Memory cards work very differently from SRAM chips in old 8 and 16-bit game cartridges. These use flash memory, which is a type of non-volatile storage that doesn’t require a sustained supply of power to retain its data. However, each read/ write cycle degrades the ability of Flash memory to store data (hence it has a limited lifespan).
How long do PS2 memory cards last? According to online sources, the chip inside a PS2 memory card is rated for anywhere between 100K to 250K program/ erase cycles depending on its capacity. More memory density means lower endurance- so the standard 8MB card should outlast 3rd party cards with higher capacities.
It’s worth remembering that flash memory degradation isn’t the only killer of PS2 memory cards. Your PS2 memory card is much more likely to die from repeated insertion/ removal than memory degradation. Because every time you pull that card out or insert it into the console, you’re removing a bit of the protective layer covering the contact pins on the PCB.
How Do PS2 Memory Cards Wear Out?
PlayStation 2 memory cards are quite rugged, so I doubt you’ll crush one by sitting on it or dropping it from your hands. However, regular wear is far more damaging than a freak accident. Allow me to explain.
Every time you insert a memory card into your PS2 or remove it, there is friction between the slot and your memory card’s pins. This friction acts like an abrasive and gradually peels away the anti-corrosion coating from the metal pins on your memory card’s PCB. You can see this effect with well-used memory cards that are really old.
Their pins have scratch marks with bare metal showing underneath. Every now and then, you might have to reseat them because your console is unable to read the data. And no, it’s not a good idea to blow on these memory cards with your mouth.Because you’ll introduce moisture which aids with oxidation (rust). And that will surely kill your memory card over time.
Instead, just wipe the pins with a lint-free cloth and some 91% isopropyl alcohol. Use an air duster to clean up the memory card slot in your PS2, then reseat the cleaned memory card.
As for the internal flash storage inside each memory, it should last between 100K to 250K cycles. This depends on capacity, higher capacity generally means lower endurance. The standard 8MB card can last decades with basic maintenance, as long as you store it in a relatively dry place.
Do PS2 Memory Cards Expire?
Assuming you rarely remove or insert the card, it will eventually die when the memory fades out. Each flash memory chip has tiny floating gate transistors responsible for holding bits of data. There are millions of these on each chip and they need to maintain a minimum voltage for the data to not get corrupted.
Over time, the transistors start leaking current (which gets accelerated when exposed to hot temperatures). And at some point (100 thousand to 250 thousand cycles), your PS2’s memory card just won’t be able to hold its data. Assuming you save/ delete 10 times each day, that’s over 27 years with 100K cycles (which is on the lower end for PS2 memory cards).
How Many Saves Can A PS2 Memory Card Hold?
It depends on the game. Certain games take just 100 KB per save, while others can take up to 500 KB. If you play a bunch of games, I suggest you keep multiple memory cards at hand or install a hard disk drive in your PS2.
Is An 8MB Memory Card Enough For PS2?
Yes, if you only play a couple of games and are fine with deleting old saves on a regular basis to make room for new ones. With two 8MB cards, you can comfortably play a library of over a dozen games and store individual save files for each one. It also depends on what kind of player you are- some create 5 or 6 saved files per game while others keep overwriting a single saved file.
Can You Play PS2 Games Without A Memory Card?
Yes you can, the console won’t stop you from playing your games. But it will notify you that no memory card has been inserted into the slot and that you can’t save any of your progress. Unless you wish to complete the entire game in a single sitting or never turn off your console, you’d better get a memory card or two.
I hope this article was informative and helped you understand how long PS2 memory cards last. They are more likely to break down from regular wear and tear rather than memory failure. Plus, your console will probably die before the memory card.
After all, there are many more moving parts in the console- disc drive, fan, etc. Low-power flash chips also tend to last much longer than CPUs and GPUs. So you shouldn’t worry about losing your PS2 game saves anytime soon.
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