iPad: Corrupt Media Files
Published November 22, 2021
I thought I had solved the corrupt media files problem, but I hadn’t. I’m still having issues with unreadable or corrupt files when transferring videos from an SD card to an external drive using the iPad.
Here’s a Run Through of the Problem
I capture videos using the GoPro. Then I take the micro SD card from the GoPro and place it in the adapter in preparation for transfer. I also plug the external hard drive into the same adapter.
With the media sources plugged into the adapter I insert it into the iPad and navigate to the Files app. I then transfer the SD content to the external hard drive. All seems to go well. However, upon later retrieval of the files from the hard drive, I get “file corrupt” error messages.
To double-check the status of the “corrupt” files, I remove the hard drive from the iPad and use my PC to access the files. Sure enough, the files have been corrupted, because the PC can’t read them either.
The Corrupt Media Messages come in Different Flavors.
Sometimes on my iPad, I’ll get the message that the file cannot be opened because it may be corrupt, or, it will open the mp4 file, but not play it as shown on the image below.
On my PC, I either get the following message or it tells me that it cannot open the file because it’s unavailable or corrupt.
Search to Solve Corrupt Media Files Problem
I combed the internet again in search of an answer. I not only wanted to stop the corruption but wanted to find out why it happened. Maybe if I knew the cause, I could change my workflow to prevent the problem from occurring.
An Answer in the Apple Support Forum
I started to think the problem was with my Sandisk hard drive. I almost reformatted it, but then I came across a message in the Apple Support forum.
Thankfully, I realized it wasn’t my external drive causing the problem before I reformatted it. The culprit seems to be an Apple compatibility problem. Sandisk isn’t the only external drive with this issue. Samsung and a host of others mirrored my problem.
Let me see if I can paraphrase and explain this simply.
iPads like SD cards because SD cards have a feature called quick disconnect. This quick disconnect technology allows the SD card to be removed after it finishes accepting new content. Quick disconnect ensures the file writing process is complete and the card is ready to be removed from the device. External hard drives are not so equipped.
Device Eject vs. Device Removal
With a PC, you have the option to “Eject” media before disconnecting it so it can be safely removed. I’m assuming the eject feature tells the media that the writing is complete and it’s okay to remove the media.
With the iPad, there’s no such thing. You just remove it. As such, the hard drive does not complete the writing “finishing touches” on the file. If the finishing touches aren’t complete, there’s the likelihood the file will be deemed corrupt when accessing it later.
Go to the Source
Now that I put my spin on the explanation, here’s the link to the actual explanation in the Apple Support forum. Go to the source as my interpretation might be incorrect (but the outcome is still the same).
Correct interpretation or not, knowing this nugget of information forces me to come up with a different workflow when creating videos. I’m not too happy about the extra steps I’ll have to take, but I’d rather the extra steps than corrupt media files.
2/25/22 Update: Thanks Charles B. for asking me to clarify what my actual workaround is. After re-reading this post, I realized I wasn’t clear.
My work around is to use SD cards instead of external hard drives. I purchased an SD card holder that is about the same size as an external hard drive. So, instead of using the external hard drive, I travel with SD cards. I’d prefer to use an external hard drive, but the file corruption problem is not allowing me to do so.
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About the Author: Felicia, also known as Low-Tech Grandma, is a wife, mother, and grandmother who now owns a few iOS devices and likes to write about them.
Last Modified: 3 October 2022