Hi there.Well the scene you describe is common to many yes..I tried many things too in a SAFE manner as you did and finally I got bold once I bought a ide DOM(disk on module)2gb from PQI for $7.15!Well the drive is flash and has what is known as SLC(single level cell)nand chips which last much much longer with writes than standard flash thumb drives and CF cards called MLC(multi level cell).These have very limited writes before a sector(cell)goes bad and becomes read only.Why I say this?Because that is one main reason most do what you did.So first things first.IF your mobo boots a HDD normal fine good,then take one of those adaptors(single cf slot set to master).Plug it in to the end of the 80 pin cable not center!!Of course make sure the POWER connector is secure to the adaptor(duh).Go to the bios and make sure the CF ide device is set to MANUAL mode so you can set the MODE to LBA or LARGE!!This is important for UDMA to work.Now you have to boot from a custom made Windows XP cd or DVD made with nLite!!See if you know how to make that CD,it should have much of XP bloat and limitations removed.This way you will be able to install to a CF card or other small flash drive.WIN_XP_SP3 is best.Now do a unattended NORMAL XP install and just say the heck with the $15 or $20 of the CF card.Just once.You will find that XP installs just fine to this CF card.Only slightly slower but not by much I can really assure this!Once XP reboots into the desktop you MUST first go to right click MY COMPUTER,click properties,advanced tab,environment settings(I think that is it,I am on a MAC right now),select system performance,virtual memory,click to change to custom,now put 0 for min and max and hit apply.XP will tell you to reboot for settings to take effect.Do so.Once back on the desktop,go to my computer and this time right click on the C drive which is the flash drive(please do make sure you had formatted the cf card to NTFS!!!).Now select properties for the C drive and at the bottom where it is checked for allow indexing,UNCHECK that box and apply!Ah better,you are almost done.if you dont have these files already you need to google for ewf write filter files.follow the instructions and only do this step AFTER you have customized and installed all drivers and apps in XP as needed!!Once you apply the ewf write filter boot kernel(rename EWFntdlr to NTDLR after backing up the original ntdlr from the XP c drive).Put the EWF.sys in system32/DRIVERS folder!And the program ewfmnger.exe in system32 folder!Then you will double click the file ewf.reg and click ok for the merge to take effect.OK..now once you have done all this you will need to make any last minute settings in XP such as disable system restore,and hibernation!Once this is done,reboot.Ok now it is done.you just lowered the write life of the cheap card BUT,it will work just fine as a semi read only system for a very long time!The method of acronis would have yielded same results but you would always have trouble on some mobos because the Bios wants a normal install of XP and the disk driver would be DIFFERENT from the CF when you did the acronis method.It did NOT EVER work for me either.This did.Ah boot time??how about less then ONE SECOND sound?This would be only with the CF and NO HDD attached.READS are instant but writes take only marginally longer just like in appliances,palm pilots,iphones,etc.THE SETUP??It was a 44 pin CF adaptor(cheap chinese),VIA EPEA C3 1ghz mini itx,512mb ram,RIDATA pro 52X 1gb CF card,and nLited WINDOWS XP pro SP3 down to 212mb with JUST the drivers from the MOBO and MagicJack phone setup.I setup my own msstyle themes,Litestep custom desktop instead of Explorer.exe and I have some PORTABLE apps for filemanager,Firefox internet browser,etc all portable so no real writes.Ok this also applies to DOMs,DOCs and SSD drives!!My take on all this?If you can,just DO IT!!Now here is a warning..The second you plug a real HDD,the boot times will take MUCH MUCH longer just as it always does in a normal HDD install of XP(yes it is THAT different FAST with CF!!).The HDD has to sync,then spin,then spit info out,then write,then read then finish booting.The CF does not need to sync,no spin,only READ electronic boot table and loader(NTDLR) and the write a few times IF anything changed from the last time,if not it just reads only at boot so it is less than one second that you will see the boot screen.So fast boot and functions?NO HDD only SSD/CF/DOM/DO*****FS file system NOT FAT32 or FAT!NO CHS or PIO mode,use LBA or LARGE in bios.You will notice a change in the virtual heads and cylinders assignments when you change modes in bios for the CF HDD.Now to end,it seems your MOBO or connectors/cables or the adaptors are faulty and thus intermittent.It should never take 1 hour to boot!And the ide drive should never poof!Be gone one second,there the next.Check this.Email me should you need further instructions.Oh yeah,I installed XP on this same card TWICE!!!!The first time I integrated the wrong audio driver into the cd so everytime it booted and got to the desktop and started the audio,it would crash.I redid the cd with the right driver(from the actual mini itx website instead of viaarena site),and it all works now.I did the combo DOM/HDD install on a rackmount server I bought on ebay for $50 total!The DOM is faster than the CF card!And it has SLC chips inside so the writes possible to 5 millon times(5 years at least!).Nough said.TRY IT!!