Setting Up a Windows Computer to Run Balsa

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Introduction

A simpler set of instructions is available at: Quick Start for Balsa This set of instructions tells you how to set up Balsa on an SD card using a Windows Computer.

Balsa is distributed as a compressed image file. These instructions tell you how to expand it and copy it to a SD card using a Windows computer. It also tells you how to set up a Windows computer to run the Balsa system.

Balsa doesn't run as a Windows program. Instead, it temporarily runs instead of Windows. For this reason we haven't referred to the set-up process as installing.

Requirements

You will need:

  • A compressed Balsa image. Instructions for obtaining it are here.
  • The 7-Zip program from http://www.7-zip.org. This program must be installed to expand the compressed SD card image.
  • The program Win32Imager from here. Download and expand that zip file. This program doesn't get installed by the Windows installer. You will run the program from the directory it expands to. To remove it from your computer, just delete the expanded directory when you are finished using the program.
  • A Windows XP/Vista/7 or later computer. See Balsa Hardware Requirements for details.
  • To build the Balsa SD card, you will need about 1 more gigabyte than the size of the card. The process uses large image files for the SD card. They can be deleted after the card is created.
  • The running Balsa system will require about 1 gigabyte on the machine it is running on.

The Procedure

Preparing the Balsa SD Card

  1. Download the Balsa SD card image, either the 4 or 8 gigabyte version, depending on the size of the SD card. The 4 gigabyte version is available here, the 8 gigabyte version is available here.
  2. If you don't have the 7-zip program already installed, download it from http://www.7-zip.org and install it.
  3. Unzip the compressed Balsa image using the 7-Zip program.
  4. The 7-Zip program will unzip the file into a large file named Balsa-SD-4gig.img or Balsa-SD-8gig.img.
  5. Run the Win32Imager.exe program from the folder that you expanded it into.
  6. Select the unzipped IMG file.
  7. Select the drive letter of the SD card as the device.
  8. Click on the Write button to write the new Balsa image onto the SD card. When the program finishes, the SD card will be a Balsa SD card.
  9. If you don't need to make any more Balsa SD cards, you can delete the large IMG file. If you need to, you can create it from compressed Balsa image.

Setting up Balsa on a Windows Machine

These are instructions for setting up Balsa on a Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 machine.

When Windows mounts a Balsa SD card, it appears as a 32 megabyte drive called BALSASHARED (It can be seen by both Balsa and Windows). In the main directory of the drive, there is a file named SetUpBalsa.cmd. You can run this file to set up Balsa on a Windows machine. You should run the script directly from the card. (The script can't run from a directory that has a space in its name, e.g. C:\Documents and Settings\UserName on XP.)

Set Up Balsa with the User's Data on the C Drive

Most people will want to set up Balsa with user data stored on the main C: drive. Here are the instructions to do that:

  1. Plug your Balsa SD card into the Windows machine.
  2. In Explorer, go to the BALSASHARED drive.
  3. Find the file named SetUpBalsa.cmd in the main directory.
  4. If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7, Right-click on SetUpBalsa.cmd and choose Run as Administrator from the menu.
  5. Windows will ask for your permission to continue. Give your permission.
  6. If you are running Windows XP you must run SetUpBalsa.cmd from an administrator's account.

SetUpBalsa.cmd runs a program called drive2id.exe. Some antivirus programs will try to block it. Allow it to execute normally.

Balsa is now set up on the machine. The next time you reboot, you will see a menu asking which system you wish to run, Balsa or Windows. To run Balsa choose the Balsa entry.

Set Up Balsa with the User's Data on a Drive Other than C

These instructions tell you how to store the Balsa user data on a drive other than drive C:.

Do not attempt to put the data on the SD card itself.

Here are the instructions:

  1. You must do these instructions from an account with Administrator privileges.
  2. Type Command Prompt in the Windows Start Menu search.
  3. Windows will display the Command Prompt.
  4. If you are running XP double click the Command Prompt program icon.
  5. If you are running Windows Vista or 7:
    1. Right-click the Command Prompt program icon.
    2. Choose Run as Administrator from the menu.
    3. Windows will ask for your permission to continue. Give your permission.
  6. Switch the command prompt to the SD card by typing <SD-Drive>: where <SD-Drive> is the drive letter of the SD card.
  7. Type: SetUpBalsa.cmd <BalsaDrive> where <BalsaDrive> is the drive letter to contain the Balsa user data. For example to put Balsa data on drive D: when the SD card is drive G:
G:\>SetUpBalsa.cmd D

SetUpBalsa.cmd runs a program called drive2id.exe. Some antivirus programs will try to block it. Allow it to execute normally.

Balsa is now set up on the machine. The next time you reboot, you will see a menu asking which system you wish to run, Balsa or Windows. To run Balsa choose the Balsa entry.

Technical Details

Technical details of what Balsa does on a Windows system are contained on this page: Overview of Balsa on a Windows Host