What Does CompactFlash Mean?

CompactFlash (CF) is a removable storage device used for mass storage in portable electronic machines, such as PCs. Based on non-volatile technology (flash memory), CF does not require a battery. CF competes with other memory cards and chips, such as SD/MMC and PC card type-I.


CF was launched in 1994 by SanDisk.

Techopedia Explains CompactFlash

Memory chips and cards are key electronic device components manufactured according to memory size, physical size, volatile/non-volatile features, compatibility and other specifications. CF technology is also strong in the camera memory market.

CF types are as follows:

  • Type-I: Almost 3.3 mm thick
  • Type-II: 5.0 mm thick. Used for different microdrive types. Four speed categories.

CF’s technical features are as follows:

  • Speed: Speed calculation method is similar to CD-ROM. Normally, standard speed is up to 150 kbps. However, each card has an embedded speed limit.
  • Solid structure: Available with solid states. Provides extra user data protection, versus magnetic storage discs. Does not contain any moveable parts.
  • Error Correction/Read/Write: General read process to power CF occurs at startup. Errors are checked and recovered.
  • Reliability: Compared to rotating media devices, CF is more flexible and reliable because there are no moving parts, which ensures error correction and data integrity. CF is also non-volatile, which reduces the electricity dependency of motherboard memory cards and chips.
  • Comparatively best option: Durable in many scenarios, compared to other memory cards. CF cards are compatible with ATA/IDE and may be used in any board supported by Integrated Development Environment – .NET (IDE).
  • Cryptographic features: No built-in cryptographic or Digital Rights Management (DRM) features.

CF cards are also available with higher storage capacity, versus other memory cards. Potential damage occurs if a CF card is improperly inserted into a device. However, to prevent such mistakes, slots are designed for proper insertion.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…