MicroSDHC format issues (does it *really* have to be this convoluted?)

I’m using 01.01.12, which I applied a few days ago when it was made available for download and manual installation. I have been unable to get the automatic updater program to work (I use a Win2000 machine, which does not support it, and we have a Vista machine on the network, which does run the program, but it fails consistently when trying to get it to update our Expresses).

My problem is that in order to use a MicroSDHC card (4GB) I must format it under Windows, using FAT format. If I try FAT32, it will be seen by the Sansa Express, but, as soon as I put a file (MP3) onto the card, the Express will crash at boot time (it goes through the bootup procedure and then shuts itself down instead of bringing me to the main menu).

If I try just using the card “out of the box” it will not work. Files copied to it are invisible to the Express.  If I format it USING the Express, it’s the same deal – files copied to it remain invisible.

It is ONLY if I format it with Windows that I can use it in the Express.

AFTER it’s formatted by Windows, the Express creates about a half-dozen files with .DAT and .IDX extentions. I presume they’re index files used when a card is inserted, to avoid the lengthy database reconstruction endured when I power-up my c200 and e200 series Sansas.

The Express will write those files ONLY after I format it with Windows. It will write them to 16 or 32 bit FAT formatted cards, but will only FUNCTION with 16 bit FAT format.

Surely this is *not* “as-intended”?  If it *is* the only way to use this machine, then what on earth is the purpose of *having* a “format” command built into the firmware, since it does NOT render the card *usable* by the player?

Finally, I just read a post referencing an 01.01.15 firmware version, but I can’t see any other mention of it anywhere.  Is this version available for download and manual installation?  If so, will it resolve the problem with being able to use cards WITHOUT having to format them via a Windows computer?

I really do like my Sansas – a lot.  I wish the Express had the functionality of the Clip – mainly, the audiobook handling. And, I wish the c200/e200 series had the Express’s ability to use MicroSDHC cards (WITHOUT installing Rockbox! I tried Rockbox on ONE of my e200 Sansas – and stopped there. There’s a reason it’s not on ALL my Sansas – the reason is simple: I don’t like it!  But, I *do* like being able to use greater-than 2GB cards.  If the Rockbox developers can write a driver for the HC cards, then surely the Sansa developers can.)

No, it’s supposed to be easy. 

A far as I can tell, 01.01.12 is the latest firmware for the Express.  There is a 01.01.15 for the Fuze, but it will not, I repeat, will not work on the Express.

I copied some files to a 2GB microSD, and inserted it into an Express and it sees the files just fine.  Granted, it was an SD not an SDHC.  It is best to format the card with the player, the Windows format doesn’t always do it right.  You can also try the SDFormatter program at http://www.sdcard.org/consumers/formatter/.  I’ve used it to straighten out a couple of cards that wouldn’t behave.  It has to be formatted FAT.

I don’t think the Express handled SDHC well before the .12 release.  You say it won’t work on “out of the box” cards.  You may have a defective unit, or you might need  to try apply the .12 firmware again.  Sometimes it takes a second pass on these things, not just the Express, other players as well.

The Firmware updater doesn’t always work with the Express because to update the firmware the player must be in MSC mode, which can not be done easily.  The Updater is supposed to be able to do it, but the first time I tried it, it “bricked” my player.  I used the instructions in the the sticky “How I debricked my Sansa Express” at the top of this forum to fix it.  I was able to update it using the Firmware Updater once I had the right driver files installed on my machine.  And it was an XP machine.

Good Luck.

Here’s where I saw the .15 FW post:

http://forums.sandisk.com/sansa/board/message?board.id=express&thread.id=1130&jump=true

It’s a sticky at the top of this forum, apparently posted by a SD insider.  Filed under “FWIW” I guess. (Or, “go figure”)

I am fairly confident that my FW update “took” properly – the player was fairly flakey w/SHDC cards under the .05 FW – so flakey, in fact, that I didn’t bother using it.  It would crash/reboot at random (i.e., when opening files above a certain size), etc.  *After* the update, it’s rock-solid, but, I *do* have the minuet with the formatting.  No need to install a special formatter (if “outside the player” formatting *is* required), since plain ol’ Windows formatting does the trick nicely.  It’s just that I don’t think I should *need* to format “outside the player.”

I don’t think I had any of these issues with non-SHDC (2GB) cards, but, I don’t have any that I *know* to be “virgin” on hand at the moment (let me rephrase that – I *do* have “virgin” 2GB cards on hand, but they’re mixed in with others, and I don’t know which are which).  But, I ought to be getting some more in the mail any day now.  Once they arrive, I’ll check and see if the Express will work with them out-of-the-box.

Sorry if that sounds sketchy – I have more Sansas than any sane man ought to own, and, what with the flakeyness exhibited by the Expresses (which I did intend mainly for use with 4GB cards), I ended up using my others most of the time – pretty much *all* of the time, until I was finally able to get the new FW installed.

WRT *why* I couldn’t get the FW installed via the “automatic” installer, as best as I could tell, it did not like running under Windows ICS – which was how that (Vista) machine was connected to the 'net (the Win2K machine is connected directly, but, the installer won’t run under Win2K.  The installer *will* run under Vista, but, the Vista machine was *not* connected directly.  Catch-22.)

Personally, I wish they’d release the actual files the same time they make them available via the automated software.  I know that many people don’t like the idea of running a background process 24/7/365, consuming resources (memory and CPU cycles), for a task that will be performed *very* infrequently (in some cases, *never* – if one owns an orphaned player, which the Express seems to be).

@pickmorel wrote:

Here’s where I saw the .15 FW post:

 

http://forums.sandisk.com/sansa/board/message?board.id=express&thread.id=1130&jump=true

 

It’s a sticky at the top of this forum, apparently posted by a SD insider.  Filed under “FWIW” I guess. (Or, “go figure”)

 

You are correct, he does mention .15.  But that post is almost a year old, and .12 has come out since then, so I don’t know what he really meant.

 

I’m not so sure anymore about Windows formatting an SD or SDHC card.  The SD Association claims that Windows doesn’t do it right, I don’t know what Sandisk says.  I try to format the cards in whatever device I’m going to use them in, but use the formatter software if I have to do one outside of a device. 

 

The FWU doesn’t have to be running all the time, I only install it when I need it, and remove it afterwards.    As you point out, firmware updates are infrequent, so I just install it when I know there’s one out there.

 

ICS probably didn’t matter, but Vista probably did.  It’s way different from XP in many respects, and Vista may not see the Express the same way XP does.  As I said, the Express has to be switched to MSC mode to make it look like a flash drive, and the right drivers have to be present on the machine.  They aren’t unless they are installed, which I think FWU is supposed to do, but doesn’t always do right.  Mine didn’t do it right the first time, and it got “bricked”, that is to say it locked up when I tried to turn it on.  I read the “De-bricked” thread and figured out how to fix it.  There’s a link to those aforementioned drivers in that thread as well.

 

I haven’t tried an SDHC with either of my Expresses, the only one I have is in my Fuze.  There may still be an SDHC issue with the Express.

jkj1962 wrote: 

I’m not so sure anymore about Windows formatting an SD or SDHC card.  The SD Association claims that Windows doesn’t do it right, I don’t know what Sandisk says.  I try to format the cards in whatever device I’m going to use them in, but use the formatter software if I have to do one outside of a device.

Well, all I can say is that when I format an SDHC with the Express, it won’t work, but when I format it with Windows, it does work.  If I choose to “go proper” and format it with the Express “because that’s what they say I am SUPPOSED to do” then maybe I’ll be “doing the right thing” – but, I *won’t* be USING the card, because it won’t work.

Message Edited by PickMorel on 12-06-2008 03:40 AM

Yeah, if I format my Transcend 4GB card in the Express’ menu, it won’t add the songs to the available tracks. I have to have the card in the player, plug it in, right click on “External Storage” and select Format. Then I can add songs and they show up in the playlist just fine.