Self-contained utilities can run from USB drive

I often write about utilities that can be stuck on a USB drive and taken with you, no matter where you go—and which don't require an installer if it can be helped.

One example of such utilities is Nir Sofer's ever-growing library of tools. Another is a collection of tools, PortableApps Suite 1.0, which has been released as free and open source software under the GPL (and MPL, in the case of the Mozilla applications).

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The idea behind the PortableApps Suite is both simple and compelling: Pull together a bunch of self-contained utility programs (i.e., which need no installer and can run from a USB drive or even a CD-ROM), and make them available in one easily deployed package. The PortableApps Suite packages these applications and makes them available through a menu interface; it even has provisions for adding other portable apps of your choice. The suite fits comfortably on a 512MB USB drive (it's about 260MB unpacked) with room to spare for user data.

The PortableAppsSuite comes in three versions:

  • A standard edition, which includes the full complement of programs in the suite: ClamWin Antivirus, Firefox/Thunderbird/Sunbird, Gaim, OpenOffice.Org and Sudoku.
  • A lite edition, which includes the AbiWord Portable word processing program rather than OpenOffice.
  • A base edition, which comes with nothing more than the menu tool, a backup utility, the folder structure and the icons. With this edition, you can select only the subprograms you want for the suite.

Note: The backup tool included with the Suite is not a data backup program, but is used to back up any of the personal preferences generated by apps in the suite, such as bookmarks and mail, which are normally stored on the same media as the suite itself (i.e., the USB drive you installed it on).

Users can also add other applications from the PortableApps directory, which contains gems such as the 7-Zip file archiver and unzip tool, the VLC Media Player (which plays just about every video and audio format in existence), the FileZilla FTP client (a personal favorite) and the Nvu webpage editor. More applications are being added all the time.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the  Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in November 2006

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