Can I install Windows on a memory card?

July 23, 2014
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I am looking for laptop and I prefer only Dell laptop as their service is best in my country. Unfortunately the hardware configuration isĀ out-dated compared to other Dell models available globally. I’m looking for the following components:

I want to have an SSD drive laptop which costs me more than $1000. I also can’t get much in the way of high end specs.

My question is if I keep memory card in the SD slot permanently, can I configure it to work as an SSD drive and install Windows on the memory card?

Would that be possible to boot windows from memory card permanently and work on it? Is hibernate possible?

I need an SSD drive just because I am used to having multiple applications running at same time. Because of it, sometimes my computer hangs due to full disk usage.

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  1. Oron J
    July 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    You've been given plenty of good advice already. The most important issues are a) SD cards would offer very poor performance and b) as Jan explains, the type of drive has very little to do with multi-tasking performance. The best thing you can do for multitasking (assuming you can't change the processor) is get more memory (RAM). For good performance, you should avoid needing virtual memory altogether (virtual memory is the technique for coping with lack RAM shortage by using the hard drive or SSD).

    However, if you want to get better performance on a budget, consider getting a hybrid SSD hard drive. Seagate sell such drives at a very reasonable price (about 20% more than ordinary drives). These drives have a relatively small amount of SSD (usually 4-16GB, depending on the drive's capacity) which is usually set up as a read cache. They look to the PC just like ordinary drives, but files which are accessed often (like many system files, for example) end up in the cache and are read from the SSD. In practice, they are not as fast as SSD, still much faster than ordinary drive, and as I mentioned above, their price is much more affordable.

  2. Jan F
    July 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I think you are looking in the wrong place to begin with:
    An SSD drive has no direct influence on (extreme) multi-tasking.

    The key to multi-tasking is having a CPU that can handle the load and having enough MEMORY (RAM) available for all of it. Only when you run out of system memory, your computer will start to constantly perform paging to the hard drive and only then the SSD (thanks to it's speed) comes into play.

    Please forget about the SD cards right away. Kannon already explained the technical problems of TRIM etc.
    But most importantly, even the second fastest UHS-I class cards only reach read and writing speeds which are at best on par with a standard mechanical SATA hard drive. Yes, they will be faster in seek time and therefor paging would be a bit faster but putting your entire system on it won't make you happy.
    To beat the standard SATA mechanical drive you would need to look at the highest tier UHS-II class SD cards and they are expensive, in fact the are usually so expensive you can get a Solid State Drive with double or triple the storage capacity. And this is just the theoretical issue! In practice you would need an SD card slot that is directly attached to the motherboard e.g. the PCIe channel to be capable to provide those speeds.

    So we are back to square one and you should look for a system with a lot of RAM, 16GB+.
    As for a Solid State Drive I suggest you contact Dell directly. Most Dell systems have the CTO option (Configured To Order) and I'm sure if you contact them directly they'd also do a BTO (Built To Order) adding an SSD for you.

    Just keep in mind the storage capacity you need! Take a look at your current system what the usage is. Since you said you'd run a lot of applications I would assume 128GB of storage is the bare minimum just for the operating system plus applications. Adding user files and plus overhead (so write-erase cycles don't happen one month after purchase) I would rather go for 256GB or more.

  3. Dalsan M
    July 23, 2014 at 11:50 am

    The other issue is that almost all systems are setup to boot from a hard drive (or solid state drive), optical drive (CD or DVD), or USB. Unless you use a USB card reader, the SD card cannot be booted from. Also, SD cards have a very limited amount of times it can be written to. Even using the SD card for caching data is not recommended, though it could speed up program load times.

    About the only ways you can get less disk usage stalls are by using an SSD or using two or more hard drives. With two drives, you can separate the operating system from your installed programs and data, reducing hard drive usage stalling.

    Another thing to look at is the Windows Search service and other services and background processes that could be using the hard disk while you are using the other programs. If you do not use Windows Search (there are faster and lighter third party search programs), then disabling the indexing service would be recommended.

    Something else that needs to be asked is what version of Windows are you using and how much RAM is installed in the computer? If you are using more memory than you have installed, the operating system falls onto the virtual memory, which is a portion of space on the hard drive. This would also use up a good bit of the hard drive usage at the same time your other running programs are using the hard drive. Installing more memory could lessen the load on your hard drive as more space would be available for use in RAM as opposed to using your hard drive.

  4. Hovsep A
    July 23, 2014 at 11:49 am

    maybe you can use virtual box to do that but the speed of windows performance will vary
    you can also try windows to go like in Windows 8 or 8.1 Enterprise Edition
    http://www.disk-partition.com/features/windows-to-go-creator.html

  5. Acc A
    July 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Basically TRIM plays important role in SSD performance with which any flash storage can not match.

  6. Kannon Y
    July 23, 2014 at 11:03 am

    This is a really fascinating question. I have some follow up questions, but believe I can answer your immediate concerns:

    I would suggest buying a very cheap solid state drive and experimenting with the speeds that SSDs offer. If I understand your question, you are asking whether it's possible to install Windows on an SD or microSD card. It is possible, but because SD and microSD card technology isn't designed with speed in mind (and they are limited in speed through infrastructure), you will get poor performance compared to using a real SSD.

    Sometime around 2005, I installed a compact-flash card, along with a regular hard disk drive, on a Windows XP laptop. I moved all the various caches onto the the hard disk drive and all the core operating system files onto the compact-flash card. This resulted in the best of both worlds - faster loading and overall fewer bottlenecks.

    Unfortunately, TRIM is not supported outside the SATA interface. Even if you managed to connect a flash card to a SATA port using an adapter, TRIM still wouldn't function. There's technical reasons for this, but TRIM requires support from the flash drive's controller in order to function. Over time you will notice lots of lag although at first it may feel faster than a regular hard disk drive.

    In short, while you can use flash memory to hold an installation of Windows, TRIM will not work. Over time the machine's performance will slowly decay.

    Did I understand the question? Hope that helped!

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