Shrinking Storage: Understanding Your Micro SD Card’s Capacity Discrepancy


“Why is there a discrepancy between the advertised storage capacity of 512 GB for my micro SD card and the 476 GB of available space recognized by my Nintendo Switch, even after formatting?”


When you purchase a micro SD card, the advertised capacity, such as 512 GB, is based on the decimal system, where 1 GB is calculated as 1 billion bytes. However, operating systems, including the one on your Nintendo Switch, measure storage using the binary system, where 1 GB is 2^30 bytes, or 1,073,741,824 bytes.

This difference in calculation methods leads to the apparent discrepancy in storage capacity. Here’s a breakdown of the math:

  • Advertised capacity: 512 GB (512 billion bytes)
  • Actual binary capacity: 512 billion bytes / 1,073,741,824 bytes per GB = approximately 476.84 GB
  • So, when you format your micro SD card, your Nintendo Switch calculates the available space using the binary system, resulting in a lower number of GBs than the decimal system used for advertising.

    Additionally, some of the storage space is used for the file system itself, which manages the data on the card. This space is not available for storing personal data but is necessary for the operation of the card.


conclusion, the discrepancy between the advertised and actual available storage on your micro SD card is due to the different methods of measuring a gigabyte and the space required for the file system. This is a standard practice in the storage industry and affects all storage devices, not just micro SD cards.

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