HDD is pretty slow. SSD is expensive but the fastest. You might be able to pull off fast boot with Class 10 SD on USB3. Better yet a really fast (200x?) CF on USB3.
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If you are wanting faster booting and dont need to use a SD card then the fastest i have found is to put the OS on a separate HDD then everything else on a second HDD. If you dont have a second HDD the next solution is a small partition such as 10GB for XP and 15GB for W7. Then everything else in different partitions. In both cases also disable any start up programs that dont absolutely need to run at start up. You access them as you need them. This doesn't exactly answer your specific question but i think your boot time is your main concern.
The flash memory on the SD card is faster then a HDD but the interface between the card and the computer is slower. SD cards aren't made to be used like a hard drive. I suspect if you tried this it wouldn't be that long before the card was toast from so much reading/writing.
boot times with an SSD will drop to about 15 secs,for the cost of an SSD I can wait the extra 20 secs.
Depends on the speed of the card and the speed of the reader. In theory, given the right speeds, then yes. Does readyboost support the card? If so, the in theory, yes it would be faster, but by the time you spend the money to get a large enough and fast enough SD card, you might as well just use a SSD.
Are talking about an SSD in place of a HDD? Probably yes; in most of the head to head tests I've seen, the SSD outperforms the HDD in boot and load times, sometimes by a significant margin.