PCMCIA CompactFlash Memory Cards FAQ and Information

Introduction

CompactFlash SanDisk introduced CompactFlash memory cards in 1994 providing device manufacturers with a smaller form factor than PC Card (hence a "Compact Flash"). What they introduced was removable storage that was considerably smaller than PC Card, but retained essentially the same pinout configuration. While PC Card is a 68 pin parallel bus, and CompactFlash is only 50 pin, the difference is irrelevant as the 18 pins not found on CompactFlash are unused and or reserved pins still undefined. This is why PC Card to CompactFlash Card media adapters are a passive pin out only.

Contents
What is the difference between Type I and Type II CompactFlash?
Is it CompactFlash or Compact Flash?
What is CFII+ CompactFlash?
What are CF+ and CF+ I/O CompactFlash?
What is Type II CompactFlash?
Are Hitachi and Hitachi Microdrives or Seagate 1" drives considered CompactFlash?
What are High Speed or X-Speed cards?
What is the difference between FAT-16 and FAT 32, why do cards greater than 2GB require FAT-32?
What it is Write Acceleration Technology?
Is there a industry or standards body for CompactFlash?
What are the Pin-outs from PCMCIA PC Card to CompactFlash when using a CF Adapter?

What is the difference between Type I and Type II CompactFlash?

CompactFlash As with PC Card, the Type I/II designation only has to do with the thickness of the card. Type I cards are 3.3mm thick, while Type II or 5.0mm thick. Both are 43mm in width and 36 mm in height. A Type I card will fit into a Type II slot or adapter, while the converse is naturally not the case.

CompactFlash Type I:   36.4mm x 42.8mm x 3.3mm (LWH) 50 pin
CompactFlash Type II:  36.4mm x 42.8mm x 5.0mm (LWH) 50 pin
PC Card Type II:       85.6mm x 54.0mm x 5.0mm (LWH) 68 pin

Is it CompactFlash or Compact Flash?

It is CompactFlash, see CompactFlash Association (CFA).

What is CFII+ CompactFlash?

The CompactFlash Association had some trouble when the CFII and CF+ designations were first coined. CFII+ is both a Type II form factor and an I/O capable card. It was first used to describe Microdrives and then later for I/O cards. The CFA later designated I/O style cards as CF+ I/O The following entries explain this more in depth for each designation

What are CF+, CFII+ and CF+ I/O CompactFlash?

CF+ essentially extends the CompactFlash standard to handle 16-bit I/O other than the PC Card ATA command set. This means in addition to storage media, CF+ I/O cards are available for a variety of functionality including RS-232 serial I/O, 802.3 10Base-T Ethernet, and other applications. Typically hand-held computers are the only devices that utilize this functionality. Although a low cost PC Card to CompactFlash adapter often allows use of these cards in laptops and other computers with PC Card slots.

Synchrotech's P312 PCI Bus to CompactFlash Type I-II Read-Writer Internal Rear Low Profile allows full use of CF+ style devices in PCI equipped computers.

Delock USB 3.0 Multi-Card Reader
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Delock Multi-in-1 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader/Writer
This multi-in-1 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 memory card reader/writer supports over 50 types of flash memory media cards. Supports UDMA 7 CompactFlash and SD Card 4.0/UHS-II cards used in high end DLSR cameras.
PCM-CR-UMUL-91705 | Price: $25.00
CompactFlash Cards
Synchrotech CF More Information - View Product Pages
PCM-CFSY- Series
Synchrotech Standard and High Speed CompactFlash Memory Cards
Economical 24X general purpose and 40X/100X/120X High Speed cards

What is Type II CompactFlash?

Type II CompactFlash is 5.0mm thick. Devices with Type II slots can accept either Type I or II CompactFlash, while devices with Type I slots accept Type I CompactFlash exclusively.

Are Hitachi and Hitachi Microdrives or Seagate 1" drives considered CompactFlash?

Yes. Microdrives and similar products conform to the CFII+ specification are usable in any slot that takes Type II CompactFlash. Advantages of rotating media devices are that they are much better priced per megabyte. Disadvantages are that they are somewhat fragile and don't perform as well as high end solid state cards.

What are High Speed or X-Speed cards?

When CompactFlash was first designed, devices and applications didn't really exceed the read-write speeds of the first generation cards. This changed as digital camera resolutions grew, and uses of CompactFlash in embedded systems and other speed dependent devices became common. There are two main factors in how fast a CF card can write and read data. The first is the flash memory cells themselves. The second is the IDE controller chip on the card, which coordinates reads, writes, erasure, error correction, etc. As flash memory and more importantly controllers have gotten faster, CF cards perform much better. Vendors like Lexar Media, Inc. began using a the same speed rating that CD-RW manufacturers use to designate the speed of CD Burners with 1X being a write speed of 150KB/sec. The following is a table of common CompactFlash card write speeds.

CompactFlash Speeds
Speed KBytes/s MBytes/s
1 150 0.15
4 600 0.6
12 1800 1.8
24 3600 3.6
40 6000 6.0
60 9000 9.0
80 12000 12.0

When used with devices that have high throughput requirements like high resolution digital cameras, the high speed cards make a significant difference. Typically read speeds are even faster than the rated write speeds. Unless a very high performance factor is necessary, 40X cards currently provide the best performance to price ratio.

What is the difference between FAT-16 and FAT-32, why do cards greater than 2GB require FAT-32?

FAT (File Allocation Table) is the de-facto file system standard for all ATA style media. For many years FAT-16 which can address up to 2.14GB file systems was all that was ever necessary. However, as storage requirements have grown over the years and media with capacities greater than 2GB it became necessary to switch to FAT-32. Many digital cameras and other devices designed until recently don't support FAT-32. It is very important to check with the manufacturer of your devices before purchasing CompactFlash with capacities greater than 2GB. Hitachi's white paper covers this subject better than anything that we are aware of: An Introduction to FAT 16/FAT 32 File Systems

What it is Write Acceleration Technology?

wa_logo_sm.gif WA is a Lexar technology that needs implementation in both the camera and the CF card. When both devices have WA it allows data transfers with less overhead, allowing better performance. Lexar Media's site provides much more in depth information on WA.
Write Acceleration and the Write Acceleration logo are trademarks of Lexar Media, Inc.

Is there a industry or standards body for CompactFlash?

Yes, the CompactFlash Association (CFA).

CompactFlash Cards
Synchrotech Standard and High Speed CompactFlash Memory Cards
Synchrotech Industrial CompactFlash
SanDisk Standard CompactFlash
SanDisk Ultra II CompactFlash
Lexar CompactFlash
Lexar High Speed CompactFlash

What are the Pin-outs from PCMCIA PC Card to CompactFlash when using a CF Adapter?

CompactFlash Storage Cards and the CompactFlash CF+ Cards are electrically compatible with CompactFlash Adapters. When a CompactFlash or CF+ card is installed in a CompactFlash adapter, the combination conforms to the 16-bit PCMCIA PC Card Standard. CompactFlash products use a 50 pin connector and CompactFlash Adapters use a 68 pin connector. Both connectors use less than 50 signals. The following table shows the pinout differences between the CompactFlash Storage/CF+ Card and the CompactFlash Adapter.

CF Adapter 68 Pin 68 Pin Pin # 50 Pin Pin # CF Storage/ CF+ Card 50 Pin CF Adapter 68 Pin 68 Pin Pin # 50 Pin Pin # CF Storage/ CF+ Card 50 Pin
- - - 50 Pin - - - 50 Pin
GND Pin 1 Pin 1 GND GND Pin 35 Pin 1 GND
D03 Pin 2 Pin 2 D03 -CD1 Pin 36 Pin 26 -CD1
D04 Pin 3 Pin 3 D04 D11 Pin 37 Pin 27 D11
D05 Pin 4 Pin 4 D05 D12 Pin 38 Pin 28 D12
D06 Pin 5 Pin 5 D06 D13 Pin 39 Pin 29 D13
D07 Pin 6 Pin 6 D07 D14 Pin 40 Pin 30 D14
-CE1 Pin 7 Pin 7 -CE1 (-CS0) D15 Pin 41 Pin 31 D15
A10 Pin 8 Pin 8 A10 -CE2 Pin 42 Pin 32 -CE2 (-CS1)
-OE Pin 9 Pin 9 -OE (_ATA SEL) -VS1 Pin 43 Pin 33 -VS1
A11 Pin 10 - - -IORD Pin 44 Pin 34 -IORD
A09 Pin 11 Pin 10 A09 -IOWR Pin 45 Pin 35 -IOWR
A08 Pin 12 Pin 11 A08 A17 Pin 46 - -
A13 Pin 13 - - A18 Pin 47 - -
A14 Pin 14 - - A19 Pin 48 - -
-WE Pin 15 Pin 36 -WE A20 Pin 49 - -
READY /-IREQ Pin 16 Pin 37 READY /-IREQ (INTRQ) A21 Pin 50 - -
VCC Pin 17 Pin 13 VCC VCC Pin 51 Pin 38 VCC
VPP1 Pin 18 - - VPP2 Pin 52 - -
A16 Pin 19 - - A22 Pin 53 - -
A15 Pin 20 - - A23 Pin 54 - -
A12 Pin 21 - - A24 Pin 55 - -
A07 Pin 22 Pin 12 A07 A25 Pin 56 Pin 39 CSEL
A06 Pin 23 Pin 14 A06 -VS2 Pin 57 Pin 40 -VS2
A05 Pin 24 Pin 15 A05 RESET Pin 58 Pin 41 RESET (-RESET)
A04 Pin 25 Pin 16 A04 -WAIT Pin 59 Pin 42 -WAIT (IOREADY)
A03 Pin 26 Pin 17 A03 -INPACK Pin 60 Pin 43 -INPACK (-DMARQD)
A02 Pin 27 Pin 18 A02 -REG Pin 61 Pin 44 -REG (DMACKD)
A01 Pin 28 Pin 19 A01 BVD2 /-SPKR Pin 62 Pin 45 BVD2 /-SPKR (-DASP)
A00 Pin 29 Pin 20 A00 BVD1 / -STSCHG Pin 63 Pin 46 BVD1 / -STSCHG (-PDIAG)
D00 Pin 30 Pin 21 D00 D08 Pin 64 Pin 47 D08
D01 Pin 31 Pin 22 D01 D09 Pin 65 Pin 48 D09
D02 Pin 32 Pin 23 D02 D10 Pin 66 Pin 49 D10
WP / -IOIS16 Pin 33 Pin 24 WP / -IOIS16 (-IOCS16) -CD2 Pin 67 Pin 25 -CD2
GND Pin 34 Pin 50 GND GND Pin 68 Pin 50 GND

Notes

  • A signal name appearing alone is a PC Card memory mode, PC Card I/O and True IDE signal name
  • A signal appearing alone before a "(" is both a PC Card memory mode and PC Card I/O mode signal name.
  • A signal appearing before "/" is a PC Card memory mode signal name.
  • A signal appearing after "/" is a PC Card I/O mode signal name.
  • A signal appearing in "( )" is a True IDE mode signal name.
  • A signal appearing in "(D)" is a True IDE mode DMA-only signal name.

References

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