Memory Stick From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sony 128 MB Memory Stick with MagicGate support.
Sony 128 MB Memory Stick with MagicGate support.

Memory Stick is a removable flash memory card format, launched by Sony in October 1998, and is also used in general to describe the whole family of Memory Sticks. This family includes the Memory Stick Pro, a revision that allows greater maximum storage capacity and faster file transfer speeds; Memory Stick Duo, a small-form-factor version of the Memory Stick (including the Pro Duo); and the even smaller Memory Stick Micro (M2).

The original memory stick was available in sizes up to 128 MB, and a sub-version, Memory Stick Select allows two banks of 128 MB to be on the same card. An 8 GB card was unveiled at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but according to Sony the Memory Stick Pro has a maximum potential size of 32 GB.

The Memory Stick is defined in the minds of many by its proprietary nature, as the majority of portable devices that use it are Sony and Sony Ericsson devices. The significant third-party licensees that make Memory Sticks are SanDisk and Lexar. In spite of its proprietary nature (or because of Sony's continuing support for the format), the Memory Stick has outlived almost all other strictly proprietary flash memory formats, and has a longevity comparable only to CompactFlash and Secure Digital (SD).



Typically, a Memory Stick is used as storage media for a portable device, in a form that can easily be removed for access by a PC or Mac. For example, Sony digital cameras use Memory Sticks for storing image files. With a Memory Stick-capable reader (typically a small box that connects via USB or some other serial connection), a user could copy the pictures taken with the Sony digital camera off to his or her computer. Sony uses and has used Memory Sticks in digital cameras, digital music players, PDAs, cellular phones, the PlayStation Portable (PSP), and in other devices, and the Sony VAIO line of personal computers has long included Memory Stick slots.

Aside from copying image files from digital cameras, a user could also copy any type of file to or from a stick. There are also readers that use PCMCIA, CompactFlash, 3.5" floppy drive, and other formats. In terms of compatibility, older Memory Sticks can be used in newer MS drives (Memory Stick Duo with an adapter can be used in newer drives as well). However, Memory Stick Pro and Memory Stick Pro Duo are often not supported in older drives. Also, while high-speed Pro or Pro Duo cards will work in Pro drives (Pro Duo needing an adapter), their higher speed may not be available.

Formats and form factors

Lexar 256 MB Memory Stick Select with memory switch.
Lexar 256 MB Memory Stick Select with memory switch.

Memory Sticks include a wide range of actual formats, including two different form factors.

The original Memory Sticks were approximately the size and thickness of a stick of chewing gum, and came in sizes from 4 MB up to and including 128 MB. This size limitation became limiting fairly quickly, so Sony introduced the now-uncommon Memory Stick Select, which was similar in concept (if not in execution) to the way in which 5.25" floppy disks used both sides of a disk. A Memory Stick Select was two (or rarely four) separate 128 MB partitions which the user could switch between using a (physical) switch on the card. This solution was fairly unpopular, but did allow for users with older Memory Stick devices to use higher-capacity flash memory. The 256 MB Memory Stick Select is still being manufactured by Lexar.

The Memory Stick Pro would be the longer-lasting solution to this problem, and most devices that use the original Memory Stick form factor support both the original Memory Sticks and the Pro Sticks; some readers that were not compatible could be upgraded to Memory Stick Pro support via a Flash ROM update. Memory Stick Pros have a somewhat higher transfer speed and a maximum theoretical capacity of 32 GB. (As of June 2005 they are available in sizes up to 4 GB.) High Speed Memory Stick Pros are available, and newer devices support this High Speed mode, allowing for faster file transfers. All Memory Stick Pros larger than 1 GB support this High Speed mode, and High Speed Memory Stick Pros are backwards-compatible with devices that don't support the High Speed mode. High capacity memory sticks such as the 2 and 4 GB versions are usually extremely expensive compared to other types of flash memory such as SD cards and CompactFlash.

Memory Stick Duo Adaptor and Memory Stick Pro Duo.
Memory Stick Duo Adaptor and Memory Stick Pro Duo.

The MagicGate standard for Memory Sticks is an encryption system to allow music to be downloaded to the card and played back by an authorized device, but not shared. Certain standard Memory Stick and all Pro sticks are MagicGate compatible.

The Memory Stick Duo, which is slightly smaller than the competing Secure Digital format, was developed in response to Sony's need for a smaller flash memory card for pocket-sized digital cameras and cell phones, as well as Sony's PSP handheld game console. Memory Stick Duos are available in all the same variants as their larger cousins: normal ones limited to 128 MB, higher capacity Pro Sticks (called Memory Stick Pro Duo in the Duo form factor), with and without High Speed mode, and with and without MagicGate support. There's also a simple adapter (often sold along with the Memory Stick Duo) which allows a Duo to be used in any device that can accept its larger cousins.

In a joint venture with SanDisk, Sony announced a new Memory Stick format on 30 September 2005. The new Memory Stick Micro (M2) measures 15 × 12.5 × 1.2 mm—roughly one-quarter the size of the Duo—and could theoretically have 32 GB in the future. Maximum transfer speed is 160 Mb/s. It will come with an adaptor, much like the Duo Sticks, to ensure compatibility with current Pro devices.


Transfer speeds


Pro/Pro Duo:

Micro (M2):

Form factors

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