Windows Phone 7 eats MicroSD cards

Windows Phone 7 has a new, incompatible, proprietary memory card format, with nasty implications if you want to more memory in your phone

Windows Phone 7 exhibits all sorts of quirky behavior -- InfoWorld's Galen Gruman tore it a new orifice in his July 15 review -- but this one takes the cake.

For reasons known only to the Redmond gods, Microsoft has decided to endow its phone operating system with a completely new, utterly incompatible, proprietary memory card format. And that has all sorts of implications if you want to stick more memory in your phone.

As Microsoft Knowledge Base article 2450831 says so adroitly: "The SD card slot in your phone is intended to be used only by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that built your phone." In other words, if you pay for a phone with a MicroSD slot, you better not touch it.

If you have the temerity to stick a MicroSD card in a Windows Phone 7 handset, all sorts of weird things happen. Windows Phone 7 immediately formats the SD card, using its own proprietary technique. Any data that might've been sitting on the card gets sent, irretrievably, to the bit bucket. But that's just the beginning.

This, from the company that invented the FAT format.

If you pull the SD card out of a Windows Phone 7 mobile, the whole phone stops working. It's bricked. Except for making emergency calls, you might as well carry a rock -- an expensive one, at that. You have to put the original SD card back into the phone for it to work properly.

You can't take the data off using any SD card reader I've been able to find. You can't put the SD card in a different Windows Phone 7 mobile -- that nasty reformatting habit kicks in. It can't read it, can't download or sync the data, nothing.

I can just see it now. Dad hasn't backed up his phone for a while. Little Billy shows great promise with electronic things: He takes apart PCs and puts them back together for fun. Dad and Billy both have Windows Phone 7 mobiles. One day Billy spies Dad's phone, opens it up, removes the battery, and takes out the MicroSD card. "I wonder if I can put this in my phone ..."

Fail. Epic fail.

What happens, you may ask, if your phone dies and you need the data on the SD card? Good question. Best I can tell, you're completely out of luck. Kiss that data (contacts, applications, customizations) good-bye. Good reason to back up often, back up well.

Microsoft justifies its Pandora approach by saying that not just any SD card will do. "The SD card in a Windows Phone 7 device must meet certain performance requirements for the phone to function optimally." Microsoft has to certify specific models of SD cards as "Windows Phone 7 capable" or some such.

If you have a phone with an empty MicroSD slot, or if you want to upgrade the size of the phone's memory (of course, you backed up everything first, right?), you're in for a bit of a shock. As of today, Microsoft hasn't certified any SD cards.

Don't you just love proprietary solutions?

This article, "Windows Phone 7 eats MicroSD cards," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.