I was thinking of buying a spy camera but have noticed that many spy cameras need a memory card.

In some cases, the memory card cost as much as the actual camera! This started me to think

Can you use a Spy Camera without a Memory Card?

You can but you need to ensure that it is WIFI enabled as this will be the only mechanism you have for saving the footage. If you are reliant on WIFI you need to ensure the camera is within easy reach of the WIFI signal.

A Spy Camera without a memory Card

WIFI Spy Camera without a Memory card

As you will see from this article How do WIFI Spy Cameras Work I have recently been investigating WIFI spy cameras. I found that the base components are a camera lens, antenna and in most cases an SD card.

The SD card slot is very useful as it means that if the WIFI signal is broken the footage is not lost.

However….it is only an option. If the SD card is not mounted, the WIFI spy camera will continue to work. The only danger is that if the WIFI signal is broken all the footage will be lost.


If you decide to use a spy camera without a memory card my recommendation would be to ensure you purchase a spy camera which can backup to cloud storage. Most use Google Drive as this is ideal. This will ensure all the footage is saved even if the camera is discovered or broken.

Other cloud backup options are available such as Dropbox but these are not as widespread.

Using old SD Cards

It is important to point out that the SD Cards used in spy cameras are the same as those used in phones and digital cameras. There are lots of different formats such as microSD so always check with the manufacturer. However, you might be able to reuse an SD card from your old phone or camera.

Old SD Cards

SD Cards come in all shapes and sizes

Also, it is worth pointing out that SD cards are unlike a lot of IT equipment as they are not very resilient. They do have a common occurrence of corrupted memory or write protection issues.

Why do SD Cards have issues?

Firstly I would like to state that physically SD Cards are actually very tough. This is due to the fact that unlike regular hard drives they have no moving components. This means that when they are dropped or hit they will continue to work. They are also resilient to x-rays and magnets.

The main issue is normally a corruption of data. This is when the data is mishandled by the electronic device. This could be solely down to the device but most problems occur when the user intervenes while the device is performing an operation.

The most common example of this is removing the card while the device is still writing to it. This happens a lot with digital cameras, the user believes the picture is complete and so starts removing the SD Card. However unknown to them, the camera is still in the process of writing the picture to the SD Card.

Also, surprisingly, the SD cards do degrade over time. Electrons can get trapped and create read/write failures. The cards are designed to cope with this and when it happens they detect and mask out bad blocks.

Obviously, this can’t continue forever. It is also worth mentioning that cheaper SD cards have less sophisticated error correction. Sometimes they also have smaller space allocation for masking out the bad blocks so the degradation happens quicker. Therefore it is always advisable to buy a big brand SD card even though cheaper alternatives may be available.

If they do have a problem is it possible to fix it?

So the good news is that even though all these problems can affect your SD card there are ways to combat this.

The even better news is that this can be done using any windows computer.

Follow these simple steps

1. Mount the SD Card

If you have a computer that has an SD slot, simply place the card in the slot. Most older computers do not have this, in which case place the SD card in a device. This device can be an android phone or a digital camera. Then using a USB cable connect the device to the computer.

2. Navigate to windows explorer

When you now go to windows explorer, you should see additional drives in the drives section. In the picture below, I now have an additional (E:) Drive. Be careful to select the right drive, they are not always labelled as clearly as below.

Picture of additional drives in windows explorer

Additional drives in windows explorer

3. Format the SD Card

A word of warning, if you have opted for using an Android device to mount your card, you might now see more than one additional drive. One of these will be the system memory for the Android device, the other will be the SD card. Formatting the wrong one will have catastrophic consequences for the Android device so double check you have the right drive.

Picture of additional drives in windows explorer

The view using an Android phone

Now you have the correct drive, right click and select format.

Picture of SD Card Format option in windows explorer

SD Card Format option in Windows Explorer

Ensure that NTFS is selected as this is compatible with all most devices.

Picture of SD Card Format box in windows explorer

SD Card Format box in Windows Explorer

Once that is complete, the SD Card is now ready for testing.

How do I test the SD Card is OK?

Before relying on an old SD card, be sure to fully test it. This can be done by mounting it on your laptop. Then perform a few read/write tests such as saving photos and movies and then trying to view them directly from the SD Card.

This is quite simple as it follows the same steps in the last section.

Once the card is mounted, rather than formatting, copy a file such as a movie to the SD card.

Picture of File being copied to SD Card in windows explorer

Files being copied to the SD Card

Then remove the SD card and use it in another device.

If you are able to view the media, then you will have some confidence that the SD card is now operational and the issues previously affecting it have been resolved.

If the SD card from your old phone does not fit your spy camera, another option is to use the actual phone as a spy camera. This is explored further in my recent article Using Free Android Spy Camera Apps.

Lots of old Android phones

Use old Android phones as Spy Cameras


So in conclusion, you can use a spy camera without a memory card however if it can be avoided it should be. This is because you then have the WIFI as a single point of failure.

Ways to mitigate this risk is to use old SD cards or even an old android phone. If it is easy to reuse old SD cards and put them in a new spy camera.

Happy Spying.