install you Retropie, or other Raspberry PI card in any other devices. Many other devices use the same type of SD Cards, but they have no respect for what is written on them. If you put your Retropie card in a camera, it will likely change the way the boot functions are written, and the next time you put it in your PI4, it may not boot or work at all. Most devices will do this without asking you, expecting you to have put a card in made for it.
  4. Don’t leave your SD Cards in hot places, such as CARS, IN THE SUNLIGHT, ON A HEATER, etc… heat can instantly damage, or severely reduce the life of an SD CARD.
  5. Don’t touch your PI or SD Cards until you are sure you have no static electricity in your body. One spark of static electricity can permanently damage your cards, and your PI.
  6. Don’t let water or drinks spill on anything connected to your PI, either separately or together. Water is conductive and will cause shorts, that can permanently damage your devices. Yes, this includes washing your SD Cards in the clothes washer. If your SD Card does get wet, make sure it is FULLY DRY before trying to use it.
  7. When you are not using your SD Card, store them in the plastic case that many of them come with. They come with them for a reason.
  8. Learn to make a backup of your card. If you have a backup, you can restore it, and you won’t loose it. There is a understood rule in the computer industry. It says, “Data that is not backed up, doesn’t not exist.” Such a wise proverb. That is because everybody know that all digital storage is prone to be lost. If your RetroPie card is not backed up, and it gets corrupted…. well, it’s like it doesn’t exist, right? You know what I mean, lol!