I have a small rackmount PC whose motherboard has a compact flash card built-in (I believe it's an IDE device). The computer was originally used as a firewall running pfsense, but I would like to repurpose it as a general-purpose low-power server.

Windows Server didn't seem to want to install directly on a compact flash drive, so I tried installing windows onto a SATA drive and then copying the partition, but when I booted I got a "your installation of Windows has changed and needs to be repaired". My Windows Server install CD doesn't seem to have any meaningful repair options the way the consumer Windows install disks do.

Any advice? I'm using the "standard" version of Windows Server 2012 R2... online I see references to an embedded version but I have no idea where to find it or how to install it.

  • It is possible to run the full Windows Server 2012 R2 from a USB device, it's just Windows To Go. I used to use USB hard drives, but now use a USB SSD, it works surprisingly well. Surely it is not supported by Microsoft and I have no experience with compact flash. – Peter Hahndorf Jul 14 '15 at 4:24

Installing and running Windows Server 2012 R2 and other previous versions of Windows Server on a Compact Flash card or USB is un-supported.

The only supported installation of a Windows Server operating system onto a USB device is Hyper-V Server 2012 R2, the dedicated hypervisor of Windows Server which is basically just Hyper-V and the Server Core "management" virtual machine running in the parent partition (Run Hyper-V Server from a USB Flash Drive).

As far as I am aware, there is no supported installation path for Compact Flash devices.

Big Important Red Flag:

The scenario that is described in this topic is only supported for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Long story short, there is no supported install of Windows Server onto CF or USB devices. You need to use regular old hard drives.

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  • Thanks for the info. Do you think this is a "Really Doesn't Work" kind of thing or just "Not Officially Supported"? The CF drive shows up in the BIOS as an IDE device so I'm not even sure how Windows knows it's removable. It's not like this is a USB drive someone is going to pull out in the middle of operation. – Hank May 14 '14 at 22:46
  • @Henry Jackson - From the perspective of professional capacity, "Really Doesn't Work" and "Not Officially Supported" are the same thing. What's the underlying problem you are trying to solve? – user62491 May 14 '14 at 23:05
  • The underlying issue is that I have this low-power (~20W) piece of hardware that would be perfect for a remote server running some basic administration tasks, but the power supply doesn't have any SATA power cables so the only straightforward way to boot it is from a CF card. All our important servers are running on a VMware cluster backed by a SAN; this is more of a tertiary backup, so I'm ok with something a little hack-y. – Hank May 14 '14 at 23:36
  • @HenryJackson - Well you can try hacking through it but I think you'd be better off with ESXi which supports CF cards or Hyper-V Server on a USB key - just don't expect a support call to Microsoft to fo in your favor. – user62491 May 14 '14 at 23:46

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