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Home > Support > Application Notes: Booting Operating Systems off a Compact Flash Card

Booting Operating Systems off a Compact Flash Card

Compact Flash has become an attractive option to use as a replacement for hard drives for a variety of reasons:
  • Compact Flash consume only a small fraction of power consumption in comparison to 2.5" and 3.5" drives (2.5" and 3.5" hard drives can consume up to 20-30w, while a Compact Flash on average consumes less than a single watt of power).
  • Compact Flash are more durable and easily portable with no moving parts, ideal for embedded operation inside kiosks and solid state configurations (2.5" and 3.5" hard drives have rotating magnetic surfaces for accessing data, and is not designed to be used on moving surfaces).
  • Compact Flash are completely silent, and can be an essential tool in creating a computer to be used in a noiseless environment (ex. hospitals, living rooms with media centers, bedrooms).
  • Some high speed Compact Flash media transfer rates can match 2.5" and 3.5" hard drives in performance.

List of Operating Systems We've Tested to Boot with our CF Adapters

  • Windows XP sp2
  • Windows XP Media Center 2005
  • Windows XP Embedded, Feature Pack 2007
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 98
  • Ubuntu 8.04
  • Fedora Core 5
  • Fedora Core 7
  • FreeDOS 1.0
  • Damn Small Linux (DSL)
  • OpenSUSE 10.2
  • Sabayon Linux v3.3
  • IPCop 1.4
  • Openfiler 2.3
  • Slax Standard Edition 1.5.1.8.1
  • M0n0wall v1.231

Booting Windows XP off the SATA to CF Adapter (ADSACF)
A Transcend 2GB Industrial Compact Flash with UDMA Fixed Disk Mode feature was used to do a fresh install and tested to successfully boot various Operating Systems using our SATA to CF Adapter. To ensure compatibility and improve speeds, a Compact Flash media with UDMA Fixed Disk Mode is recommended. Compact Flash media without this may not boot properly. To improve boot times, reduce footprint, and minimize the amount of writes to the CF, follow the procedure below to remove unneeded processes and components.

Booting Windows XP off the IDE to CF Adapter (ADIDECF)
Note:
The instructions below are applicable for those who would like to optimize their Windows OS prior to transferring the installation onto the CF card, or for those with CF cards of smaller capacity (500Mb - 2Gb) and are unable to directly install Windows onto their CF card.

Laptop Connection:
After cloning the IDE hard drive to the CF card insert the CF card to a laptop CF Adapter and plug it to the laptop’s IDE or SATA connector.

Desktop Connection:
After cloning the IDE hard drive to the CF card insert the CF card to the CF Adapter and connect to the desktop’s IDE Channel (Same IDE connection where you removed the local disk).

System Configuration used for this Instruction:

Laptop with Intel Celeron M processor 1.40GHz
with 248 MB of RAM
USB card reader/writer for CF card
Sandisk 4GB CF card

Recommended software:
Norton Ghost
XPLite - http://www.litepc.com/
nLite - http://www.nliteos.com/

Step 1 - Build system using a hard drive
Windows XP Home/Professional requires a minimum of 1GB of hard drive space, so the first step is to build the system using a standard hard drive. Do a fresh install of Windows on your hard drive.

Step 2 - Turn off Virtual Memory
Turn off virtual memory, so as not to create paging file on the drive. This is done by right clicking My Computer on your desktop > Properties > Advanced tab, under Performance select Settings. Under another Advanced tab, click the Virtual Memory button Make sure to select No paging file and click the Set button then OK, then reboot. This will not improve performance, but will have a great decrease of number of writes to the CF card.

Step 3 - Slim the Windows installation
Remove unnecessary Windows components and features using a program such as XPLite or NLite. Note that this step has a large impact on system performance, but may also disable functions used by the system.

  1. Disable Windows File Protection to prevent the XP install from displaying error messages due to missing files.
  1. Uninstall unnecessary Windows components.
  1. Change the Startup Type of the different services in the Services window to Manual or Disabled and also stop the services you think are not necessary for your configuration. This will impact the boot up time of Windows in a CF card.

Step 4 - Transfer Files
Using Norton Ghost

  1. Use the Backup Wizard to create a Ghost image file of your system on a recordable CD or DVD.
  2. Connect your USB card reader/writer to your system with the CF card.
  3. Use the Restore Wizard to restore your Ghost backup image file from the CD or DVD to the CF card.

Using another Operating System

  1. Format the CF card appropriately. NTFS file systems can be done through Disk Managment or using XP CD. FAT32 requires formatting using fdisk, format, and bootprep.
  2. Boot into another Operating System with both the source hard drive and the CF card connected.
  3. Copy all the contents except for the Recycle Bin and System Volume Information (including hidden/read only files).
Step 5 - Replacing the hard drive
Remove the hard drive and place the CF adapter in the same position on the same IDE channel. This allows the system to correctly detect the CF card for booting.

Note for Desktop application
: Make sure to connect to the same location on the ID Bus (e.g Master Drive, Primary IDE channel) or you may receive an "NTLDR is Missing", or boot failure error when the computer attempts to boot the Operating System. It some situations it is possible to modify the boot.ini file to indicate the correct hard drive channel and position.