As USB flash drives continue to get faster and provide increasing amounts of storage capacity, you can use them for more than just backing up files and documents. You can actually run a ton of applications right from your flash drive, which can come in handy when you’re on the road outside your office or home. There are some popular suites of flash drive apps, such as PortableApps, which we’ve covered before. There recently announced freeware portable apps for popular packages such as Google Chrome (s goog), Skype and even uTorrent. However, PortableApps is not the only game in town these days.
NirLauncher is another impressive suite of portable apps that are easy to launch from your USB flash drive. It includes the entire collection of useful Systernals troubleshooting tools. The author makes the process of setting up all of these apps easy, with a file named systernals.nlp that you simply copy to the Systernals folder.
LiberKey offers a super-slick interface with three different packages of portable apps, including audio, file management, graphics, Internet, office, security and networking tools. Here’s a list of all the applications available.
Lupo PenSuite also provides a graphical interface that’s been translated into 28 languages for managing a plethora of portable apps (over 200, including popular apps such as 7-Zip, Audacity, CCleaner, eMule, FileZilla, Firefox, Foxit Reader, GIMP, IrfanView, Notepad++, Opera and Pidgin).
Individual Portable Applications
Of course, you don’t need to have an app suite launcher to install portable apps on your USB flash drive. You can simply copy them to your flash drive manually. For example, i.Scribe is a fully functional email client that you can run from you flash drive. Just drag it to your stick and you’ll be able to read and compose email messages. It also includes a calendar, address book and supports many plugins.
It’s a good idea to add anti-virus protection to your USB flash drive. Avira AntiVir Personal is a free anti-virus program that you can install on your flash drive.
Portable OS in Your Pocket
You can actually install a stripped-down version of Windows XP on your USB flash drive thanks to software like BartPE (Bart’s Preinstalled Environment) which makes the process extremely less painful and more efficient.
If you prefer to roll with a Linux-flavored operating system, instead of a mini-Windows, then you can do so with the help of PendriveLinux.com. You can select just about any type of Linux, such as Debian, Ubuntu, and many more. You can find ready-to-burn Live CD images here on The LiveCD list and UNetbootin.
How about Mac OS? Yes, that’s possible too, although you’ll need a USB drive that is 8 GB or larger.
Virtual OS on a Stick
VMware is the leading innovator of virtual operating systems. It started by developing a way to install multiple operating systems on a single desktop but eventually found its niche by offering a platform to host multiple virtual servers instead of just desktops operating systems. It now provides a way to install a complete virtual operating system on a USB flash drive with a product called VMWare ACE. Not only can you run everything you run on a normal full-blown desktop or laptop, but it also provides connectivity back to your company’s network via a secure VPN. Thus, you can pop your flash drive in any computer with Internet access and work on your own customized desktop and even access your files and documents on your corporate LAN.
What do you carry on your USB flash drive?