My Experience: Installing an Internal Flash Memory Card Reader

Here’s another one of my computer upgrade articles. At the time of writing my computer is almost two years old, which means it’s pretty pointless trying to upgrade a major component. However, a situation arose where I need to read files off some Flash memory cards that my digital camera didn’t support, so I waited until a sale came up and picked up a card reader to do the job. This article basically documents how I installed the card reader and it’s also sort of a photo op for the installation and a mini-review for the card reader I chose, the Sony MRW620. Installing an internal card reader is pretty simple, and there are enough photos in this article if you want to learn how to install one of these devices.

When I built my computer almost two years ago, a card reader didn’t really come up in the list of parts, since 1: they were kind of expensive or non-existent back in the days and 2: I didn’t really need to read any memory cards. Whenever I had to download pictures from the family digital camera, I just connected the camera to the computer via a special USB cable. That was all good and fine until this summer when some relatives showed up with their own digital camera. Their camera uses a different type of memory card and unfortunately, they didn’t bring their special USB cable, so there was no way to connect their camera directly to my computer. Well, of course I could go buy one of those cables, but then I’m probably better off getting a multi-format card reader so I can read pretty much any memory card that comes my way.

As with previous computer component purchases, I waited until a sale came so I can save myself (well, more like my parents) a few bucks, and the model that met my criteria was the MRW620 from Sony. It didn’t really matter to me if the reader was internal or external as long as it read most of the popular memory card formats and used some sort of an USB connection. For an internal model though I wanted something that matched my case colour (the ubiquitous beige), and the Sony that was on sale fit the bill. Now I’m not too sure about Sony’s reputation as a manufacturer of computer hardware, but I don’t think it matters much for such a simple device. Coincidently, my floppy drive is also made by Sony, and it never caused any problems, so I’m pretty sure the addition of a card reader won’t mess up my computer.

The Sony MRW620 is an OEM component, which means it doesn’t carry the Sony brand name on the front plate, and it comes with nothing save an antistatic baggie. Like many other 3.5 inch internal card readers out there, the MRW620 has four slots to accept different card formats. The list on Sony’s website states that the reader supports Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, SmartMedia, Compact Flash, Microdrive, SD Memory Card, MultiMedia Card (MMC), and xD Picture Card, so pretty much all of the popular form factors can be read by this reader.

Sony MRW620 front
The front of the Sony MRW620

The inside of the MRW620 is pretty sparse. There are some small circuit boards on the front that makes the reader work and then there is a cable that can be used to connect the device to a computer. As with most internal card readers, the cable ends in the 4-5 pin internal USB header block, but interestingly, the cable can actually be detached from the circuit board. Careful inspection reveals that the circuit board end of the cable is actually a mini-USB type B connector. This is pretty interesting as a user can choose to purchase a mini-USB to regular USB connector cable and rout the cable outside the case and plug it into the backside USB ports. Most people though would probably just plug it into one of the headers on the motherboard.

MRW620 back
Here's a shot from the back
MRW620 above
Here's a view from above the reader
MRW620 with cable detached
The MRW620 with its connection cable detached
MRW620 Mini USB connector
This is a shot of the end of the cable that plugs into the reader. You probably can't see it due to my poor photo skills, but it's actually a mini-USB type B connector.
MRW620 Cable
Here's the entire cable. The black end goes into a USB header on the motherboard.

Installing the MRW620 is pretty much the same as installing any 3.5inch device that have an exterior plate (ex. Floppy drives or fan controllers). First I had to take off both side panels of my computer case (after turning the computer off and unplugging all the rear cables of course), which is pretty easy. Next I had to knock out the front plate that hides my empty 3.5 inch bay, and then I slide the card reader in and secure it into the bay with four short fine-threaded screws. Note that the reader doesn’t come with any screws, but I still had some left over when I bought my computer case so that wasn’t a problem. This kind of screws can probably be found in most hardware and computer stores.

Plugging in the cable is slightly trickier, as the wires aren’t well-labeled on the block connector. Thankfully I had my front USB ports connected to the headers, so I just matched the coloured wires and plugged it in correctly. The downside of an internal reader for me is that my old nForce2 motherboard only has two internal USB headers, and both of them were occupied by the front USB ports, so in order to install the reader I had to disconnect one of the front ports. It’s not a big problem, but it might cause some inconveniences down the road. After the cable is connected, and the panels and rear connectors put back into their usual places, it’s time to boot up the computer and check if the card reader works.

My computer before installation
This is my computer before the reader was installed. The cover of the 3.5 inch bay below the floppy drive has been popped out and is ready to accept the card reader.
MRW620 installed
The MRW620 inside the bay and ready to go

Windows started without any problem, and the reader was automatically detected and installed once I was logged in. Since there were four slots on the reader, it showed up in My Computers as four separate removable disks. Here’s a screenshot:

Screenshot after installation
Screenshot of My Computer and Device Manager (Click to enlarge)

To test whether the reader works or not, I first plugged in the memory card (SD format) from my family’s camera. The device worked as expected and I was able to download all the pictures on the card, including those used in this article, into a designated folder. After that I borrowed a Compact Flash card from my relative and tested that as well and it worked just fine. Here’s a screenshot of Windows Explorer accessing the SD card:

Screenshot after installation 2
Screenshot of My Computer accessing the pictures in my Secure Digital memory card. Click to enlarge.

Overall, the Sony MRW620 seems to be a pretty decent card reader, and for a little over ten bucks Canadian, it was a pretty good deal as well. I probably won’t upgrade my current computer again after this, so this is probably the last addition to my “venerable” Athlon XP rig. Of course, I also said that I won’t upgrade in an earlier article, but things come up and stuff, but I’m “pretty” sure I won’t upgrade again. Anyways, thanks for reading this article.

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