The firadisk driver can be used to access a Grub4dos RAM drive from a Windows Operating System (both Windows Preinstallation Environments (BartPE, LiveXP, etc) and full Windows systems (XP, 7, etc)). It can also be used to boot a Windows XP system from a disk image loaded (mapped) into system memory as a RAM drive.
Firadisk will only detect RAM disks mapped using Grub4dos. I would therefore recommend that you install and test Grub4dos before proceeding (see here for a detailed Grub4dos guide - if Windows 2000/XP/2003 is already installed on your system try the Load via ntldr install method).
Firadisk version 0.0.1.12 was used during testing. Firadisk is a continually evolving project, therefore some of the information contained in this guide may not apply to previous versions, or be applicable to future versions.
This guide contains detailed walkthroughs with instructions for -
- Installing the firadisk driver.
- Creating disk images compatible with Grub4dos mapping.
- Creating a Windows XP disk image (.ima file) that can be booted from system RAM.
- Creating Windows PE (XP and 2003 based) disk images (.ima) that can be booted from system RAM.
- Installing Windows XP from an .iso file.
I hope that the instructions contained within this guide are detailed enough for anyone to follow. A basic knowlege is assumed - if you cannot start a command prompt and/or do not like using command line tools then quit now.
I recommended that you back up your system and any important data as some of the steps in this guide could result in data loss. Test the integrety of your backups and ensure that you know how to restore them before proceeding. I do not take any responsibility for any problems caused by following this guide - you do so at your own risk. If you have any concerns about testing the methods in this guide on a real system then try testing on a Virtual Computer (freeware VirtualBox recommended - tested using version 1.6.2).
If you have any questions regarding firadisk then please read the boot-land topic here. Your question may already have been answered - if not then register at the forum and post your question.
Before starting the walkthrough please note the following -
- Disk images are mapped (loaded) to RAM before being booted - you must therefore have enough system RAM to contain the image + additional RAM to run the operating system. As an example, if loading a full Windows XP from a 1GB disk image you must have 1GB RAM for the disk image + enough to run Windows XP - I would personally recommend at least 512MB. You will therefore need at least 1.5GB RAM (1GB for the disk image + 512MB for running XP).
- PE systems can generally run on less system RAM than a full operating system and the RAM requirements will therefore be less than with a full XP, but you will still need enough RAM to contain the disk image + the OS requirements.
- Disk imaging software can be used to create a bootable disk image, however file based backup methods can also be used (e.g. robocopy or the xcopy command) - this guide covers file based methods only. A disk image will need to be created, or an existing (empty) disk image can be used. If you plan to boot a full XP image the Windows XP files cannot be copied to the disk image from the operating system you are copying. They can however be copied from a Windows PE system or another Windows Operating System in a multiboot setup.
- Any changes made to the OS booted from the disk image (e.g. programs installed, changes made to OS configuration, etc) will not be saved on reboot.
- Running a full XP in RAM is not possible without some tweaks. The pagefile can by default be equal to or greater than the total RAM installed on the system and will need to be either reduced, removed or moved to another partition. This and other tweaks are covered.
- If the disk image is formatted using compressed NTFS then an image file smaller in size than the files to be copied can be used. As an example my XP Home install is approximately 1.09GB after being tweaked - this easily fits in a 1GB disk image if NTFS compression is used (it actually takes up just over 700MB leaving the remainder of the image as writable disk space once the disk image is booted).
- It is not (currently) possible to map the disk image to a memory address above 4GB - the image file can therefore be a maximum of 4GB in size. Unfortunately using a 4GB image will result in Windows 32-bit systems not having any RAM in which to run, as they also cannot access memory > 4GB address.
- Just a reminder to everyone, a full Windows XP system requires product activation. You cannot simply image an existing sytem, copy it to USB drive or DVD and expect it to run on another computer -
If you are lucky enough to have a VLK version of Windows that does not require activation you will still have issues with the hardware changes unless using systems with very similar hardware. A Universal XP topic has been started on boot-land (see here) - at the time of writing this remains a work in progress.
- This is likely to be in breach of the EULA
- The hardware changes detected on the new computer are likely to require a reboot (remember all changes are lost on reboot)
- Re-activation may be required