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Compact Flash FAQ

Question: What is a compact Flash card?

Answer:


Compact Flash card is a small, removable mass storage device. First introduced in 1994, Compact Flash cards weigh a half ounce and are the size of a matchbook. They provide complete PCMCIA-ATA functionality and compatibility.

CF Type I

At 43mm (1.7") x 36mm (1.4") x 3.3mm (0.13"), the CF Type I card's thickness is about one-half of a current PCMCIA Type II card. It is actually one-fourth the volume of a PCMCIA card. Compared to a 68-pin PCMCIA card, a CF card has 50 pins but still conforms to ATA specs. It can be easily slipped into a passive 68-pin PCMCIA Type II to CF Type I adapter that fully meets PCMCIA electrical and mechanical interface specifications.

CF Type II

At 43mm (1.7") x 36mm (1.4") x 5mm (0.19"), the CF Type II card's thickness is equal to a current PCMCIA Type II card. It is actually less than one-half the volume of a PCMCIA card. Compared to a 68-pin PCMCIA card, a CF card has 50 pins but still conforms to ATA specs. It can be easily slipped into a passive 68-pin PCMCIA Type II to CF Type II adapter that fully meets PCMCIA electrical and mechanical interface specifications.

The only difference between CF Type I and CF Type II cards is the card thickness. CF Type I is 3.3 mm thick and CF Type II cards are 5mm thick. A CF Type I card will operate in a CF Type I or CF Type II slot. A CF Type II card will only fit in a CF Type II slot. The electrical interfaces are identical. Compact Flash is available in both CF Type I and CF Type II cards, though predominantly in CF Type I cards. The Microdrive is a CF Type II card. Most CF I/O cards are CF Type I, but there are some CF Type II I/O cards.

Compact Flash cards are designed with flash technology, a nonvolatile storage solution that does not require a battery to retain data indefinitely.

The Compact Flash card specification version 4.1 supports data rates up to 133MB/sec and capacities up to 137GB.

Compact Flash storage products are solid state, meaning they contain no moving parts, and provide users with much greater protection of their data than conventional magnetic disk drives. They are five to ten times more rugged and reliable than disk drives including those found in PC Card Type III products. CF cards consume only five percent of the power required by small disk drives.

Compact Flash cards support both 3.3V and 5V operation and can be interchanged between 3.3V and 5V systems. This means that any CF card can operate at either voltage. Other small form factor flash cards may be available to operate at 3.3V or 5V, but any single card can operate at only one of the voltages.

The connector used with CF and Compact Flash is similar to the PCMCIA Card connector, but with 50 pins. Years of field experience in portable devices have proven the reliability and durability of this connector in applications where frequent insertions and ejections of the card are required. Other small form factor flash cards use connector technology that is not reliable or durable in these applications.

Compact Flash cards provide the lowest cost flash storage solution. With the built-in controller, a wide variety of low cost flash technologies can be used. The built-in controller lowers costs further by reducing costs in the host device and allowing defective flash chip cells to be mapped out, thus increasing flash chip yields. Compact Flash provides the lowest cost data storage solution.

Question: Where can Compact Flash cards be used?

Answer: 


Several leading consumer electronics companies, including the CFA's roster of founding members, are designing CF technology into next-generation products being developed for mass markets. The CFA expects CF technology will be widely used in such products as portable and desktop computers, digital cameras, handheld data collection scanners, cellular phones, PCS phones, PDAs, handy terminals, personal communicators, advanced two-way pagers, audio recorders, monitoring devices and set-top boxes. CF technology offers all of these applications new and expanded functionality while enabling smaller and lighter designs.

Question: What operating systems support CF cards?

Answer:


Numerous platforms and operation systems support Compact Flash and the PCMCIA-ATA standard, including DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, , Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows CE, OS/2, Apple System 7, most types of UNIX