USB applications for Windows

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USB apps · HAQ · AutoHotkey · Batch files

This is a selection of freeware and open-source Windows programs that run from USB keydrives with full functionality. The HAQ addresses hypothetically asked questions. All programs listed work fine for us from a USB keydrive. However, some things may depend on particular configurations, while some information may not be accurate. Your feedback is appreciated.

Please note that some freeware programs are free only for home/personal/non-commercial use. For details, see licences. OSS programs usually come with no such restrictions.

PORTABILITY. Almost all programs are perfectly portable. The few exceptions are noted like this:

  • R2. Writes one or two keys in the Windows registry, but does not depend on them.
  • R1. Keeps settings in the registry. This means: (1) Settings are not portable. (2) If the program is already installed, the portable instance will pick up the local configuration. (3) If it is not already installed, the portable instance will litter the local registry.


  • x.xMB. The size the program takes on the USB stick, in megabytes.
  • INS. The program comes with installer. Install it to your hard drive, then copy its directory from C:\Program Files to the keydrive.
  • OSS. The program is open-source software.
  • UC0. The program does not support Unicode.
  • UC1. The program supports Unicode.
  • xxxx-xx. Year-Month when the program was added to the list.


File utilities

  • 7za. 0.6MB, OSS, 2004-12. CLI version of 7-Zip. For ZIP and RAR archives you can also use A43 or freeCommander.
  • A43. 0.7MB, 2004-12. File manager with text editor, hex viewer, zip/unzip, unrar, dual-pane mode.
  • Copy Handler. 0.6, OSS, UC0, 2005-10. Handles file transfers. Several L10ns, Chinese, English, Polish Help.
  • Flexible Renamer. 1.4MB, UC1, 2005-11. File/folder renamer. English/Japanese GUI/Help.
  • freeCommander. 1.2MB, INS, 2004-12. Dual-pane file manager, zips/unzips, unrars, makes SFX files, wipes, splits, searches in ZIP/RAR/CAB archives, has visual filters, custom hotkeys, custom layouts, makes/verifies MD5 checksums, and more. Several L10ns
  • PC Inspector File Recovery. 5.9MB, INS, 2005-07. Wider functionality than Restoration. Restores partitions also. Several L10ns. IMPORTANT. Do NOT run from the drive or partition of the deleted data.
  • Restoration. 0.4MB, 2004-12. To restore deleted files.
  • Splitter Light. 0.1MB, 2004-12. Friendly splitter and rejoiner of files and directories.
  • Unstoppable Copier. 0.1MB, 2004-12. Copy files from damaged media. (NOT damaged files from healthy media.)
  • UPX. 0.2MB, OSS, 2004-12. CLI tool to compress executables. You can save space and make programs load faster.

Security, Privacy

  • avast! vCleaner. 0.4MB, 2004-12. Cleans distinguished worms and viruses.
  • AVERT Stinger. 0.9MB, 2004-12. Same as above.
  • ClamWin Portable. 14.6MB, OSS, 2007-02. On-demand antivirus scanner.
  • KeePass. 0.4MB, UC1, OSS, 2004-12. Store/manage/autocomplete usernames/passwords. Many features, excellent documentation. Can store everything (including the encrypted database) in its directory. [2006-07: Updated info.]
  • LockNote. 0.3MB, OSS, UC0, 2006-01. Notepad that protects your notes with encryption. Alt. link
  • TrueCrypt. 0.1MB, OSS, 2005-07. On-the-fly encryption of partitions and virtual disks. Can be used from a USB stick in “traveller mode”. Several l10s. NOTE. TrueCrypt suffers from a couple of limitations for portable use: (1) It does not work on Win 9x. You need a 2000/XP/2003 system to access your files. (2) In traveller mode, it needs administrative priviledges to work. (Unless an instance is already installed on the host system. Then, the encrypted volumes will be managed automatically by the local instance).

Internet & Networks

  • µTorrent. 0.1MB, UC1, 2005-09. Tiny BitTorrent client with amazing set of features. USAGE. For portable use, copy settings.dat (located in %AppData%\uTorrent) to the same folder as uTorrent.exe.
  • Abyss Web Server X1. 0.6, INS, 2005-09. Easy to set up. Many L10ns. USAGE. For portability, put a dot for root path in abyss.conf. For PHP, move the PHP dir in the Abyss dir, and adapt the path in abyss.conf.
  • d3 Traceroute. 1.6, UC0, 2005-11. Tracerouter, whois, port scanner. English, German.
  • FileZilla. 3.5, UC1, OSS, 2004-12. (S)FTP client. On first run it asks whether to store settings in the registry or in its directory.
  • Firefox Portable. 16.2, OSS, 2004-12. The best web browser.
  • HFS (Http File Server). 0.6, OSS, 2005-11. HTTP server to transfer files.
  • Lynx. 3.2, OSS, INS, 2005-10. The text browser. Help included. About Lynx.
  • Miranda IM. R2, 1.7MB, OSS, 2004-12. Instant Messenger for all major protocols. UPDATE 2006-12. Or get the package by
  • NetMeter. 0.3MB, INS, 2006-03. Network bandwidth monitor.
  • nPOP. 0.2MB, OSS, 2005-06. Tiny emailer, supports multiple accounts. (Suggested by Mervin McDougall.) NOTE. nPOP does not have native support for SSL/TSL, which is required by some providers, e.g. Gmail. To add this, see: For SSL/TSL support out of the box, use Thunderbird Portable.
  • Ping Plotter. 0.3MB, INS, 2004-12. Tracerouter.
  • PuTTy. 0.4MB, OSS, 2004-12. Free Telnet/SSH Client, with xterm terminal emulator. Settings are stored in registry. Peter Garner suggests a string of parameters. The alternative, by the author himself, Simon Tatham, is a batch file to import settings, start the program and then export and delete them from the registry: Storing configuration in a file
  • Skype. 14.1, UC1, INS, 2005-11. Portable since v. 1.4. USAGE. Make a directory in the keydrive, say Skype, and copy Skype.exe there. Make a subdirectory inside the Skype directory, say SkypeData. Start Skype with the parameters: /datapath:SkypeData /removable
  • Sylpheed. 22.0MB, UC1, OSS, 2005-12. Email client. Lighter than Thunderbird, no Bayesian filter yet. USAGE. Use parameter --configdir mydata (see program README).
  • Thunderbird Portable. 8.9MB, UC1, OSS. Email client. (The best.)
  • TYPSoft FTP Server. 1.0MB, OSS, 2005-11. Friendly FTP server. Site/Help in English/French, several L10ns.
  • Uniform Server. 17.3MB, OSS, 2005-11. WAMP package.

Text & Productivity

  • AbiWord Portable. 13.7MB, OSS, 2005-10. Word processor. (Does not like large Word documents.)
  • BDV Notepad. 0.4MB, 2005-11. Enhanced notepad. Several L10ns, help in English/Spanish, site in English/Russian.
  • ClipX. 0.1MB, UC1, INS, 2005-12. Portable since v. “Tiny clipboard history manager”, good with multiple alphabets.
  • EssentialPIM. 1.0ΜΒ, 2005-06. Portable PIM. Exports in various formats, has a notes organizer w/ RTF (for formatting, bulleted lists, etc.), several L10ns, and Help file.
  • Foxit Reader. R1, 2.8MB, 2004-12. Fast, unintrusive, reads all PDF files, offers 15% of Adobe Reader’s functionality, which is what 95% of people need. Text is not rendered as clearly. Stores settings in registry.
  • KeyNote. 2.2MB, OSS, 2004-12. Powerful notes organizer. It uses tree form and tabs. How to open your portable notes on startup. If KeyNote is, for example, in X:\Apps\KeyNote, and your file is X:\docs\myfile.knt, go to Tools › Configuration Options › KeyNote files, select Load specific file, and type: ..\..\docs\myfile.knt
  • MemPad. 0.1MB, 2005-10. Like Treepad/KeyNote, with basic functionality, encryption in RC4, English and German Help.
  • MoinMoin DesktopEdition. 7.1MB, OSS, 2005-12. Self-contained package of the wiki software, can be used as a PIM. Unpack and run.
  • Notepad++. 1.5MB, OSS, 2005-11. Portable since v. 3.3. Scintilla-based text/code editor. Features include custom hotkeys, folding, highlighting of found strings, macros, regex, split view, tabs. Many L10ns, Help file. Install with portable settings, or use the ZIP file.
  • OpenOffice Portable. 138.0MB, OSS, 2004-12. Full office suite. Read the Known Issues.
  • PDFTK Builder. 2.1MB, OSS, INS, 2005-12. Cut/merge PDF files, add passwords, and more. (This is a graphical interface for the CLI tool pdftk:
  • Replace in Files. 0.1MB, INS, 2005-11. Does recursive scan, optionally case sensitive, can keep backups. No regex, or replacement over multiple lines. (We know of no portable GUI tool that does that.)
  • SciTE. 1.0MB, OSS, 2004-12. Advanced text/source editor. NOTE. SciTE reads user-specific configuration files and abbreviations ( from the user profiles directory. You can change this by changing the varialbe SciTE_HOME by means of a batch file that changes the variable SciTE_HOME (thanks to Neil Hodgson for the tip). In the first example below the batch file is in the directory of SciTE.exe; in the second it is in the root directory, and the path to SciTE.exe is X:\Apps\SciTE\SciTE.exe
    • set SciTE_HOME=. start SciTE.exe
    • set SciTE_HOME=.\Apps\SciTE start .\Apps\SciTE\SciTE.exe
  • Stickies. 0.6MB, INS, 2005-11. USAGE: Make a file “stickies.ini” in its directory, or copy it from the user profile. See Help › Directory Usage.
  • TextDiff. 0.7MB, OSS, 2005-11. Drag & drop, in-place editing, merging, search & replace.
  • TreePad Lite. R1, 0.4MB, 2004-12. Notes organizer. Uses tree form. Stores settings in registry. UPDATE 2005-03: Full portability is planned for future editions!
  • UK’s Kalender. 1.0MB, 2006-02. Nice calendar and task scheduler. Site and help in German and English. (Suggested by Roman.)
  • Win32Pad. 0.1MB, UC1, 2004-12. Fast, advanced notepad. Help included. Settings kept in user profile, unless win32pad.ini is found in the program’s directory.
  • Wisterer HX. 7.0MB, UC0, 2005-11. Reminders, calendar, adress and phone book. Exports in various formats, imports from OE and Palms. Data are saved in XML format. USB version available. German only.

Music & Multimedia

  • 1by1. 0.1MB, INS, 2004-12. The directory player.
  • Burrrn. 2.1MB, INS, 2005-10. “[F]or burrrning [sic] audio CDs with CD-Text from various audio files.” Many L10ns.
  • CDex 1.60++. 3.1MB, OSS, 2004-12. To rip and encode CDs.
  • GiveMeTac. 1.0MB, INS, 2005-10. Métronome virtuel. Adjustable volume, beat, beat sound. English/French.
  • IrfanView. 1.3MB, INS, 2004-12. Image viewer/editor. The extra plugins take 6.33 MB (v. 3.95).
  • mp3DirectCut. 0.2MB, INS, 2005-08. Cut/copy/paste MP3 files, change the volume. Easy, reliable, quick.
  • oggdropXPd. 0.6MB, UC0, OSS, 2005-06. “A drag-and-drop Ogg Vorbis encoder/decoder/player for the eXPerienced user. Features include compression from lossless files (Monkeys Audio, LPAC, FLAC and OptimFROG), auto-tagging, renaming of encoded files, setting of advanced encoder parameters, use of VorbisGain tags on decode, Playlist (.m3u) creation, and others.”
  • PhotoFiltre. 3.2MB, UC0, INS, 2004-12. Friendly, efficient image retoucher.
  • VLC media player. 16.3MB, OSS, 2004-12. By default stores personal settings and the plugins cache in the user profile. USAGE. Use parameters --no-plugins-cache and --config="vlcrc". Command Line Documentation
  • XnView. R2, 3.1MB, 2004-12. Image viewer/editor. In Options › Install there is an option to store settings portably. This setting is stored in the registry.

System tools & utilities

  • BurnCDCC. 0.2MB, 2005-07. Burn an ISO file to a CD or DVD.
  • CPU-Z. 0.7MB, 2005-08. Gathers info about CPU, motherboard, and memory.
  • Faber Toys. 1.1MB, INS, 2005-09. Alt. link. “A system utility, mainly developed for power users who want to know what’s going on in their computers. It may also be used by programmers as a tool for tracking their applications.” NOTE. For languages other than English, adapt Config.cfg. E.g.: LanguagePath=.\Language\Italian.dat
  • i.Disk. 0.3MB, 2005-06. “Ever wanted to know where all the used space on your hard disk was hiding?”
  • LC ISO Creator. 0.1MB, 2005-07. “Creates ISO files from CD/DVD-ROM”. Efficient, friendly.
  • NiftyWindows. 0.4MB, OSS, 2005-08. Advanced handling of windows, and more. Try it!
  • RawWrite for Windows. 0.2MB, OSS, 2005-05. “The essential utility for creating boot and root disks for installing Linux”. Make images from floppies and floppies from images, backup floppies as images, send floppies as attachments. TIP. You can keep images in the keydrive (e.g., DBAN, FreeDOS, Memtest86+) and make floppies as you need them.
  • SIW (System Information for Windows). 1.2MB, 2005-09. Detailed info on installed hardware and software.
  • TinyResMeter. 0.1MB, 2005-08. Realtime info about several resources.
  • Unknown Devices. 0.9MB, OSS, 2004-12. What those unknown devices in Device Manager are?
  • WinAudit. 0.5MB, 2004-12. Detailed system report exportable in several formats. For non-default settings a file is made in Temp: winaudit.ini.
  • XVI32. 1.0MB, 2006-03. Simple hex editor with detailed help.


  • Calcute. 0.1MB, INS, 2005-11. Flexible tape calculator, supports complex expressions. Help included.
  • ColorCop. 0.2MB, 2005-09. “Color picker for web designers and programmers.” Help included.
  • Converber. 0.2MB, 2005-06. Converter for many units. Accepts custom conversions. Many languages & Help file.
  • ConvertAll. 7.1MB, OSS, INS, 2005-11. Supports arbitrary compound units, e.g., it can convert from inches/day to kilometres/year.
  • QuickDic. 18.7MB, 2005-08. English-German, German-English dictionary. English/German Help.
  • Simon Tatham’s Portable Puzzle Collection. 1.5, OSS, 2005-10. One-player puzzle games. Help included. Unpack to any directory. NOTE. The original meaning of “portable” here is “cross-platform”: The puzzles are available for Windows, OS X, Palm OS, and Unix.
  • TheSage. 21.2MB, INS, 2005-08. English dictionary/thesaurus with tabs and advanced search.
    • Clipboard monitoring, security and privacy. TheSage monitors the clipboard and stores every piece of text you copy in its history. This is a convenient feature, but can present privacy issues. In Options › History, you can select: Delete History and Session info on exit.


Fixed/updated links.
Updated many links.
Replaced AddUp 1 with Calcute (same program renamed).
Removed Directory Lister (no longer freeware), DirMS, Easy Cleaner, ISOBurn, NoteTab Light, RegSeeker, ShirusuPad, TextHarvest (now called Parse-O-Matic and requiring registration to download), WinSnap (no longer freeware), XYplorer, to make room for new additions and better replacements.
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