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Thread: IDE-CF doesnt work, no it works, no it doesn't

  1. #1
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    IDE-CF doesnt work, no it works, no it doesn't

    I know, this topic has been beaten to death, but it still seems like I am destined to do my share of digging in this puzzle, and I am running out of clues.

    Long story short, what I am playing is: D201GLY board, 3 different CF-IDE adapters, 1 Hitachi 6gb microdrive, and 2 el-cheapo flash cards off ebay. Microdrive and CFs all claim to support DMA (but who really knows), the adapter has IDE pins 42,43,44 pins wired and should be good with DMA too .

    Usual story, setup everything on HDD, used Acronics to move the partition to CF (NTFS), unplug HDD, plug CF adapter to the same IDE spot where HDD used to sit, sit back, hold the breath and ….. nothing happens!

    I mean in 95% of cases BIOS waits much longer than usual and then fails to detect the device. It’s not good, but if it only was consistent it would keep me sane for longer. The problem in the rest 5% of the cases when, for whatever reason, BIOS shows some merci, detects the CF that it ignored last 27 times, finds NTLDR and proceeds with booting WinXP.

    Before reading all possible articles in the net about ATA apecs, speeds, modes, pinouts etc, I was less careful and could connect a single master to the middle of 80 pin ribbon or put two devices jumpered as CS and Master at the same time…. Basically, all those different connections X several adapters X different CF cards+drive made up for a LOT of combinations. I tried them all several times and managed to boot from each CF at least once. In case of microdrive, IF(!!!) BIOS detects it on boot, then the next screen would go black with blinking cursor in the upper left and sit there for up to an hour (never timed precisely) and then continue to load XP. But again, most of the cases BIOS would not see the CF device at all!

    questions:
    The fact that the damn thing booted at least once from adapter + CF, does it mean BIOS correctly picks the mode (PIO or DMA) and finds the common language with CF?

    Is there some residual memory in BIOS/CMOS(?) that prevents the board from doing the proper detection each time it posts and makes it to assume some parameter/mode from the last boot?

    Is it possible that the CF’s timing (or some parameter) of whatever mode it works on, is slightly off and is right on the edge of the range acceptable by mobo’s IDE controller, so the CF mostly fails proper detection but sometimes, if all stars align, gets recognized?

    I know there is no quick answer here, but I would be very grateful for any hints and clues.

  2. #2
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    Cool CF+adaptor+HDD+MOBO foibles

    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!!

  3. #3
    Newbie V1RUS's Avatar
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    I was having the exact same problem Antonkov, the CF would randomly boot. I had just given up on using it the other night after days of messing with it. I will have to give it another try now, following mipopete's instructions, thanks for writing all that out.

  4. #4
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    no problem,I am only now trying to get more TIME to play with my many mini itx mobos I got and the 6 DOM 2gb modules I got as well as the 32gb transcend SSD sata2 drive.Please understand guys that it boils down to the cf adaptor and mobo used and mostly it is the bios settings.LBA or LARGE block addressing mode like in regular HDDs.The stuttering issues after using the flash drive in XP with music or media I found only on SANDISK not Ridata CF or any DOMs since DOM is SLC INDUSTRIAL FLASH!!So on ebay look for INDUSTRIAL FLASH in the search and you will see both DOMs and CF cards!Yes the price is higher but they are SLC and WORK!!As for the Ridata card,it was an older 52x pro card but it is in a thin client with a VIA mobo setup.The 2GB PQI DOM disk is on a INTEL SERVER board(rackmount).Both boot and respond very very very fast but the minute I installed a 40gb HDD to the rackmount server,the boot times and access times slooooowed way down to give the HDD time to spin up,sync and spit the info out.HDDs really suck after you get a wif of flash based installs

  5. #5
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    Well, it's been a while since I posted, I spent several days playing with it and finally figured it out. My conclusion, as I suspected before, is that despite CFs are based on the same SATA spec as HDDs, CF's manufacturers still use some proprietary deviations from the standard. Normally, it's not an issue coz CF were never meant to be used with IDE and the bus communication in digital cameras or MP3 players is not as complex as in case of PC. So they *kinda* work with CF-IDE adaptors, but there are so many variables that the net result is different in each specific setup.
    Basically, I tried all possible combination of 40/80 IDE cables, 3 diff adaptors, 2 CFs and Hitachi microdrive. The moment I eliminated IDE cable everything started to work. Now I am using CF adaptor that plugs right into the mobo.

    Theoretically, the cable should never be an issue, it might affect the DMA mode selected, but can't make the card undetectable, theoretically. But for me, in reality, it became just another variable in equation, a critical variable.

  6. #6
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    the cable..that is one I have not had the pleasure to experience since the 1990s.Yeah,the setup for the CF on mine is straight to the mobo.Ah yeah the DOM too is straight to the mobo!!!Ok you called it my friend!!I plugged my drives direct to the mobo ide connector.DOMs are setup that way.The CF adaptor in the thin client is setup that way but is angled for horizontal plug and mount.My first setup with SANDISK on AMD Athlon XP board was a bootable 40 pin ide cf adaptor that mounts in the same slots as pci cards and it WAS plugged to the cable(80 pin).It worked but with LBA mode in the Bios.But the 2009 setups are straight plug into the mobo so...

  7. #7
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    It kind of works and does not works for me too.

    I have an IDE adaptor + 8G CF plugging directly into an P3 portable with only 198M RAM trying to reduce battery consumption by replacing the hard drive.

    It works fine with linux.

    It also boots up on XP but I have 2 issues after it comes up.

    1. The CF comes up as drive C but removable and creates an unknown device, otherwise it seems working fine.

    2. XP seems unable to create/make use of pagefile.sys on the CF. With 198M RAM it goes out of swap in no time.

    With more RAM, it proabably would be less an issue but I could not find the any socket inside the portable, hence the RAM is virtually not upgradeable.

    Do you have any idea how to overcome the swap issue?

    I want to keep XP so that I would be able to use the vector maps that comes with my GPS on the road, otherwise linux is just fine.

  8. #8
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    INDUSTRIAL CF and a addonics ADAPTOR!

    Well first the removable drive issue.I have found out two things.You CAN install XP to a CF and it show up as FIXED disk and you can overcome the swap issue.The cf to ide adaptor from addonics does electronically force fixed disk mode on CF cards.INDUSTRIAL CF cards are either removable but mostly fixed since they are used as HDDs in industrial PCs.Your partble P3 unit..WHAT is the name brand??Capuccino??If so,there is a SO-DIMM slot for upto 512mb.IF no,then you will HAVE TO nlite your XP cd so it removes the memory and hdd limits and to REDUCE the overall install size for fitting on a flash card.Then do some research Like I did at the OCZ website forum on how to optimize XP for flash drives.NO PAGE FILE!!If you DO need it,then make sure to buy a INDUSTRIAL SLC type CF card 1gb or higher and do all the other optimizations for XP on flash.The card will last about 5 to 7 years this way with SLC types.MLC type cards like you find in most stores,will last about 1 year or less with a swap file.Sorry but that is the nature of the beast.Now Since you are needing the system for specialized function,just installing those apps and drivers for the functions desired,will also give the card longer life since you will mostly READ not write.See,writing is slooow anyway and is not done often if you setup the XP right.READS are instant and unlimited since you are not CHANGING the STATE of the silicon crystals in nand chips inside the CF card.YES it is SILICON not SILICONE(that is a gooey gel sealent from Dupont/GE).The addonics adaptor is only to make regular cards FIXED disk and does no other magic.There is one other option which is the preferred option.DOM.Disk on module.This IS a REAL HDD drive made of electronics only.It is ALWAYS FIXED and 90% are made SLC for industrial/military applications.They are more expensive for the size BUT you get true hard drive made of chips,wide temp range and is a true IDE 40 pin or 44 pin interface.Seriously..guys,those chinese adaptors and cheap flash cards will not work.SLC or at least INDUSTRIAL flash is the best way to get what you want.2GB or higher makes much sense and use nlite for XP to make a custom cd of XP pro.In the Bios with the adaptor/flash combo,you MUST set it MANUAL and while the bios will find it correct,you must change the mode to LBA or LARGE mode.So to recap,you need SLC or industrial FLASH.DOMs are best as they are small and plug direct to the ide socket!They are true hdd drives.God speed!

  9. #9
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    Thank you for your response.

    After my post yesterday, I realized that there is a DOS program to turn the CF into fixed mode. The CF is a refurbished SanDisk Ultra II and there is no part number at the back.

    I bought the IDE adaptor on ebay for a few bucks, mostly S&H charge. It only has a few gates on board and is more or less dumb.

    I had a hard time putting ATCFWCHG.COM onto the portable as it ran out of swap all the time. Eventually I made a DOS boot floppy, yes that portable still have a floppy drive, and I finally managed to change the CF into fixed mode under DOS.

    The portable was made by Angel Computers somewhere in Toronto. Its lid has the word Angel on it. I bought it for $50 from a neighbour moving out of the country. It is a 600MHz P3 with 198M RAM, 8M ATI graphics and 6G hard drive, but it has USB and firewire. The last warranty label on it was Y2K. The model number label is partially gone. I emailed Angel Computers but they no longer support anything looks like that.

    I did not disassemble the whole thing, but I pulled out the hard drive, optical drive, floppy and battery, and even looked under the exhaust, i. e. the big CPU heat sink. There does not seem any place for the RAM socket to hide (unless it is on the other side of the circuit board).

    Anyway XP is happy about the pagefile.sys now after changing the CF into fixed, but it is still complaining about not able to find a driver for the CF i.e. for SDCFH-8192. Otherwise everything on the CF seems working.

    XP is up but slow as the kernel is probably swapping applications in and out constantly. I am a bit not used to it as there are no disks to make noises now while I am waiting for XP to response. It just freezes silently for a while between operations.

    It was late last night. I'll check what I can turn off to minimize RAM consumption, perhaps I should make it GPS only. I was thinking putting WIN98 on it but I probably would have a hard time finding USB driver, not to say firewire.

    Since I got the portable, I bought a bigger hard drive, the CF, the IDE adaptor, and even a couple of external power inverters with batteries just for the sake of hosting the GPS. It may have added up more than buying a new standalone GPS.

    It is a fun exercise though.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    wow!Well at least it worked!FOR NOW...

    Well my friend I am glad you got it to work.It was as I had said then.Cheap cf adaptor and cheap consumer CF card.It will get slower as the wear leveling kicks in to even out the nand flash chips being used.The swap will kill the card sooner than later but the cards are cheaper now so it may be no real task to get another and start this all over again later(I brim with optimism,I know!).The swap thing aside..YES it is weird for me too to sit there and not hear a hdd but I DO SEE the HDD LED light as my guide for activity.As I said before.With reads it will be very very fast,almost instant.But writes will be slower than hdds.That is standard in all flash based portable and non portable electronics equipment though.Now if you put a regular HDD with this CF card based system,it will slow to a crawl on boot and file open/program open ups.Reason is,now the system is back to having to wait for the hdd to spin,SYNC and then SPIT the data out in BURSTs.Only FLASH and SCSI drives can have maintained data throughput(spit data out constantly).Anywho..Yeah a regular GPS would be cheaper and more instant gratification.My dad has 2?I think?.But a flash based system is a great project.i have two already but the setup you have was what I had before and it just was not going to work correct but it did work.DOM modules are bette and will avoid alot of the steps involved to making flash drives work with XP or 2k,etc.Enjoy your new toy!

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