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Running Windows from a CF Memory Drive as a Fixed Disk


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I'd like to build a WIN2K3 system around a CF memory card plugged into the motherboard.

The Transcend Industrial CF Series is just for this purpose. They come OOTB with the "fixed disk" flag set. So they can simply plug directly into an IDE port with an adapter and the BIOS and Windows sees them as a regular hard disk.

I was wondering if anyone could chime in on questions that Google couldn't answer:

  1. Disk Access: because it's flash memory, it's subject to "burnout" from too much disk access. How much truth is there to this? I assume that since the Transcend Industrial series is made for this purpose, it might be less prone to this problem?
  2. Virtual Memory: it makes sense to turn this off, and beef up the system with lots of RAM to compensate.
  3. Defrag: I found a setting in nLite to "prevent defrag from running in the background". So it made me wonder, what else runs in the background that could lead to unnecessary disk access?
  4. Based on the Defrag issue, what utilities might be useful to discover what programs are accessing the disk? Of course various utilities from SysInternals spring to mind, but maybe there's something better for this circumstance?
  5. I know there are website such as Mp3car.com that deal a lot with this, but I wanted to get some idea from the tech noodles here.

Thanks.

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1) That's why SSD were created: because they have algorithms to reduce the wear leveling. Most industrial end users of those are using CF mostly readonly and that's explained on mp3car or that was (I didn't go there for a long time) and in most case use linux based OS optimized to not write much (some in fact doesn't write at all if you disable the logging and never upgrade the firmware which is the linux OS).

2) You're right again but you could still use another drive to store pagefile.

3) Never saw a windows 2003 running defrag in background you might want to speak about the indexing process (i usually disable this service).

4) First i'd disable all unneeded services then use sysinternals handle or process explorer to check for more. If you don't know what service to disable, a good starting point is Black Viper's website.

5) I would buy an ssd instead as it will be faster and more reliable and now the price should be about the same for the same size.

Edited by allen2
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Well, I do have an EeePC 701 (aka 4G) running full (not lited) Win XP Pro SP3 (using a single-partition FAT-32 formatted 32 GB class 10 SDHC card as the boot disk!) with IE8, Office 2003 and MSSE v.1, with the page file in the SDHC, too, thanks to karyonix's DiskMod v. 0.0.2.2. I created this setup by ngine's method. It can be done with Vista and 7, too. But I've never seen nor read anything of the kind, regarding Win 2k. But it should work, too, AFAICS.

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Wouldn't it be easier to manage if you only used the Memory Drive to boot the OS, but then use a Ramdisk after Windows loaded? That should solve the write issues such as pagefile, hyberfil, etc.

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The Eee PC 4G does not just have a 4GB SSD *soldered* to the board as the only internal disk, it also does not accept more than 2 GiB RAM, so that, at least for pagefile and hyberfil, a RAMDISK is not feasible (further 2 GiB would be needed for a decent pagefile, more for it and the hyberfil). In this context, not only the 32 GB SDHC is *huge*, but, at class 10, it's fast enough, so that, in the end, the machine's performance is great, once you adjust your expectations to what the *factory underclocked* Celeron 900 @630 MHz can give you. It's about the most minimum system where one can run full XP SP3 with IE8 and get decent results... I've got much better performance from an Eee PC 900, where the Celeron works at 900 MHz, and I've substituted the internal socketed 16 GB SSD by a lightning fast RunCore 128 GB SATA SSD, which holds the system and data partition (but this is beside the point, since the OP was asking about running from a flash-memory card).

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I boot Linux off 4GB and 8GB flash drives, it's a slower than HD but it works. Flash drives have limited life so they'll occasionally die on you. They're covered under warranty but if you're storing important data -- don't use them.

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Well, I have created a full-disk, sector-by-sector, dumb image (all included, even unused sectors) to prepare for the day the SDHC card dies. And I already bought and tested an identical one, to have a spare ready when needed.

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Well, I have created a full-disk, sector-by-sector, dumb image (all included, even unused sectors) to prepare for the day the SDHC card dies. And I already bought and tested an identical one, to have a spare ready when needed.

I expected a full-disk, sector-by-sector image to be a smart one! ;)

:lol:

jaclaz

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  • 4 weeks later...

I installed Win95, WinMe, W2k on CF cards, and:

0) The Transcend Industrial is horribly slow. Use the Transcend 266x or Transcend 300x instead.

They are fixed, and have a reliable P-Ata transmission, as opposed to (nearly all) other brands. The adapter doesn't matter.

1) Said Transcend are of SLC technology, whose wearout is negligible, and which have wear levelling.

2 3 4 5) Then you shouldn't care about minimizing writes.

Does background defrag exist on W2k3?

Defrag is very useful on a CF card and must be done.

Aligning the volume on 2n boundaries improves speed, as compared with 63 sectors.

But sometimes Win doesn't boot from an aligned volume; this is still unclear to me.

I accelerate computers of limited Ram addressing capability with a small CF card which holds the paging file only.

But if you can increase the Ram, it's always better than paging, sure.

Hope your W2k3 holds in 8GB, because all bigger CF I know are slower. Add more cards if needed.

All 600x I know are of MLC technology, whose slow writes of small files make unsuitable for this purpose.

The removable flag is overcome by a Raid host, for instance the SiI0680a chip, which alleges the Raid volume is fixed.

Such a Raid improves read speed but not write. Maybe an expensive Raid card with much Ram, I didn't try.

Many users of CF disks install Win by copy because a normal install can be slow or impossible. BUT:

- Slow means your CF is bad on writing small files, and then you shouldn't use it at all;

- Impossible means you have P-Ata transmission errors: again, unsuitable CF;

so a normal Win install from the CD is an excellent test of your CF card; do it to avoid trouble later.

DMA and UDMA should be used as soon as possible on a CF, because PIO is extremely slow, especially during installation.

If your controller+OS combination starts in PIO, supply it the right driver right from the beginning with an F6 diskette.

For instance with older Intel P-Ata, an F6 version of the Intel Applications Accelerator can be made:

from an existing installation on this machine (only), paste on the diskette the corresponding folder containing the txtsetup.oem

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Dumb question about disabling indexing...{I haven't done it yet}

Why disable? Is there a difference....?

curious as both my W2kP and Linux are less than 6GB used space so an 8gig CF for each should be enough

as using a bracket version of an adapter would need a cold start for swapping anyhow.

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Indexing is supposed to run when you don't use the computer so it shouldn't be noticeable, BUT I disable it because it's one more service at startup, and because I hate to hear my machine do something in my absence: how to know it isn't a trojan? Also, it takes some disk space for the index.

8GB is enough for W2k. Beware some software installs necessarily on C:\ and is bulky, like Google Earth or DotNet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

All people willing to install Win on a CF card should align the clusters of the volume to the CF's page boundaries.

If formatting in Fat32 for some reason, it gets less easy but remains possible and very useful. Details there:

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I installed Win95, WinMe, W2k on CF cards, and:

0) The Transcend Industrial is horribly slow. Use the Transcend 266x or Transcend 300x instead.

They are fixed, and have a reliable P-Ata transmission, as opposed to (nearly all) other brands. The adapter doesn't matter.

1) Said Transcend are of SLC technology, whose wearout is negligible, and which have wear levelling.

2 3 4 5) Then you shouldn't care about minimizing writes.

Those were your recommendations and I see at newegg and elsewhere that 400x and higher are MLC, at one time with Home Theatre

PCs I was concerned with improving boot times for moments of those quick power disruptions so that the HTPC could resume recording

as soon as possible but now that I download, speed isn't that important to me now. Lower power consumption is, so how about the

Transend 133x in 8 and 16 gig sizes? Whatdathink? :)

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I use 32GB Sandisk Extreme SDHC cards (Class 10, 200x), which I consider reliable and fast enough. And I do run full Win XP SP3 on FAT-32 with the pagefile in it and full IE8. When I started, I was worried it might wear the card too fast, so I bought a second one, to use as a snap-in backup, but it's been two years already and the second card remains in stand-by. I do transfer a full disk image from the card in use to it every month, though, just in case.

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I use 32GB Sandisk Extreme SDHC cards (Class 10, 200x),

Been considering those as well, can go either way based on what I can get locally.

Was just tilted towards CF by {an article I can't find now} the fact that CF is an open format and

SDHC has DRM, either as part of the standard or in the controller, as I said I can't find that three

year old article again. Though for a cost saving,I don't see me needing anything more than 16gig

cards of either type.

EDIT: Found this; http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Compact_Flash_boot_drive

but not the other.

Edited by Browncoat
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