Picture of Arduino DIY SD Card Logging Shield
Ready-made SD card logging shields for the Arduino typically cost in
the range of $15 - $25. This is quite reasonable, but we might save a
couple of bucks if we make our own. Not to mention all the fun in building it.

Forget about soldering wires to a bare SD card socket. It's just too much
hassle, and for about the same price as a socket you can get a breakout
board. The cheapest SD card breakout board seems to be the notorious
LC Studio model. You can locate them for a bit more than $2 on eBay,
and this includes free shipping all the way from from China.
Do a search for "Arduino SD Card" and up pop quite a few of of these babies.

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Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

LC Studio SD card breakout board           $2.00 - $3.00 (on eBay)
4050 non-inverting hex buffer                    $1.12   (Radio Shack cat. # 55050840)
16-pin IC socket                                            $0.25
blank protoshield                                          $4.00 - $6.00
set of stackable headers                             $1.50   [2x8 and 2x6]
1 x 8-pin stackable header                         $0.50
1 x 8-pin male header (non-stackable)    $0.50
2 x 8-pin male headers                               $1.00
2 x 6-pin male header                                 $1.00
1 mini LED                                                     $0.25
1 mini pushbutton switch                            $0.25
1 470 ohm resistor                                       $0.25
hookup wire
SD card (the older low-density 1 or 2 GB kind)

Looks like we've spent $14+ already, almost the cost of a ready-made SD
card shield. But, hopefully you can find or scavenge at least a couple
of the above components in your junk box, from a previous project,
or from a broken gadget or two. If you're halfway serious about DIY
Arduino projects, then you already have a couple of protoshield boards
and header sets stockpiled.
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isnt it even easier to just use a 3.3V arduino board (like from the beginning?

thegrendel (author)  anders_malmberg3 months ago

Can I change the pins? Im building a project uncluding the card-reader and a RFID transmitter and some of the pins is already taken.

thegrendel (author)  anders_malmberg2 months ago

I'm not sure. Certain of the pins, such as SCK and MOSI/MISO seem to be dedicated. Could you change the RFID pins?

I noticed now that I have to change to a different card-reader. I tried to connect a openlog shield ( witch is using TX and RX for communication and that seems to work.

flubbersaurus3 months ago

can I just breadboard this and jump it straight to the arduino uno from the breakout board?

thegrendel (author)  flubbersaurus3 months ago
It would probably work if the jumper wires are kept short.
Remember -- these are signal lines.
NV1T4 months ago

OBTW, the +3V3 pin on my LC Studio board (which appears to be identical to the one pictured in the Instructable) is an OUTPUT from the on-board 3V3 regulator. When you apply +5V to the corresponding input pin, +3V3 appears.. My adapter is not going to be a proper shield; instead, I'm building it on a small hunk of perfboard and using DIP headers and a short piece of ribbon cable to connect it to the 'duino. (A shield wouldn't work for me anyway, as I'm using a SparkFun Arduino Pro Mini board, which is about the size of a postage stamp.)

NV1T4 months ago

You can also use a 74LVC245 instead of a CD4050 if you have one laying around (as I do).

thegrendel (author)  NV1T4 months ago
Yes, indeed. There are a number of suitable level-shifter buffer chips.
thegrendel (author) 6 months ago
Another alternative is one of the newer generation of switchable
5v/3.3v Arduinos. Or a Hackduino powered at 3.3v. See one of
my other Instructables on my experience of building a couple
of these babies.
nblyumberg6 months ago

Can you elaborate a little bit on the last paragraph? It's a little confusing with regards to the 5v input on the SD card module. First you say that we can supply +5v at the +5v input and that the module includes a 3.3v regulator but then you state that the +5v input is not dropped to 3.3v? So is it safe or not to connect the +5v from the Arduino over to the +5v input on the module without any additional logic?

thegrendel (author)  nblyumberg6 months ago
Feeding the data lines of an SD card with 5v logic will likely work.
For a while. But, you do so at your own risk. You may burn out
the card. Danger!
Thank you for your reply! I'll add a logic shifter to the project.
thegrendel (author)  nblyumberg6 months ago
5v to power the breakout board is okay, as the on-board regulator
will drop it to 3.3v. But, 5v on the logic lines is NOT okay, so that's why
you need the level shifters.

Interesting, I wired up the breakout board without level shifting the signal lines after I posted the comment and was able to write and read from an old 2GB SandDisk SD card. What are the side effects of not adding the level shifting logic on the signal lines? Data corruption or the SD card will die after short use?

anv8 months ago
You can findSD shields for $1.50. In example:
thegrendel (author)  anv8 months ago
Yes, on eBay / Spain. And this particular vendor has had
payment problems lately.
anv thegrendel8 months ago
I am in Spain, and boughth many things on ebay + paypal. Never had problems. Chinese vendors are very concerned about the paypal voting.
mrmonteith1 year ago
I was wondering about that. I found item #221242530114 on ebay and several others that stated specifically they support 3.3 or 5v levels on inputs as well as supply voltage. Guess it depends on the device. I wish they would supply data sheets.
thegrendel (author)  mrmonteith1 year ago
Data sheets? Data sheets?
We don' need no steenkin' data sheets.

If they supplied data sheets and docs, then they wouldn't be selling
these breakout boards for a coupla bucks, shipping included. If you want docs and tech support, then buy the same products for about $10 more from Adafruit or Sparkfun.
thegrendel (author) 1 year ago
If you've been having problems with this and other SD card shields,
try slowing down the read speed. To do this, you'll need to alter
SD card and/or FAT library files. I won't go into detail on this, since
mistakes can have bad consequences, so don't try it unless you're
confident that you know what you're doing.

A hint (you'll want HALF_SPEED or less):

Sd2Card.h:uint8_t const SPI_FULL_SPEED = 0;
Sd2Card.h:uint8_t const SPI_HALF_SPEED = 1;
Sd2Card.h:uint8_t const SPI_QUARTER_SPEED = 2;
Sd2Card.h:uint8_t const SPI_EIGHTH_SPEED = 3;
Sd2Card.h:uint8_t const SPI_SIXTEENTH_SPEED = 4;
Sd2Card.h: bool init(uint8_t sckRateID = SPI_FULL_SPEED,
SdFat.h: uint8_t sckRateID = SPI_FULL_SPEED) {
SdFat.h: bool init(uint8_t sckRateID = SPI_FULL_SPEED,
SdFatmainpage.h:card.init(SPI_HALF_SPEED) to initialize the SD card.

r.vlad1 year ago
Great instructable , I've made it on protoboard and it's working good with a 4GB SDHC card. I had one of those LC Studio SD breakout's around and didn't know how to use it, this was exactly what I needed, only needed to buy an CD4050 for 0.5$.
thegrendel (author)  r.vlad1 year ago
Thanks, Vlad. Everyone who constructs this encourages the
next one to make it. I appreciate your comments.
sompost1 year ago
Hi, first of all this is a great project and exactly what I was looking for!

Now my question: can I power the level shifting circuit (CD4050) from the regulator on the SD breakout board? I don't mind soldering a wire to the board if I can avoid a separate regulator for the level shifter.

thegrendel (author)  sompost1 year ago
Thank you for the praise.

As for getting the 3.3 v Vcc from the SD breakout board,
I honestly don't know. Try it and see if it works, In any case,
please leave a follow-up comment here giving the result of
your experiment.

Possible problems are that the regulator on the SD board
might not be up to spec, and that you might have some sort
of ground loop. I don't see that it would damage anything
even if it didn't work.
n3mi1 year ago
Hi! I did it a little bit differently and it worked so I'll just share it. I used this breakout wich I assume is the same :
If you use the 5v input at the breakout board, most of the pins that go to the sd card will get regulated to 3.3v, that's good for pins 1, 3, 6, 7, 9 and 10 (1 being the one next to c4). So in order to regulate pins that belong to CS, MOSI and SCK I used three IRU1050-33 which are fixed 3.3V regulators (definitely overkill but I did not have a 4050 in my bag). It worked like a charm and even with 8gb SD =). Hope it's good info.
thegrendel (author)  n3mi1 year ago
Yes. Alternate ways of getting to the same place
are always interesting.

As Ruddy Kipling said,
"There are nine and sixty ways
of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!"
n3mi1 year ago
great article!, one question though, is there a reason to not use the 3.3v output from the arduino board as the input to the 3.3v pin at the sd breakout board instead of using the level shifter?
thegrendel (author)  n3mi1 year ago
Using the 3.3v from the Arduino board would probably work,
but note that the 5v source on the board is good for 500 ma,
whereas the 3.3v regulator can only output 100 ma max.
Strider30192 years ago
How do you get free shipping from China when there are customs fees?
thegrendel (author)  Strider30192 years ago
The seller absorbs the shipping and custom fees.
Look for eBay listings that say "free shipping."
Isn't it about $25 minimum on a shipment? How could that be absorbed on a low cost item?
thegrendel (author)  Strider30192 years ago
I don't know about any minimum, and I've quite often ordered items
on eBay for as low as $1, total, with free shipping from China.
diy_bloke2 years ago
great info. nevertheless..... the fact that one might already have a few protoboards afcourse does not really alter the price of this :-)
thegrendel (author)  diy_bloke2 years ago
Not having to buy a protoboard knocks $5 or $6 off the
cost of building this. All the same, as I pointed out,
the purpose of the project is not so much to save money
as it is educational (and recreational). And, yes,
thank you for the compliment.
I realy dont want to nitpick, but it does not. That is the same as ordering all the parts, let them lie idle for a week and then build the thing saying it is free 'because you had all the parts laying around'
The cost to the project, if using a protio "laying around" would be indirect SO basically THIS prioject would be cheaper assuming the proto (as an example) was purchased for another reason and never used the outlay for THIS project would be less...

SO although the cost is still the same with the above considerd the outlay for THIS project is less so we can split hairs all day seeing as this is so VERY important?--- or is it? So VAUE =$14 and expenditure in this case = $8+/-

GREAT instructable!
Sounds like politician-style accounting.
naeger2 years ago
Hi, thanks for this great instructable! Could you elaborate on the "not-compatible with SDHC cards" a bit please? I have several SD cards lying around here but they are all SDHC. What would have to be changed to reduce the noise/delays you mention? Is it somehow possible to make it work with SDHC cards? What about the ready-made SD shields, do they work with SDHC cards? Thanks a lot!
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