Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums


Installation of Windows 8/8.1 to SD Card

  1. #1


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1

    Installation of Windows 8/8.1 to SD Card


    Hello everyone, I have a question or a few questions on a subject. As hinted above from the title, I want to know more about installing Windows 8 to SD card and then use the SD card as boot device.


    I know most computers in fact almost none natively supports booting from an SD card (unless use USB SD card reader maybe), maybe you guys know of some kind workaround.


    In fact I would state my purpose and motivation so you guys can help me better. I have a Windows 8 laptop (No UEFI) for which I somehow managed to damage the LCD screen of, eventually battery and some keys on keyboard as well, basically this was carried out by children in home. So normally, getting it back on track as a laptop may cost something over 100 Euros; and despite all the problems stated, the laptop is in perfect working condition, can be used through HDMI display and USB keyboard/mouse as a desktop PC perhaps.


    But what I did is that I installed pre-configured WAMP (Windows Apache MySQL PHP) package, FTP server on it started using it a NAS and cloud server. It is working fine right now, I have a 3TB USB 3.0 HD attached to it except its own 500GB HD, so it is serving me well. But since it remains always on HD spinning all the time, always on power input/ No battery, configured not to turn off HD or sleep or such. I have concern if will prove dangerous overtime and may damage the HD. A few days ago I found a very good offer on a 32GB SD card, so I bought it thinking that I may use it as OS/ Boot drive for my server pc stated above. it is SANDISK SDHC Speicherkarte Ultra 32 GB Class 10 UHS-I. 32GB space will not be an issue, as I will only install Windows 8, WAMP and FTP software nad perhaps a few tiny tidy utility softwares and nothing more. For storage the current internal 500GB HD and 3TB USB 3.0 HD will be used.


    So, the questions
    1. Is it possible to somehow boot from SD card?
    2. Is it possible to use minimal initial boot operation from internal HD and shift the boot process to SD card and internal HD doesn't have to be spinning all the time?
    3. Will in stated scenario, disabling the Page file will be a good idea? (system specs in attached photo)
    4. Since SD cards have life expectancy based of Write Cycles, any idea how many life cycles will this one have?
    5. How much (estimated) write cycles will be consumed in a normal run throughout the day or week in setup as explained above?

    SD Card
    Click image for larger version

    System Specs
    Click image for larger version

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2


    Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts : 6,490
    Windows 10 Education 64 Bit


    Good luck with that, that's not meant to be sarcastic, just that it won't be easy if even doable. A better option may be to buy an SSD drive and use that as the laptops main drive. Windows To Go is the official way of running Windows from say a USB thumb drive. It's an option on Windows 8 Enterprise. There are guides for making your own unofficial version kicking around. Might even be one here some where. I'll have a look in a bit. Even so, as you mentioned, your laptop likely won't boot from a SD card. Mine won't, not without putting it in a USB card reader. All I wanted to do was install Windows from the SD card but it was a no go.
    Windows 8 To Go - Setup on a USB Flash Drive or USB Disk
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    Thanks for reply alphanumeric, yes SSD is the best option in situation but don't feel like spending money on buying SSD, maybe if get some deal on a used one or I will go for it but until that, why not explore around!
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    One Possible answer for Question# 2. Is it possible to use minimal initial boot operation from internal HD and shift the boot process to SD card and internal HD doesn't have to be spinning all the time?

    Yes in a way, by the use of VHD image file.
    Install the OS to VHD file, store the VHD file in SD card and configure it as (only or one more) boot option. Windows 7 and above support VHD boot. Since SD cards are not as fast as HD and are not very friendly when it come to multiple simultaneous Read/ Writes, some speed will be sacrificed but it should work theoretically.

    Question answered but new questions arise
    2.1. Will HD stop spinning after handing over the boot process to VHD file on SD card?
    2.2. When OS is running from SD card, will it let the internal HD sleep (stop spinning) when inactive for a while?
    2.3. Since the server will be used (through HTTP/ FTP) by only me and perhaps a few family members and mostly remain idle, OS running from SD card, will it take much longer to respond to a sudden HTTP/ FTP query or will that be mostly dependent on RAM?
    2.4. Letting Windows have a page file on SD card will make Windows even slower as page file will constantly be in use (read/ write). Letting Windows make a page file on HD will again keep the HD spinning. so Should I disable the page file at all?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5


    Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts : 6,490
    Windows 10 Education 64 Bit


    If you want to know if your laptop will boot from the SD card do option two here, UEFI Bootable USB Flash Drive - Create in Windows Just do it to the SD card instead of a thumb drive. Then plug it, reboot, and see if its listed as a boot option in your BIOS. I've done it. My SD card doesn't show up as a boot option when in the SD card slot on my laptop, but does when in a USB card reader. I know my card is bootable, my laptop just won't boot from it in the SD card slot. It's a BIOS limitation.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. #6


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    Quote Originally Posted by Fahid View Post
    In fact I would state my purpose and motivation so you guys can help me better. I have a Windows 8 laptop (No UEFI) for which I somehow managed to damage the LCD screen of, eventually battery and some keys on keyboard as well, basically this was carried out by children in home. So normally, getting it back on track as a laptop may cost something over 100 Euros; and despite all the problems stated, the laptop is in perfect working condition, can be used through HDMI display and USB keyboard/mouse as a desktop PC perhaps.
    Yes I know it may sound strange, Windows 8 laptop without UEFI support!
    but yes, that the case
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. #7


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    Quote Originally Posted by David Bailey View Post
    you should be setup with you new installation.
    Thanks David for trying to help but I am not asking about where and how to get my installation media or how to perform a basic USB/ DVD install. My question concentrates very specifically about installation on to an SD card memory and booting from it while trying to keep the minimal side effects from it.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  8. #8


    Posts : 1,875
    Windows 10 Pro Prieview x64


    Quote Originally Posted by Fahid View Post
    So, the questions
    1. Is it possible to somehow boot from SD card?
    2. Is it possible to use minimal initial boot operation from internal HD and shift the boot process to SD card and internal HD doesn't have to be spinning all the time?
    3. Will in stated scenario, disabling the Page file will be a good idea? (system specs in attached photo)
    4. Since SD cards have life expectancy based of Write Cycles, any idea how many life cycles will this one have?
    5. How much (estimated) write cycles will be consumed in a normal run throughout the day or week in setup as explained above?
    I installed Windows 10 Server on the exact same SD card using the steps in @whs tutorial link in post 2 and it booted fine (It was a little slow but quite usable). I left the pagefile on the card. I've since replaced Windows with Linux and it works also. For your requirement (powering down the internal drive) you need everything on the SD card as otherwise the drive will be in use and will not power down. I don't think native booting a VHD on the SD card would allow the internal drive to power down as the boot code used would still be on the HDD. I can't test that theory though as my internal drives are SSD so obviously don't power down like a HDD.

    Your real question is whether your computer can boot from SD card or not. Some can (my Lenovo X201 and my MacBook Pro both can), some however can't. You can test this by putting any old ISO on the card using Rufus and then see if you can boot it before going through all the installing windows steps which take a few hours.

    As for write cycles I've no idea. I bought my card in January and is guaranteed for a year so if it fails I'll take it back to the shop (I got it in a supermarket and I'm sure they'll exchange it). It was cheap anyway.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  9. #9


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    Thanks Adam for the informative answer.
    Linux is also a good choice for a cloud/ NAS server, but I keep Windows as it is easier and quicker to configure again and again. Plus native and full support for my 3TB NTFS drive. Ubuntu Server is a reasonable alternative but support for NTFS is just OK and no GUI, no easy management interface for Apache, PHP, FTP, MySQL etc.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  10. #10


    Posts : 26
    Windows 8.1


    I will eventually try VHD install to SD card. as I can make a base VHD copy, if I mess it up then I can just replace the VHD file.

    and one silly idea could be to boot through USB flash and then shift the control to SD/ VHD
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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Installation of Windows 8/8.1 to SD Card
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