XP embedded or XP tweaked ?


I like XP embedded, there are many strong cases for using it, especially to get XP running on minimal resources to get volume device costs down whilst still having the benefits and flexibility of a mainstream OS.

But, for low volumes and in particular one-off system builds XP embedded is a hassle.  So is this a necessary hassle ?

A little background.  The reason I have used XP embedded is to get a very reliable platform for industrial software, so going fanless and having no moving parts such as a magnetic hard disk greatly improves the MTBF.  There is no doubt the mechanicals in fans and disks are major point of failure in PCs.

Nowadays, solid state memory in its many guises has reduced in cost, but the flash memory devices were known to have restrictions in the number of writes cycles which was a concern and one where XP embedded and its Enhanced Write Filter (EWF) could overcome.

It is worth looking at SSD/CF memories again especially the SLC and ‘industrial grade’ versions whose write cycle specification continues to improve and could be up from 2500 5 years ago to 100,000 for some brands.  Couple this with the hardware wear level algorithms making sure things get evened out and the potential write issue for most applications may no longer be a concern at all.

Sometimes you need to take practical angle, today’s XP sp3 ‘standard’ has been around so long and is so well understood by a huge number of people.  So can XP be tweaked a little to  do the job ? And what do I mean by tweaked ?

  • Turn off indexing on all hard disks
  • Turn off windows disk caching
  • Turn off paging file if plenty of Ram fitted
  • Disable NTFS change journalling
  • Disable timestamp for file last accessed
  • Turn off system restore
  • Turn off hibernation
  • Configure a RAM drive and use it for TMP/TEMP, browsers, ..

Bottom line conclusions

  • For client duties there is no write concerns, XP is fine
  • For many application duties, you can expect > 10 years
  • For intensive writes you can tweak and even use the EWF software

Obviously, for higher volume roll-outs XP embedded is great solution, but for the one-offs the develop investment ain’t worth it IMHO.


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