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.

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    Can you set the SD card/slot to be a bootable device? – ChrisF Jul 17 '09 at 13:28
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    In some BIOSes yes. – Rob Allen Jul 17 '09 at 13:32
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    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
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    @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
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    @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
up vote 11 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!

  • 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
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    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

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!


UPDATE 8th Aug 2016

Got upvoted, got notification, returned to this question because it would be nice to have Windows sitting on a SD card... Some top results from Google search:

And just as top answer suggests - it's definitely doable - when you using Windows To Go

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.

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

One ugly solution is to use one of this (native install, sd will be seen by motherboard as an IDE or as a SATA drive):

  • IDE to CF + CF to SD + SD to microSD
  • IDE to CF + CF to microSD (some CF to microSD also have Raid0 with up to 4 microSD, with a great improve on R/W, not so much on IO/s)
  • Sata to SD + SD to microSD
  • Sata to microSD

SD to microSD internally is only a cable positioning replace, i have open one of thoose adaptors.

Allways try to use microSD of highest speed you can, they give better compatibility than a pure SD, at least the pure SD ones i had tried did not worked, while a microSD and a microSDHC had worked well.

First try with a normal 8GiB microSD, then try with a microSDHC (up to 32GiB), and if you are a bit lucky also try with a microSDXC; not all cards are supported by laptop readers, first try yours from a LiveLinux to check if you can access it well Read and Write.

This is a much more elegant solution (with three really big problems) and no need to by hardware adaptors, neither open laptop to change the card, it uses the sd card slot on the side of the laptop:

  • Internal HDD with NTFS for Windows Reserved partition (where BCD goes), this will be the main boot, with menu on screen to select the OS
  • SD card for System partition (please put fixed size pagefile.sys on the main HDD on another dedicated FAT32 partition if pagefile.sys size is <4GiB)

The problems:

  • No native install, must first intall into internal HDD, inject USB drivers for the card on early stage of boot (a lot of tweaks and not allways possible), offline clone (form a LiveLinux for example) that to the SD, adapt (from Install media) the BCD entry for it to point to SD card, and pry all had gone well.
  • Boot disk and system disk will be different (VeraCrypt do not support to encrypt that, both partitions must reside on same disk)
  • Choosing wrong entry on boot can damage the system files at booting (remember you will have on internal HDD the BCD with entries for more than one SD, but only one connected at a tiem, so choose wrong and you may corrupt the system on the SD)

I had tried it and works great with one SD for each one of this Vista (SP1), 7 (SP1), 8, 8.1 and 10 (all are home versions, just to ensure no pro/enterprise/server addons are there to allow such boots).

Please note the (SP1), i had tried without the SP1 and they do not work, maybe because of my laptop been quite old and not having the correct drivers, or maybe because SP1 has something 'extra' that helps.

Hope someone else can replicate this, remember to search for injecting your own usb drivers into early boot stage, it cost me a lot to find for a way for my laptop (it has a touch screen that is USB and was making it harder, USB order number related).

And for thoose (like me) that the SD to microSD card adaptor does nto full fit inside, there are some of them shorter, search google images for "Shorter sd adaptor" or "low profile sd adaptor", without quotes.

Tools:

  • OPIK or WAIK: OEM pre-installtion kit or Windows Automated installation kit
  • diskpart
  • Windows ISO file
  • sysprep

Method 1:

  1. Install windows normally, without the product key
  2. Clean up the installation, i.e. get rid of anything you don't want and add what you do want, sudh as mining software, drivers, or whatever else you might want.
  3. Run sysprep from command prompt. path is c:>windows\system32\sysprep\ run sysprep /generlize, this will let you put in your product key.
  4. now follow this guide to create your iso https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/davguents_blog/2010/08/17/how-to-create-a-bootable-iso-using-tools-from-the-waik/
  5. use diskpart to partition and format your sd card, for a list of options type help
  6. use rufus,ethcer, or similar tool to flash your image to your sd card

Method 2:

Use hyper-v to create a virtual disk on your sd card. Still needs some work on my end. With how to set the boot string in the bcd store but vhd's can be used as well

i think if someone can install windows 2000 on a sd card (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-hDOiI0-6s) then oses after windows 2000 should work

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