Introduction: How to Use a Phantom USB Port #1

If there are pins on the mother board to support USB connections, you usually get a cable (or similar) to bring those ports out the front or the back of the case.

BUT what are you supposed to do with Port 5 on a USB card? There is no USB 'A' Male to back-plate converter and the effort to wire something up for yourself is time better spent griping about the problem.

Step 1: Add a USB Thumb Drive

Once you case is sealed up, you have a small (compared to HDD) drive on which to back up critical data, or in my case a complete compressed XP installation. If you're happy to have regular reading and writing to a flash drive, then this 'ible is finished for you. All you need do is install the card as per normal.

If you want an OS recovery image, then continue through the next steps in order to protect that image from accidental damage.

Step 2: Start {All} Programs Administrative Tools Computer Management

This will bring up the screen below. If your menu doesn't display the necessary path, you can access this same screen through help, doing a search on "change drive letter".

Step 3: Select Disc Management

As per the example below, you will see that my camera is already highlighted as the example that I will use.

At this point you can also change the Volume name to something that will stand out when you are using a Partition Management Disc.

Step 4: Locate the Drive and 'Partition'

In the lower right box I've scrolled down to "Disc 2" which is the memory card from my camera standing in for the USB thumb drive.

Step 5: Right Click on the 'Partition'

You will get the menu as shown. Select [Change Drive Letter and Paths...]

Step 6: Remove the Drive Letter

If Windows is behaving properly, removing the drive letter should render the Thumb Drive invisible to the user. Now you have a hidden, reasonably safe location to store a recovery image.

Step 7: Making a Recovery Image

1. Do a clean install of Windows and customize your settings (Time Zone, Visual Theme etc.).
2. Once that is working shut the computer down.
3. Reboot the computer with your choice of Partition Management software. My choice is Spotmau.
4. Using Spotmau's highest level of compression I am able store a naked XP installation into less than 1GB of space. This procedure can take several hours.
5. Now you can reboot back into Windows and start using your computer.
6. If you have an unrecoverable crash, instead of sitting through the re-installation procedure which takes a couple of hours (yawn), you can again boot the Spotmau CD to write the recovery image back to your C:Partition. This usually takes about 20 minutes, which is a huge time saver.
7. When you restart Windows, all those preferences that you had saved in the recovery image will now be active, so you don't have to spend more time on customizing your machine to how you want it.
8. Each time I go through this process, I will add something to the C:Partition (e.g., current Office installation) and then use Spotmau to make a more up-to-date recovery image.

If you want a more dynamic use of this port, look out for "How to Use a Phantom USB Port #2" coming soon to an 'ible near you.

Mic

Comments

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HandyBob made it! (author)2011-09-15

How about using it for Windows 7 Readyboost?

author
Treknology made it! (author)Treknology2011-09-15

find no evidence that prevents you from doing so. The only warning I offer, is to make sure it is the biggest capacity you can afford, because frequent writes to flash memory significantly shortens its life. And even when Windows is doing "nothing" it still thrashes the discs about quite a bit.

Mic

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Bio: It is my hope that each of my i'bles hits the "Why didn't I think of that?" button in the reader. Mic
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