Run Your Software From a USB Stick

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Running software from a USB stick allows you to work quickly and securely anywhere you go. Apps worthy of consideration include Chrome and Firefox, which will run without leaving a cache on the host computer. Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition, comes from the house of Firefox and is pitched at users who don't want to leave any personal information on the machine it's run on, including address books.

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Running software from a USB stick allows freelancers and students, among others, to work quickly and securely anywhere they go. Here's a guide to getting started.

Getting the Media

Find or buy a USB flash memory stick or portable hard drive. You don't need a high-capacity drive. The kind of sticks that are given out at conventions with marketing materials embedded on them should be fine for experimenting.

You can also use a portable hard drive of the kind that comes in an enclosure with a USB connector -- you don't have to use a USB stick.

Prepping the Media

Delete any redundant files on the USB stick by inserting the disk into a spare USB port on a PC and select the "Open Folder to View Files" option.

Select the existing files and delete them by right clicking on them and choosing "Delete."

Picking a Platform

Choose a platform. I'm using the free PortableApps platform, which is open source and features versions of the Firefox browser andMicrosoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Office-compatible OpenOffice, among other things, including graphics software.

PortableApps Platform 10.1 requires 6 MB installed on stick, and OpenOffice needs 230 MB. Bundles of these apps are available from other companies too.

Downloading the Platform

Download the platform directly to your USB stick by browsing to the platform's website, and downloading the shell.

Allow the platform to install on the stick.

Downloading the Apps

Download the portable apps you want to use. Start with OpenOffice. Again, download it directly to the stick.

It takes a while because the write-speed of a stick is slower than that of the hard drive you may be used to, so allow time.

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