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First off, I want to say that this is completely different from other questions about putting the installation files onto flash drives (i.e. Install Windows 7 from USB flash drive and How to install Windows 8 from USB flash drive?).

Background

I have a "server" running Windows 7 Ultimate that I got from Microsoft. It has 3 IDE hard drives and 2 SATA drives. I want to move the 20GB IDE drive, which is the boot drive, onto a flash drive and boot off of that. The other IDE drives will get converted later when I get more money. The current motherboard is dying (blown capacitors, broken fan blades on CPU that seems to be custom), and needs to be replaced completely.

What is going in

I have decided on the Asus E35M1-I motherboard, for the 6 SATA ports, and the fact that it's tiny has no importance to me; it's a file server, and the other services don't require extra PCIe or PCI slots. The new motherboard I'm buying, of course, has no IDE ports (hallelujah/dammit), so it will need to move the IDE drives to SATA. But with my 20GB IDE drive, I don't see a point in buying an SSD for a simple file server, or trying to buy an adapter kit to convert SATA to IDE. So the conclusion...

The Conclusion/Question

Can I image (i.e. with Linux's dd command or Acronis TrueImage) my boot drive to a Flash Drive and have it boot the system?

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I wouldn't bother, honestly. It'll be more reliable and cheaper to get a small SATA drive instead, and boot off that. More capacity, less to worry about, more reliable than flash technology ... –  user3463 May 30 '12 at 20:31
    
@RandolphWest I have a 32GB flash drive that I'm not using, and I hardly ever write to the C: anyways. I am willing to take the risk though –  Canadian Luke May 30 '12 at 20:35
    
It's not supported from a licencing perspective, and I think it'll be slow as heck, but if you Bingle around a bit, you'll find different options. The USB drive just has to be bootable, which Acronis should be able to do. –  user3463 May 30 '12 at 20:39

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Moving windows to a flash drive which is smaller and has a similar interface should work. I have done it before using ghost to make an image of a 60GB SATA drive on laptop. I then restored that image to a 16GB throttle pendrive. Acronis TrueImage should work as well as Norton ghost. DD however has no idea about the filesystem. DD will work on an identical disk.

However, three points to think about:

  1. @RandolphWest has a good point about reliability. Old drives may fail, and it is simpler if you can just put the image/OS from the old 20GB drive on one of the larger SATA drives. This means some shuffling with data and partitions, but you end up with less drives, less noise, less electricity used, less heat and probably a more reliable system.
  2. If you change the interface (from IDE/P-ATA to SATA or to USB then windows will need to have the drivers for that. I am not up to data on how windows 7 handles this, but on older windows this was 'a challenge'.
  3. If you decide to copy the disk with dd then you are also copying the partition table. You will probably end with a 32GB [flash] drive that gets recognized as 20GB.
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With DD, I would have the partitions show up as the previous size (as expected), but with free space at the end –  Canadian Luke May 30 '12 at 21:15
    
Trying this on Monday at work (where we have imaging tools). Will post results and mark as answer if it works –  Canadian Luke Jun 2 '12 at 21:44

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