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Old May 3rd, 2021, 08:31 PM   #1
AlfredoQuintero
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Upgrading CFast card of Beckhoff PLC

Hello Beckhoff experts. I want your opinion on whether the hack I explain below is possible or whether I should forget about it.
Our Beckoff PLC is CX5120-0125, which uses CFast card media. Unfortunately we purchased the PLC with only 8Gbyte. I have not installed anything on this PC other than the TwinCAT runtime software, but the 8Gb is almost full after having updated the TwinCAT runtime software and not even the available Windows 7 embedded patches can be installed due to lack of memory. I would like to have more space to update the OS, the TwinCAT and add Wireshark (as we use this for firmware development), so I contacted Beckhoff Japan and they quoted be the C9900-H372 8 GB USB stick with Beckhoff Service Tool (BST) and CX2900-0038 40 GB CFast card for a total of almost the equivalent of US$ 600.
On the other hand we have a SATA duplicator device and one CFast-SATA adapter which costs around US 18. So I only need another one of these and an COTS CFast card, and a 64 Gb costs around US$ 90. I can save about US$ 500 if I buy the CFast card and duplicate it with the CFast-SATA adapters, but the thing is, how is the TwinCAT license validated? Does it take the signature based on the computer MAC addresses? Or is the signature based on the media, in which case my hack would not work. Will be grateful for comments.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 05:03 PM   #2
kolyur
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Beckhoff uses SLC CFast cards which is why they are so much more expensive. The $90 card you are looking at is most certainly MLC which are aimed at the consumer market and don't have near the amount of write endurance as SLC. I would strongly advise against using an MLC card unless you are not concerned about longevity.

Regarding the CFast duplicator, I haven't used one but I think it would work as long as it creates a bootable image. After booting on the duplicated card, it might still show the capacity as 8GB--you just have to go into Windows Disk Manager and expand the volume. I don't know how the TwinCAT license is bound (we use the USB license dongle) but the Windows license must be encoded in the BIOS or something because we've never had any licensing nags show up.

We use the Beckhoff Service Tool for backing up and restoring images. If you use CX controllers frequently, I'd recommend getting one as it makes the process fairly easy. You can get the smallest one available (2GB maybe?) because you don't have to store the images on the stick--you can insert a second flash drive during the process and pull from there.
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Old May 4th, 2021, 05:57 PM   #3
AlfredoQuintero
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Thanks very much John, for your words of advice. Very useful for me.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 05:40 AM   #4
AlfredoQuintero
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kolyur, you were absolutely right, the cheaper CFast card I was looking into is multiple level cell. I do not want to try this fix by myself. I wish I could do a bit of clean-up to this PLC so it is not necessary to change the CFast ward.

Unfortunately the Windows cleanup utility does not find much to clean-up.

I have found that the folder C:\Windows\winsxs is taking over 3 Gbytes.
I tried to follow the guidelines in this MM article on how to clean the WinSxS folder, but in spite of using text console in administrator mode, attempting to use the Dism.exe with the parameters recommended in the article (/SPSuperseed) will end in error:
"Error 87
The spsuperseed option is not recognized in this context."
It seems if I am able to remove close to 2 GB from this folder my problem will be solved. If anybody knows how to do this, I will be very happy to get educated.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 05:43 AM   #5
AlfredoQuintero
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Ooops...It seems Dism.exe is not supported in Windows 7, and my Beckhoff PLC is Windows 7 embedded.
Now I wonder, how can I reduce the size of WinSxS folder in a Windows 7 Embedded PC.
Thanks for reading.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:13 AM   #6
kolyur
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I think you will find that trying to run Windows 7 on an 8GB card is just not feasible. I've tried to trim down Windows in the past--including the infamous WinSxS folder--without any luck. I'm surprised that Beckhoff would even sell a CX with 8GB unless it was meant to run a lighter OS like Win CE. You could try installing a fresh WES 7 image which should be free of any bloat... Beckhoff tech support will send you a download link if you provide them with the serial number of your controller. However you will need the Beckhoff Service Tool to install it.


Vendors like Digikey sell industrial CFast cards from reputable brands. A quick search shows 16GB SLC cards being in the $200-300 range.
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Last edited by kolyur; May 5th, 2021 at 08:18 AM.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 08:40 AM   #7
AlfredoQuintero
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Thanks very much. We bought this PLC in 2016 or 2017. I do not know why they provided an 8 GB CFast card for Windows 7 Embedded I will look into the options you are giving me. I did an SCF scan and now I have 1 GB. I will not be installing Wireshark, but I may be able to update the TwinCAT runtime license, by running the installer from USB media.
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Old May 5th, 2021, 09:13 AM   #8
LadderLogic
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Can Acronis True Image software do the trick? Rumor has it that the BST software is a version of Acronis.
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Old June 19th, 2021, 06:18 AM   #9
AlfredoQuintero
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LadderLogic, John, hi.
I am reviving this old post to report how I resolved my ordeal as well as to thank you for your input and finally, leave a record so it may help someone else.
I ended up screwing up our PLC to the point I could not get it to startup.
So I purchased from Beckhoff Japan the Beckhoff Service Tool (BST) which is indeed the Acronis tool with Beckhoff label. (It can only import Acronics images.) This BST set us back the equivalent of around USD 200 (don't recall exactly), but the Beckhoff Japan support was included. They provided be an image which was easy to install with the BST. When I finished installing this image the CFast card had only about 160 MByte free out of 8 Gbytes. I complained to Beckhoff that I purchased this PLC from them and that they offered the 8 GByte CFast media, but this image left the system unusable due to lack of free space. Beckhoff said they could provide the image they provided with the PLC when we purchased it back in 2017. I got this other image and installed it. At the end of the installation there were about 1.8 Gbyte free, which does not sound like much but for Windows 7 embedded it is decent, as I do not install anything else on this computer. I was also able to update the TwinCAT runtime environment to the latest one. So now I have the PLC in working order and saved nearly US$ 400 that I would have had to pay for a 40 Gbyte CFast card.
Lessons learned: (1) I do not advice messing around with the OS installation of the TwinCAT PLC; (2) if you are going to be working with Beckhoff PLCs, having this BST is handy and also get the installation image from Beckhoff or the distributor and; (3) have a backup the license files so you can activate the TwinCAT runtime license if you need to recover the PLC. That's all.

Last edited by AlfredoQuintero; June 19th, 2021 at 06:25 AM. Reason: Typo
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