I’ve lost a number of SD cards to corruption via my Raspberry Pi when it wouldn’t work (and in one case, my Raspberry Pi Zero died with it. RIP). Fortunately, they’re getting cheaper but at the time, they weren’t and you had to be even more careful. For Hackaday, Arsenijs Picugins chronicled this sorry tale:
Tales of Raspberry Pi SD card corruption are available online by the fistful, and are definitely a constant in Pi-adjacent communities. It’s apparent that some kind of problems tend to arise when a Raspberry Pi meets an SD card – which sounds quite ironic, since an SD card is the official and recommended way of booting a Pi. What is up with all of that?
I can start with a history lesson. Back when Raspberry Pi launched in 2012 – which is now 10 years ago – there were SD card controller driver problems, which makes sense given the wide variety of SD cards available out there. They were verifiably fixed one by one at some point in time, as debugging goes, their impact decreased and bugs with individual cards got smoothed over. This is how the “Pi SD card corruption” meme was originally born; however, if the problems were to end there, so would the meme. Yet, tales of broken SD cards plague us to this day – way less severe than they were in the beginning, but pronounced enough that you’ll see people encounter them every now and then.
Over the years, a devoted base of Pi SD card haters has grown. Their demand has been simple – Raspberry Pi has to get an ability to boot from something else, in large part because of corruption reasons, but also undeniably because of speed and capacity/cost limitations of SD cards. Thanks to their demands and work, we’ve seen a series of projects grow from unofficial efforts and hacks into officially supported Raspberry Pi abilities – USB boot being initially more of a workaround but now something you can enable out of the box, SSD-equipped Pi enclosures becoming more of a norm, and now, NVMe boot appearing on the horizon. Every few years, we get a new way to boot a Pi.
SD cards aren’t the best for general computing storage but they aren’t leaving Raspberry Pi’s any time soon either. The best thing you can do is back your sh!t up, turn your Pi off safely, or use an SSD if you’re really scared.