Get Faster Zoom H4n Boot Time: No Loading Forever

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Author: Tosh Lubek Published: 28 February 2023

If you’re finding that your Zoom H4n is now loading forever or stuck on the loading screen and you’re asking yourself whether there is a way to get a faster Zoom H4n boot time, I’ve got good news for you.

The Zoom H4n and H4n Pro can use SD and SDHC memory cards with a capacity of up to 32Gb. However, the boot time increases with card capacity, especially when using Stamina mode. For example, with a 16Gb card, the H4n in regular mode will boot in 26sec but will take 48sec to load in Stamina mode.

However, back in 2014, the onelonedorkOpens in a new tab. YouTube channel showed that when using a 32Gb SDHC card, the Zoom H4n would take over four minutes to boot up when Stamina mode was enabled. Consequently, he recommended only using SD cards of 4Gb or less.

But that was not my experience after buying an H4n in February 2014. I am not saying that onelonedork was wrong, and looking at online forms this was obviously long H4n loading times was a real issue. This prompted me to test my H4n. When I bought the recorder, it came with system firmware version 1.72, which I have recently updated to version 1.90. It was in this state that I tested the boot-up or loading times when using various SD cards, with Stamina mode enabled and disabled. Note that timings have been rounded to the neared whole second.

SD Card CapacityBoot time (Regular mode)Boot time (Stamina mode)
0Gb (No card in recorder)10sec13sec
64Mb9sec12sec
2Gb10sec15sec
4Gb13sec20sec
8Gb17sec29sec
16Gb26sec48sec
32Gb43sec81sec
Zoom H4n boot-up or loading times for different SD card capacities

The results clearly show that as the capacity of the SD card increases, so does the boot time. Furthermore, using Stamina mode negatively impacts loading times. By the way, if you are surprised that it takes longer for the recorder to boot without a card than with a very small-capacity SD card, the answer is simple. When no SD card is present in the recorder, an extra message needs to be displayed on the screen of “NO CARD” before the end of booting up.

However, my tests revealed a considerable difference in boot-up times in the results onelonedork and I recorded for similar capacity SD cards while using the Zoom H4n in Stamina mode (I tested both with Stamina mode enabled and disabled).

Although I didn’t have all the sizes of SD cards used by onelonedork, both of us had tested 4Gb, 16Gb, and 32Gb memory cards. Yet our timings were very different, as you can see in the following table.

SD Card CapacityMy resultsonelonedork’s results
4Gb20sec30sec
16Gb48sec166sec
32Gb81sec255sec
Comparison of my and @onelonedork’s test results

This difference made me wonder whether using different SD card’s that probably had differing read/write speeds might explain the difference. So, I tested the idea.

When you have finished reading the article you might like to watch the video

Zoom H4n is loading forever and is stuck on the loading screen

I decided to check whether the differences between various SD memory cards were the cause of the huge difference in my and onelonedork’s boot-up times. I still had a few old 16Gb SD cards lying around from when I used to shoot HD videos on a Panasonic HDC-SD700 camcorder. I had three Premium SDHC cards from PLAY.COM, one SanDisk Ultra SDHC I Class 10 card, and an unbranded SDHC Class 4 card.

The boot-up time of the Zoom H4n using these five cards ranged between 26sec and 32sec, with one outliner that never loaded. What puzzled me was that the SanDisk Ultra SDHC card caused the 32sec load time, slower than the two PLAY.COM cards and the unbranded card. Even weirder was that one of the PLAY.COM cards never completed booting. It caused the Zoom H4n to load forever without completing it.

This made me wonder whether formatting the SD card in the Zoom H4n recorder was an important factor to get the Handy recorder to boot quickly. As it turned out, it was! The card that refused to load was given a FAT32 Quick Format on my PC and then all the cards were formatted in the Zoom H4n.

The result was shocking. The Zoom H4n finished booting in 26sec when using the SanDisk Ultra and ANY of the three Premium PLAY.COM cards, while the unbranded Class 4 card was only slightly slower at 28sec. Although the read/write speed of the card slightly influenced the loading time of the H4n, what was far more important was how the card had been formatted.

Remember, if your Zoom H4n is stuck on the loading screen and seems to be loading forever, perform a FAT 32 quick format in your computer’s card reader. This will enable the SD card to load in your Zoom H4n. Then format it again from the H4n menu. Not only will it load in your Zoom player but it will also load at optimal speed.

How to get a faster Zoom H4n boot time?   

There are three important factors in getting fast loading times on a Zoom H4n or H4n Pro audio recorder. They are the size of the SD card you choose, how you format the card, and whether you enable Stamina mode.

If you want to get the fastest boot or loading time for your Zoom H4n audio recorder, use the smallest capacity SD card that will give you enough recording time for your session, ensure the SD card has been formatted in the H4n, and do not enable Stamina mode.

I have seen some Zoom H4n users claim that SD cards with already have audio recordings saved to them will cause the H4n boot-up time to be longer. However, the evidence from my own testing does not support this idea. I recorded audio to a 16Gb SD card until there was less than 1Gb of available space left on it. I then tested the boot/loading time and saw little or no difference from when the SD card was empty. If there was a difference it was in the order of about half a second, which is more or less insignificant.

What is the best size of SD card for the Zoom H4n recorder?

Like everything else, the best size of SD card for a Zoom H4n depends on several factors. These include:

  • How long do you need to record?
  • The cost of the cards.
  • What SD cards are available.
  • How long are you willing to wait for the Zoom recorder to load?

The read/write performance of the SD card is of lesser importance since most cards that are available today will be fast enough.

A 2Gb card will let you record 48kHz/16bit audio for about 1hr 50min and let your Zoom H4n boot in just 10sec. But if you need to record for about 5-7 hours, then a 4Gb or 8Gb card would be a good choice, giving you a boot-up time of between 14 and 17sec.

I have found a selection of different capacity SD cards from SanDisk, a brand I have found to be reliable for both audio and video recording. Here are links to 2Gb, 4Gb, 16Gb, and 32Gb SD cards that are available on Amazon. The smaller capacity cards are increasingly difficult to get hold of and consequently, are disproportionately expensive.

Last update on 2024-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Note that you cannot use an SD card in the Zoom H4n that has a capacity greater than 32Gb.

How do I format my SD card for Zoom H4n?

Follow the link to see my full article about how to format an SD card in a Zoom H4n or H4n ProOpens in a new tab..

But here is a quick summary of the process.

  1. Insert the SD card into the card slot.
  2. Power up the H4n recorder.
  3. Press the MENU button to open the recorders menu system.
  4. Use the DIAL to scroll down to SD CARD, then press the DIAL.
  5. Select FORMAT and press the DIAL.
  6. Choose “Yes” and press the DIAL.

When formatting of the SD card is taking place you will see the message, “Please wait”. Upon completion, the H4n will load to the normal display.

Conclusion

Although in 2014 the onelonedork YouTube channel said that the Zoom H4n can take quite a long time to boot up when using a large memory card, this is not the case in 2023.

If you have updated your firmware to the latest available version, avoid Stamina mode, and format the SD card in the H4n you should not need to wait 5 or 5 minutes for the Handy recorder to load.

In fact, in my experience of using freshly formatted 16 and 32 Gb SD cards in my H4n recorder, I only need to wait 27 or 43 seconds respectively for the loading to complete.

If you are tempted to enable Stamina mode because you need to squeeze out some extra battery life, don’t. There are better ways of getting the extra power for longer recordings, and you won’t lose any features on your Zoom H4n as you would in Stamina mode. For details, read my other Zoom H4n articles.

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Portrait of Tosh Lubek

About the author: Tosh Lubek is a multi-award-winning broadcaster, writer, and video producer, with 40 years of experience in professional broadcasting and has been using Canon video and stills cameras since 2010. He has worked with radio and TV broadcasters, advertising agencies, and direct clients on a variety of projects including radio and television advertising, online video production, corporate videos, award ceremony motion graphics, and theme park sound design. Tosh has won numerous awards, including a Radio Academy Awards Gold Sony, a Gold, Silver, and Bronze World Medals in the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards. Since about 2007 he has been creating YouTube videos. Tosh has been a sponsor of the “video booth” at HashTag Business Events across the UK.

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