Here’s an interesting thing I discovered tonight:

If, like me, you’re fed up of installing and reinstalling copies of Windows XP or Vista then you may appreciate this tip to save a bit of time: Install from a CF card!

I’ve recently had to rebuild Mrs T’s PC, and decided to go back to basics with a complete rip out and start again approach.

Installing Vista from a CF card

I can’t remember the last time I did this … it was probably a 486 to be honest … but laying out all the components on your desk to perform a new build and install is so much easier, particularly when your wife’s PC case is one of those massive server-style cases you bought years ago because you thought it looked cool. :o)

The problem is I have limited desk space, and I couldn’t be bothered removing the DVD drive from the PC to install Windows. I figured there must be an easier way … maybe I could format a USB drive or memory stick? Well, you can … but the thought dawned on me: If you can boot and install from those media, then why not a CF card in a card reader? My reasoning was that I didn’t want to format either my USB drive or 16Gb memory stick … they have all my files on them! However, my digital camera has a rather healthy 4Gb CF card in it that could easily be formatted.

It turns out you can. All you need to do is format the card and xcopy the contents of your Vista (or XP) disc onto the card. Not only does it save you the hassle of disconnecting your DVD drive, but I found that Vista installed in at least half the time … maybe faster.

Interested? Simply follow these steps:

  1. Using another PC or laptop, connect the card reader and memory card
  2. Goto the command prompt (START -> RUN -> cmd.exe)
  3. Enter the following commands:
    1. diskpart
    2. list disk
  4. From the list, identify the disk number for the memory card, then type:
    1. select disk X (where X is the number from the previous step)
    2. clean
    3. create partition primary
    4. select partition 1
    5. active
    6. format fs=fat32
    7. assign
    8. exit
  5. Now insert your Windows XP or Vista DVD.
  6. Type the following (note that X: is the drive letter of your DVD drive, and Y: is the drive letter of your memory card):
    1. xcopy X:*.* /s/e/f Y:
  7. And that’s it. Simply plug your card reader and card into the new machine, switch on and select the appropriate boot device in the BIOS or boot menu.

Of course, there’s a number of different ways of achieving the above. You could use the disk manager to do the formatting – there’s probably a way of using PowerISO to duplicate the DVD directly onto the flash card … but when you’re working with the barebones of a PC with wires all over the place, there’s nothing quite like using the command prompt.

Oh, and before you ask – the Renault Laguna manual is actually an Intel approved motherboard support cradle. Cost a fortune on eBay ;o)

Installing Vista from a CF card


Rich B · 5 February 2009 at 12:33 am

Superb that man, I love it…SO pleased to see xcopy in effect here, I used to love that command when I was a hardware tech in the 90’s…..(he says getting all misty eyed, and then remembering the huge daily mileages and the inversely proportional salary)


Oli · 5 February 2009 at 12:44 am

I anticipated a speedy response from you, Mr B. I now await the response from Phil along the lines of: “I can honestly say I don’t understand a word of that … geek!”.

To be honest, I moved away from using the command prompt a few years back. After all, why use a clunky text-based interface when you can achieve the same with a glossy GUI in 37 easy clicks of the mouse?

Then I had a couple of scares with OSX that forced me to delve into the terminal, and the warm fuzzy feeling returned.

There’s no getting away from the retro/hacker image you portray when you use it … the chicks love it (apparently) ;o)

Phil · 5 February 2009 at 10:13 am

Well, I did think about saying “I can honestly say I don’t understand a word of that … geek!” but then I thought better of it. In actual fact, I’m well impressed, because not only is this in truly hardcore geek territory, it’s also a damn useful tip.

And having your PC laid out on your desk like that is very cool. I think you should keep it like that. The chicks love it (apparently).

Anyway, I shall just remind you of a time (back in the day) when you posted a comment on my blog berating me for listing terminal commands and calling ME a geek. (As a matter of fact, I’ve only just revisited that very same topic in my latest post.

You just want to go back to the computing era of Wargames don’t you? You’d be made up with a greenscreen monitor and a command prompt.

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