Has anyone tried ssd hdd's?
Has anyone tried one of the newer solid state (flash ram) hard drives instead of a rotating platter? This would seem to me to be the ideal situation here. Flash ram shouldn't be effected by the cold and with no moving parts, the viscosity and shrinking clearances become irrelevant. I know they cost a little more but it should solve the problem.
Option two, is boot the system off of USB thumb drives and run it purely off of that. I am currently researching my first carpc, and that is what I had in mind so far. Booting the OS off of a smaller 2 or 4 GB thumb drive, and then having an 80GB or larger thumb drive for holding my media. And you can swap them out with some simple file system structure. Not all motherboards will support this and it's a more difficult option to do because XP doesn't support this out of the box, but a few secs on google will have you to modern methods to do this.
Looking forward to starting my equipment purchases and getting going. I will document and share all as I'm building and/or finished.