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Problem: I am attempting to create an exact image of a compact flash and then compress the compact flash image for easier storage. The compact flash is not full (~1.5GB used, 32GB size). The problem is that when I compress the extracted image, it is not compressing well and I am not sure why.

I have tried multiple methods of compression and all result in no better than 50% compression ratio. I would assume that the zeros filling the ~30GB of the CF would compress very well and the resulting file would be ~1.5GB (or better).

What am I doing wrong? What am I overlooking?


  • Zero the CF: dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=1M
  • Partition, Format, install files, data, etc (approx 1.5GB used)
  • Create image of CF: dd if=/dev/sdb of=cf.img
  • Compress CF (using gzip, bzip2, lzma, etc etc...)


  • I am zeroing the CF by using a USB media reader, connected to a Windows 7 box. The USB device is attached to a virtual machine running Linux.
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Did you open the image in a hex editor? – Dennis Dec 31 '12 at 16:10
I know this is not what you say you want to do, but why not just create a tar or cpio archive of the files and then compress that? – Scott Dec 31 '12 at 19:33
@Scott it is much easier to be able to stick in a CF and click "burn" and have exactly what you need (all partitions, bootloader, etc) without additional configuration fuss. – Josh Dec 31 '12 at 19:41

Answering my own question, but not sure why this is the case.

I tried out dban. Booted the ISO as a virtual machine, and used the "wipe" (write zero) option. Single pass. Followed the same steps afterwards as previously outlined. And the compression worked a LOT better. My compressed image was under 100MB.

The only thing I can guess now is that when using dd, /dev/zero was outputting something funny, or it was not being correctly written to the compact flash.

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