Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Assuming you have a built-in slot, is it feasible to install Windows 7 (Vista, or XP for that matter) onto a 32gig SD card? By install, I mean house your windows folder and any OS required folders and files on the card. Program Files and User directories could go elsewhere.

If so, what specs do you need to consider for the card and would their be any major drawbacks?

Update

For the sake of argument, my target machine would likely be a Dell Inspiron 1720 which has a built-in SD slot. The A9 BIOS revision can boot from that slot, USB or the ExpressCard bus.

share|improve this question
2  
Can you set the SD card/slot to be a bootable device? –  ChrisF Jul 17 '09 at 13:28
1  
In some BIOSes yes. –  Rob Allen Jul 17 '09 at 13:32
4  
That sounds cool. I'm just picturing myself rebooting and switching my SD card. Then someone asks, "What are you doing?" "I'm switching OSes". –  R. Martinho Fernandes Jul 17 '09 at 13:36
3  
@ldigas: No less impractical than a LiveCD for many of the Linuxen. Could be useful is some cases. –  geoffc Jul 17 '09 at 14:05
1  
@Idigas - Its a cheap way to run a multi-drive setup. Having your swap file on a different drive than your programs and data can improve speed somewhat. Also, like @Martinho suggested, you can swap OSes very quickly without effecting your data. Both are worthy goals. –  Rob Allen Jul 17 '09 at 14:05
show 1 more comment

5 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

It's definitely doable, but there are two concerns that you'll need to address if you want to boot and use Windows 7 off of an SD card regularly.

  • Transfer speeds; a run-of-the-mill SD card is going to have mediocre read/write performance. I'd try to invest in a faster model. Any of the ones designed for SLR cameras (like SanDisk's Extreme line) should provide a boost, but I wouldn't expect hard drive or SSD-like performance out of a memory card.
  • Flash memory cells eventually 'burn out' and stop working. If you have your Windows swap file on the SD card, it will likely wear out faster than it would on a hard drive or SSD. Dan's Data says it's not as big of a concern as it used to be though!

Let us know how it goes!

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for the Dan's Data Flash longevity link. That's a great writeup. There is a big difference between "burns out in months" to "burns out in 3 - 11 years" –  Rob Allen Jul 17 '09 at 16:07
    
But don't the SSD drives wear out at the same speed as a SD card? Both are flash memories... –  DiAlex Sep 13 '11 at 18:23
add comment

RELATED: Install/Run Windows 7 off SD Card on 2010 13" MacBook Air

Windows Setup will not permit you to install to media other than an IDE or SATA connected hard drive, regardless of what drivers you have. Therefore, it is not possible to install and boot a full Windows 7 environment from an SD card.

(I can confirm that I do have troubles installing Windows 8 on SD card, installer doesn't seem to recognize in drive selection option)

If by any change there is a way to install Windows 8 from USB into SD card on Mac they I'll be first to upvote the answer!

share|improve this answer
add comment

I wouldn't say it is feasible solely because of the transfer speeds you would get, however the only issue I can foresee is the lack of preloaded drivers for the card reader. Therefore Windows will most likely not be able to detect the SD card during installation. I know it doesn't detect USB drives as a rule, so they may have disabled SD card detection as well.

share|improve this answer
add comment

My Windows 7 system is 27 Gb this contains my:

  • User folders (with some large avi's and loads of docs)
  • Program Files & Data
  • Windows (system folder)

So I think you could easily fit an entire system on a 32 Gb SD card.

For sake of keeping it trimmed down: - dump files on a different drive (external for instance) - clean up your computer regularly (like temp folders and internet files) - remove all installation files after your done (like drivers)

That way it shouldn't be a problem at all

share|improve this answer
add comment

However, in the case of XP at least, one of the issues is that XP cannot handle SD (or CF, Sony, etc) cards, until the OS itself is actually loaded. I actually also want to do just that, loading Xp off an SD card, on an EeePC 900. I don't want to have XP on my SSD card. However, I still want to be ablt to use XP on my EeePC.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.