UPDATE 2007/10/12: PQI have now replaced the card with a brand new one which appears to be in perfect working condition. In an apologetic note, PQI’s warranty department mention that Eddie (the guy who handled my original RMA) “is not longer working with PQI.” So, the issue ranted on below is most likely a fluke and not representative of the company as a whole.
The 2GB PQI (pqimemory.com) branded SD card for my camera started going south and developed some bad sectors. Normally, I’d run chkdsk /r to seek out the bad sectors and mark them as such, but an SD card isn’t a hard drive: the computer talks to a (typically USB) card reader which talks to the device, and atttempting to read a bad sector causes different readers to fail in various unpredictable and reader-specific ways. Mine simply locks up and throws errors, refuses to perform any further reads or writes, which causes chkdsk to die with an “An unspecified error occurred” halfway through. Since the sectors can’t be marked bad, the camera will always try to write pictures to them*, which means I lose pictures (per Murphy’s Law, the very best ones). Not acceptable. So I go through the whole process of RMA’ing the defective card, since it claims to have a LIFETIME WARRANTY.
Anyway, I get a replacement card in the mail, sealed in a shiny new clamshell pack (that popular new kind of packaging that it takes three scissors and the Jaws of Life to open). Extricate it and…hmm, there’s already some wear on the contacts. Production testing? Sweet, they must have tested the shit out of this one, and it passed mustard. Hot stuff! Err…Ok, it’s more likely somebody’s old used refurb. So being ever curious, I decided to open it up in a sector editor and see if they’d at least wiped all the data off the card. It would really suck if they didn’t and my (hypothetical) nekkid pictures were being mailed to someone else after running the secret “remap spare hidden sectors over the bad ones” command not available to mere mortals and fixing it up. Sure enough, after a nice blank FAT indicating a formatted disk, I find a bunch of data beginning with a JPEG header.
Hmm… sure enough, the remnants of some poor sap’s pictures are on here. Wonder if they’re interesting… A few minutes with a file recovery tool later…
Hey, Bryce Canyon, I’ve been here! …Hey wait, these are MY pictures!
They repackaged and sent my same fucking defective card right back to me! ZAR (and chkdsk, etc.) also reveal that all the bad sectors are right where I left them…
"Hey, that guy with the beard looks familiar…"
*This of course assumes that the camera, or any other device the card is plugged into, contains a full FAT16 implementation, which for embedded devices is often not the case. Many cameras, mp3 players and similar gadgets will not reliably handle bad sector markings or even fragmented files, happily hosing any files it didn’t put there itself – or even ones it did, if you’ve deleted some other files nearby and left a hunk of free space just a wee bit smaller than the file it’s currently writing.