Using a Netbook? Add a Muscular USB Flash Drive to the Mix

Do you carry a USB Flash drive with you? If you don’t, you absolutely should — especially if you’re a netbook user, because the small systems tend to feature hardware compromises, and a go-anywhere USB drive can compensate. The pocketable drives have fallen radically in price, even as capacity on them has risen smartly.  Here are some useful, free resources for quickly stocking your USB Flash drive with essential applications without a lot of annoying downloading and installation.

For well under $150 you can now get a 64GB drive that fits in your pocket, and keep it loaded with countless free applications and the same saved preferences that you keep on your primary computer. Having applications in your pocket means that you can work from anywhere, and a 64GB drive is more than enough to take care of most people’s essential daily backup needs. The following sites provide free, powerful ways to get the most out of your drive.

PortableApps. PortableApps is without a doubt the king of all sites that let you quickly and efficiently put bushels of useful open-source applications on your USB Flash drive. It won four awards at SourceForge’s recent Community Choice Awards (recognizing top open-source efforts) including Best Project. The PortableApps suite of applications includes the Firefox browser, the Thunderbird email client, a useful text editor, security software, backup software, and far more than that — all free. However, PortableApps is only for Windows at this point.

The Linux Alternative. Lots of folks are using Linux netbooks, and there are resources similar to PortableApps for stocking a USB Flash drive with solid Linux tools. One of the best ones is PendriveLinux. In addition to letting you stock your drive with useful mobile applications, it gives you useful tutorials on keeping any number of small-footprint Linux operating systems on your drive.

What About the Mac? This post is about using a USB Flash drive with a netbook, and Apple (s aapl) doesn’t make netbooks. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a lot of use out of a pocketable drive containing solid Mac apps. Like PortableApps on the Windows platform, MacLibre lets you put a slew of useful open-source Mac applications on your pocket drive.

Downloads in Different Flavors.
In a recent post from Datamation, the editors singled out WinPenPack as “similar to the better known, but it includes a lot more software.” What looks especially interesting is that the collections of applications that WinPenPack puts on your USB drive come in different flavors, such as “Personal” and “Web.”

All of these sites, and a handy pocket USB drive, can give you many more choices and more security when you’re on the go. A USB drive with solid capacity is also an excellent holiday gift for the geek in your life.