A Directory Of Programs Designed For USB Drives

By | March 15, 2005

Update: Nov 28, 2006… Alan in the comments tells me of Pstart, “a simple tray tool to start user defined applications. Designed to run portable applications (like portable Firefox & Thunderbird), you can start anything runnable from USB key devices or removable disks.”

Please keep the suggestions coming, either via the comments or by emailing me directly (link on the left). Comments will be trawled and suggestions added.

Here’s a directory of applications designed to run on USB drives, flash drives, key fobs, thumb drives, whatever you want to call them, a subject I wrote about in the AWSJ and WSJ.com (subscription required; sorry). This doesn’t claim to be an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to keep it as up to date as possible.









  • Tax software: TaxCut
  • A USB drive for the blind: Serotek’s FreedomBox is a USB drive containing a text-to-speech and speech-to-text software as well as mainstream applications like Word, Firefox and Skype. This enables blind people to use any Windows computer just by plugging in their  drive. Prices at $129 (or £69). (via isolani)
  • Portable VoIP Phone: “Skype 2.5 has been built into the Virtual CD-Rom, no need to download Skype software to your computer, you only need to plug the Flash Drive Phone into any internet connected PC or laptop, the Skype 2.5 will pop-up automatically… [also] compatible with all kinds of softphones, including VoipBuster, VoipCheap, Voipstunt, Firefly, X-pro, Net2phone, Eyebeam, etc.”
  • One touch USB hard drive backup: Pexagon Store-It
  • Lighting control software: Martin Lightjockey 512 USB,

Other directories/resources/blogs:

205 thoughts on “A Directory Of Programs Designed For USB Drives

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  5. lyndon

    ATNotes a nice ‘sticky notes (freeware) program that has been around for almost forever.

    MissLonelyNotes a tricky looking index card style note taker that has undergone an update. I haven’t tried the update, but the original version (purchase req’d) runs from a USB.

    You never know what will run from a USB 🙂

  6. Stef

    Nice selection of apps. I use Editpad (top notch text editor) from JGsoft. it will run right off of the drive and it is tiny, it’d even fit on a floppy if you strip out the help files and dictionary… It’s all I need to write 🙂


  7. Robin

    I installed Winamp5.something on my USB MP3 Player, and as far as I can tell, it works the same way as Firefox Portable or Miranda.
    I Really enjoy using my favorite apps at school or at work instead of having to settle for some substandard program such as AIM Express or the like.

  8. PLJack

    Email Segway works fantastic on USB drives.
    I’ve been reading email off a USB for over a year.

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  13. mnimyi

    BBLean (http://bblean.sourceforge.net), an alternate shell for Windows modeled on Blackbox, will run from any directory, including a USB key. You can run it over Windows Explorer, and have a full-fledged shell, complete with hotkeys, a custom visual style, and launch bar from which to run your standalone apps.

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  20. Cory

    You can run TexNotes Pro from a USB drive, works quiet well, can also simple use it to generate an executable that can have all your notes in an easily transportable and useful format.

  21. Mayagrafix

    Best thing sinced sliced bread! Is it possible to insert a USB drive into a camera and download the pix to it? Please contact me with info.

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  24. Chris Busse

    Virus clean up on USB drive…

    … a friend of mine uses the Trend Micro Damage Cleanup Engine with a USB key to remove viruses from computers. His company requires that any computer that gets infected be immediately removed from the network, so this method allows him to have the latest virus definitions in a portable format:


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  26. Linda

    Another site is usbapps.com, there’s a bunch of information about this there.

  27. Chaos750

    Another linux distro for USB is http://www.damnsmalllinux.org

    It is avaliable in an ’embedded’ version which lets you boot off a hard drive image into a virtual computer, so all of your settings stay the same. You can even run it under windows!

  28. Matt

    It should also be noted that mIRC can be installed directly onto a thumbdrive using the standard installer.

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  30. leftyfb

    For people interested .. I have started a site for JUST this type of stuff. http://wwww.no-install.com I list most of the applications mentioned here along with more. It would be great if people could contribute links to download more, related articles and info and anything that might be of interest to the community. Feel free to sign up.

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  32. brian

    Wow, lookat that search-optimized iomega page!
    (TITLE)Iomega : active disk: zip: backup: cd rw: removable storage: network attached storage: cdr: zip 100: data backup: floppy disk: active disk: cd burner: nas: hdd: data recovery service: zip 250: iomega data recovery: backup: nas: cdr(/TITLE)

  33. brian

    Oops, meant to include this in my OT post above. (below?) The iomega page mentions putting OO.o onto their disk. Have you tried that?

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  37. Haxial Software

    Hi there, re your article about software that runs on USB thumbdrives. All our products have always been able to run on USB thumbdrives or any external drive. No special version is required, just download the normal version and put it on your external drive, and it works the same as if it was on the internal (there is no installer, and settings files are stored in the same folder as the program, not in the registry). http://www.haxial.com

  38. Joel Ebel

    First off, RUNT Linux ( http://www.ncsu.edu/project/runt )is a great linux distro you can just unzip onto a pen drive and run a script to make the drive bootable or create a boot floppy.

    Secondly, I’ve posted a complete list of all the tools I keep on my pen drive here:

    It’s got a few tools you list, and several that are a little different. Several are useful installers to keep around, and several are single static binaries that I always like to have around, like putty, WinSCP, VNC, and MS Remote Desktop Client. unixkit-tiny has lots of useful utilities, like cygwin, but not requiring access to the registry. I also keep around a copy of McAffee stinger for quick virus scans. Plus lame and vorbis-tools for audio encoding. Take a look at the link above.

  39. any

    What about DamnSmallLinux ?

    It was one of the first distros to have a USB Pendrive version,
    and still includes a simple USB Pendrive installer.

    The latest version uses qemu to boot 5 ways.
    1. Emulated in Windows
    2. Emulated in Linux
    3. Native USB Boot (USB-ZIP)
    4. Boot from floppy
    5. Boot from CD

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  46. Caligula

    Other considerations in utilising a USB pen- drive are :
    – incorporating a Boot program for XP and 98SE
    – incorporating ‘fixes’ dor a number of prevalent bugs and trojans such as ‘eMellisa’ and ‘eDoom’that can be introduced into any PC with USB access set from BIOS.
    – incorporate either a replacement ‘Flash’ or restored parameters to a compromised MBR.
    – the use of readily portable tools for determining Hardware and Software lists from an unknown PC ( such as ‘Device Identifier’ , ‘Belarc Advisor’ ‘TreeSizePro’ et alia.
    Remember , too that there seem to be 3 speeds of Version 2 USB…..predominantly ‘enhanced’ and ‘Super’ ( although there is not a lot between them ).

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  49. jhobbit

    Roboform runs nice from USB drive, free, keeps all my passwords, and personal data

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  51. Navigator

    Crossroads Access has launched Angel Mobile Medical Profile allowing all ‘untethered’ people to securely carry their pertinent medical information with them on a USB Drive in the event of a medical incident or emergency…@ http://www.YourGoldenHour.com

    In Your Golden Hour, the 60 minutes after a medical event, incident or accident, decisions are made that determine your emergency treatments and outcomes. What is unique with their USB applications is that when plugged into any computer USB port, Angel automatically “SNAPS OPEN” to show vital information supplied by the owner that healthcare professionals need to save lives and reduce needless pain and suffering.

    Angel provides an easy to use device that carries all the owner’s medical records, medications with dosages taken, medical alerts, dental records, X-Rays, and MRIs and advance care directives to extend Your Golden Hour.

    Angel contains no proprietary technology so that it is easy for both the owner and EMS or healthcare professionals to use.

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  61. Padman

    I having a note book which runs on win 98 OS.

    I find problem using pen drives.My system cant detect the pen drive.
    Please advise where can i find the driver for pen drives compatible to win 98 os..


  62. Paul

    A few more handy programs that will run just fine on pen drives are worthy of mention:

    Easy Message
    Adaware 6 Pro and freeware versions
    DVD Shrink
    Everest Home Edition
    TMPGenc Plus
    Portable Roboform
    Directory Lister
    Cryptainer Moble

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  64. Trevor

    You have got to tell me that there is a zip/unzip program that will run off a USB drive!

    Useful site but no mention of zip stuff. Would love to know and thanks!

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  69. ram raviindran

    Do you know a program that will temporarily install a font
    from usb drive and then remove the font when the application
    is over. This will be helpful to use a non-english language in
    a word processor program

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  71. Danny

    Carrying a thumbdrive is like carrying my car keys, I got to have one with me for work or for the off chance that I need to connect to a friend or family members computer.

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  75. speedwell

    I tried to put OpenOffice.org on my USB drive and run it on my computer at work. I followed all the instructions in the PDF file. It still installed to my computer and made registry entries, as well as defaulting all my MSOffice programs to itself. I’m still trying to clean up after that debacle.

    Anyone know what I should have done instead to get OO.o to run off my USB drive without raping my work computer???!?

  76. Marinik

    Atlantis Nova is a freeeware, small and complete word processor. It work from USB drivers. <1Mb!!!

  77. Anonymous

    I’m looking for a small utility that I can run on my USB drive (without installation or gunk in the registry!) that will allow me to shut down the USB drive for safe removal from the system. The computers at my school have software that prohibits using the standard USB utility that comes with Win2k, so I need some way to safely shut down this drive. “Safely Remove” doesn’t work because it needs to be installed.

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  80. Daniel

    I have on my 512 MB drive…

    Firefox and Thunderbird and the installers incase I’m at someones house who wants to try them out

    CAM Unzip a free zip/unzipper at camunzip.com I think.

    UPX, an .exe compressor.

    about 20 MP3’s

    The driver for my mp3 player

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  88. Derek

    A program that I like is Mike Lin’s Startup Control Panel. It allows you to stop programs that automatically startup with the computer and does a better job than MSCONFIG. And it’s on 76Kb in size.

    Get it at http://www.mlin.net/

    Autoruns 8.0 also does the same but it is a little bit more complicated but has a few more features. http://www.sysinternals.com


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  90. RedFox

    For audio, I recommend foobar2000 (http://www.foobar2000.org/) which is much more efficient than zoom player at such tasks.
    Once installed, you can copy the installation folder anywhere you want.
    Caution: it can be complex to customize…

  91. RedFox

    For audio, I recommend foobar2000 (http://www.foobar2000.org/) which is much more efficient than zoom player at such tasks.
    Once installed, you can copy the installation folder anywhere you want.
    Caution: it can be complex to customize…

  92. Daniel Kim

    Anim8or is a stand-alone Windows app that lets you create 3-dimensional graphics. After installation, the .EXE can be copied onto a USB drive. It’s at http://www.anim8or.com and is free.

    A companion product is Pepakura, which can take a .3DS file output from Anim8or, and create a paper-craft printout you can use to cut and paste a 3-d model of your creation! The feature-limited freeware version is at http://www.tamasoft.co.jp/pepakura-en

  93. bigj121

    MPUI is linux’s media player that plays EVERYTHING media. They have ported it over to M$ and it works GREAT. Even DVDs play great. Give it a try!

  94. Joseph F. Richmond

    How about a razor-sharp, no-questions-asked file deleter that will delete ANY file that you point it to?

  95. RV

    try the swissbit victorinox USB drive guys! Its got a light, pen, knife, scissors and a USB flash drive(64mb TO 2GB available on ebay) built in! U can even take out the drive by itself if u r traveling and can’t take the knive on the plane!! http://www.swissbit.com/haupt.asp?nv=2288&spr=2
    BTW, that’s a ton of programs on this page. is there a compilation from all these comments?? Please??

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    Good day

    I heard Jeremy Wagstaff’s commentary on the BBC World News this morning about the hazard of bacterial contamination of kayboards.

    The BBC web site has portions of the material incorporated into the wonderfully entertaining (but enlightening) commentary … but they did not have anything about the “cleanable” sealed keyboard that is now commercially available.

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  104. Thommes

    With the software Migo from Power House Technologie you can synchronize settings, directories, bookmarks and desktop-konfigurations on your USB-Stick to use them on any other PC without changing the configaration permanent.

  105. Thomas

    Is it possible to insert a USB drive into a camera and have the usb drive copy all the data stored on the camera?

  106. Thomas

    Is it possible to insert a USB drive into a camera and have the usb drive copy all the data stored on the camera?

  107. Nigel

    USB drives have become very popular, but I think that some people don’t think about the fact that they need to be protected too. That’s why I use software like Portable Vault to protect the data I have on my USB drive. This way I don’t have to worry.

  108. Sheeila

    To store my applications and data securely, I use TrueCrypt from http://www.truecrypt.org.
    Basically I let PStart start a Perl script (both run from USB), which then mounts my TrueCrypt containers where my apps and data are stored in.

  109. Max

    I am using these portable apps:

    FTP Commander – free ftp client

    Mail commander – email client

    NetMail – free email client

    Just copy program’s folder and run on any PC

    Download from:

  110. jgodsey

    may i suggest
    azz cardfile?

    it is a very flexible shareware program
    for all kinds of productivity uses.
    i have been using it for AGES and it is so tiny. it’s practically the 1st thing i toss on my thumb drives. IT and editpad.

  111. Kelvin WIlson

    I just wanted to say a big thank you for your site. I was in the process of building a usb app drive, and came accross your blog. Eventually your links brought me to the following website – PortableApps.com – and this makes me very delighted, as this collection of apps is what I needed.

    What I did not realize was Win Clam is also portable, and it is a lovely edition for what I need to use my drive for.

    Anyway a big thank you and a happy start for the new year.



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  113. Doug

    For your Editor area, there is Softmaker’s Office 2006 that can now be installed on a USB drive.

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  123. Reggy Love

    SLAX is a superbe linux OS that runs of as little as 128mbdongle and it´s very easy to add modules of lots of tasks have a look at it

  124. Mike

    Not exhaistive perhaps, but very thorough indeed – thank you!

    I wonder how long it will be untill we can ditch the existing hard drives (that have been around for ages) in favor of other media…

  125. portabill

    I can add a new app that I’ve recently made available called PortaBill. It’s an app to allow on-the-move technicians/salesmen/etc to issue invoices on the spot, running everything from a USB drive. Good for Windows and Linux.

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  127. Soren

    I remember one time that I gave a gift to my brother. The gift was a USB drive which is full of portable apps.

    Anyhow, this list is a good list. Bookmarked!

  128. crzy104

    This one is a nice blog and the creativity of the blog is really impress the readers,we look forward for the update post so keep writing continue,stay tune with us.

  129. Khaled

    I wasn’t aware that there were so many applications that can run off USB drives. I work off shore quite frequently and use the PC’s on the platform so if I could have software pre installed on a keyfob it would be a big help especially as you are unable to install anything onto their system.

  130. Managed Services

    very popular now,but I think that some people do not think about the fact that they need to be protected too.Anyway nice post.Thank you..


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