Using a CF card as an SSD drive

I‘ve had an old PC running Windows 2000 for quite a while; I‘ve been using it for a very specific electronic circuitry design software that refuses to run on anything else. With an Athlon 1700+ and 256MB of RAM, it wasn‘t a beast even back in the day when it was made.

Recently, a very annoying problem arose: the HDD started making scratching noises. I doubt I could‘ve expected anything more from an old 40GB Maxtor drive. Almost 20 years up and running is a great achievement for an HDD. I didn‘t want to replace it with another HDD since quality IDE HDDs are now quite hard to find. Ideally, I wanted something solid-state. However, IDE DOMs cost quite a bit so I wanted to find a cheaper solution. I had some CF cards laying around and since the CF interface is electrically identical to that of IDE, I thought I could probably find an adapter. Picked up one from eBay for a few bucks. The card I went with is a 16GB 133x Transcend one.

The drive worked, however, I ran into a serious problem whilst trying to configure windows 2000: consumer CF cards are seen as Removable Storage, therefore swap files can’t be created and Windows crashes. Some industrial cards are seen by the system as fixed drives, but those are very expensive.

I solved this problem by writing a custom driver for my card, based on Hitachi MicroDrive driver. Now the drive is seen as a fixed disk (just like an industrial card or a HDD) and swap file can be created

So far everything is running flawlessly, the speed isn’t the best – 133x CF card has a theoretical speed of 133 * 150kB/s = 19,950 kB/s ≈ 20 MB/s.

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