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I have an old Sony laptop (Vaio TR1-MP) that I like. The HDD has died and since it's a hard-to-find 1.8" IDE hard drive I'm considering buying one of those little CF card adaptors and a 16gb CF card. The total cost of that is about £30 and replacement HDDs for this model are far pricier.

Has anyone replaced their HDD with a CF card in this way, and, crucially, is the performance utterly horrible afterwards? ;-) I've seen a couple of threads which hint it's possible but the advice eventually given was just to buy a SSD, but I'm not even sure if its possible to get a 1.8" SSD with an IDE connector that'll fit my laptop.

(I freely admit that the most sensible thing to do would be to bin it and just buy a cheap netbook which would be smaller, faster and lighter than the sony, but it does have a very nice widescreen display and dammit I just like it !)



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I once ran a netbook off an 8Gb microSD card (in a mini-usb adaptor like this one and it was fine for a while (until I got aruond to replacing the dead little SSD the netbook came with). I did eventually change it to RAID0 over two microSD cards in such adaptors as an experiment (it improved sustained transfer rates noticably).

Performance was fine for Ubuntu, though as the original internal SSD was very slow it wasn't competing with much. After while write performance, which wasn't great to start with, degraded significantly.

You'll not be able to boot Windows that way though: as far as I know it won't willingly be installed on or boot from a USB device. So if you need Windows using USB isn't an option so you'll have to go the CF->IDE route if you can find one that fits the 1.8" form factor (most I've seen expect the connector style found on 5.25" or 3.5" drives). The adaptor will avoid extra latency and speed restrictions imposed by the USB device, but (if you use Linux so can run directly over USB) the USB option has the advantages of not needing to crack open the machine, which might be quite a bonus depending on your confidence level with that sort of thing, and not needing to hunt for something that will fit in the limited space available.

Either way it should work OK. If you use a good CF card you should find performance acceptable - random access reads are likely to be noticeably better than the old spinning disk based drive but sequential access will likely be slower as most likely will all write actions. I recommend doing everything you can to avoid the OS swapping to the device.

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Brilliant, thanks David. This particular laptop doesn't support booting from a usb drive so I've got no choice but to crack it open: research suggests fiddly but doable. I'll be going with a minimal ubuntu install which worked well in the past. Cheers again. – dartacus Nov 21 '11 at 22:10
If the machine has a working CD drive you could install to USB anyway, then boot using something like Super Grub Disk ( You'd be able to remove the CD from the drive once the boot has started proper should you need to use the drive for something else. If you've got a big enough USB stick you can format for the purpose, you could give it a try before cracking the hardware open. – David Spillett Nov 22 '11 at 10:30
Now that is very interesting. I have actually managed to get puppy linux installed to a sony memory stick (of all things) but the bios won't let me boot from there (so I'm running the entire system from a puppy linux live cd). supergrubdisk on a cd just to get me over that initial hurdle would work very well. Thanks again. – dartacus Nov 22 '11 at 12:07

Don't worry and use the CF card that suits your needs best. I am writing this on my old Averatec 2200, which ran well under XP Pro. In fact, I now use Windows 8 on a 128 GB card.

XP needs special formatting and work to make the CF card bootable, but you can find dozens of tutorials on the net. Windows 7 and 8 recognize the CF card as IDE and you can install those operating systems without trouble. Linux also has no problem.

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Thanks for the answer. I have not yet got around to doing this (it's on my list of stuff to do when the kids aren't around and no DIY jobs need doing) so might give this a go. – dartacus Feb 11 '13 at 15:54

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