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Thread: FAQ: Booting XP from a USB or Compact Flash Card

  1. #1
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    FAQ: Booting XP from a USB or Compact Flash Card

    ****Note - this is a FAQ in progress and may contain errors. All CF users, please feel free to correct and add as necessary!****

    Are you interested in booting your computer from a solid state device such as a Compact Flash (CF) card? While there are MANY posts on this topic in the
    Operating System Optimization forum, here is a link directly to the definitive post on the topic with step by step instructions from our very own Sfiorito:
    New EWF + MinLogon and CF instructions

    A couple of quick FAQ's:

    Does using a CF card make XP boot faster?

    Your mileage may vary. CF vs HDD Bootup Times

    What is the advantage to booting from CF

    Mostly, that your system is not tied to a mechanical disk drive. Disk drives can fail from vibration, heat, cold, shock. CF cards use less power as well.

    Are there downsides to CF cards?

    CF cards only support a limited number of writes (don't worry, it's "lots"), so you want to ensure that your XP install will write as little as possible to the card.

    How does it work?

    First, read the message link!

    CF cards have a finite number of "writes" that can be made to them. This is the reason that XPe (embedded) is used to write the files to the card. First, MinLogon can optionally be used to help reduce boot times. Thenn a product called nLite is used to strip XP down to a bare minimum to fit on the card and EWF (Enhanced Write Filter) is used to reduce writes to the card. A procedure called HORM (Hibernate Once, Resume Many) is also used to reduce writes to the card.
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    Red face Will any CF do?

    I'm just about to embark on my first CF Windows system. Before I buy the CF, will this booting XP work with ANY CF or should I buy a specific specification? Right now I have my eye on a Dane-Elec 4Gb one (DA-COMFLASH-4096MB).

    Thanks so much in advance!

  3. #3
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    The only real caveat is; how FAST do you want to boot. Oh, and some older cards don't actually support IDE emulation mode (though those would be too small to be considered, anyway).

    Myself, I'm going with a 4Gb card as fast as I can get (133X seems to be the max at the moment), and almost to hell with the cost. The faster, the better your boot when using HORM.

    Also, it's a good idea to build your machine in a virtual machine to test it perfectly and get everything "in situ" before you move it to CF. This results in minimal changes to the CF filesystem.

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate chris350's Avatar
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    ok this thread told me nothing on what to do.
    how about what i need ( compact flash card, IDE interface...etc)

    can i just get the CF and install it on the carpc, then load windows? or is there something special that I have to do?

  5. #5
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    This would be baller, so you don't need a hard drive, just get a huge flash card or whatever and take it out when you want.

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    Don't buy CF cards off ebay, ebays area all fake with slow speeds. Buy off a reputable website and use professional digital photographer speed cards, such as the Sandisk extreme range.

  7. #7
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    I just wanted to expand a little on the life span of flash memory.

    It's true that flash has a limited number of writes to each sector but then again, so does a hard drive. These days most flash manufacturers use wear leveling. The most prominent company is SanDisk and they use "Dynamic Wear Leveling". You can search their site for more detailed information and white papers if you are really interested in the nitty gritty.

    Basically there is a file system called FFS (Flash File System) which maps out all the sectors on the flash drive. The FFS keeps track of the number of times each sector has been written to. So every time you issue a write command to the flash, FFS will find the sector that has the least amount of writes and put the data there. This ensures each sector gets the same amount of writes thus enabling the flash to last much longer.

    I used to work for a flash manufacturer (that sandisk gobbled up) and we had customers running O/Ss like QNX, Linux and other embedded O/Ss. They ran the devices for years and years without any problem.
    Like many have already said, the quality of the drive makes a big difference in both speed and lifetime. BUY QUALITY even though it will be a little more expensive. You'll be much happier in the long run.

    Essentially, if you've been holding off using flash because you are afraid of the limited number of writes, don't be. It will probably last longer than you own your vehicle.

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