Does ANYONE use the write protect tab on memory cards?

An arrow pointing to the write protect tab on an SD memory card
(Image credit: James Artaius)

When it comes to tech, I'm usually excited about having more knobs and dials and things to fiddle with. But this is one that I've never ever fiddled with in the almost quarter century that I've been using SD cards: the write protect tab. 

Actually, that's a bit of a fib. I have fiddled with the tab – because the only thing it has ever contributed to my life is causing three separate cards to fail on me, either because the tab broke or because the card itself stopped recognizing it (which actually happened to me earlier this month, on a professional job). 

• These are the best memory cards (some with, some without tabs!)

So useless is this tab that a surprising number of photographers and videographers have never even noticed that it's there, underscoring how useless it is. 

If you're one of the folks who didn't know it was there, take a look at the image above; it's the little plastic tab on the left of an SD card that sometimes has the words "protect" or "lock" (or a symbol of a lock) next to it. The idea is that you slide the tab to the lock position and the card can no longer be written to – thus protecting whatever data is stored on it. 

Perfectly reasonable. Just perfectly outdated. It's a remnant of the grammar of old physical media – namely the 3½-inch floppy disks used by personal computers (and ambitious cameras like the Sony Mavica FD83) in the Eighties and Nineties.

Admittedly, as a PC user who couldn't wait to get rid of the horrible 5¼-inch floppies (which really were floppy) that preceded them, I thought that write protect switches on 3½-inch disks were pretty neat. But, crucially, I never used them back then, either. Ditto the protection tabs on VHS and audio cassettes that came before (which weren't even a switch, but a one-use plastic tab that you physically snapped off!). 

Maybe it's just me – maybe I'm somehow just super fastidious about backing up my data before accidentally overwriting it. But I know from talking to other shooters that none of them use the tab, either. So I'm curious – do you use it, or do you think it's as useless as I do? 

I understood record / write protect tabs being used for pre-recorded albums or software that used physical media – but the way we use storage is so different these days (Image credit: James Artaius)

There are other kinds of memory cards (most of which don't have write protect tabs!) besides SD. Check out the best microSD cards, the best CFexpress cards and the best CFast cards. And don't forget the best memory card readers to go with them!

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.