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12 Free Portable Apps Worth Having On Your USB Stick At All Times

Portable apps are a convenient way to protect your privacy and use your favorite programs on-the-go. Here are some of the best ones you can download for free.

If you are used to working on insanely restricted computers, such as work or college computers, you need to find workarounds for a lot of things you normally do. Luckily, portable apps are here to save you, so from now on you should be keeping them on your USB stick at all times.

Many people confuse portable apps with pirated illegal software. This is definitely not the case. Portable apps are either made by the company that owns the full installable software, or by a developer who has the owner’s blessing to make a portable version.

What Are Portable Apps?

First, it’s obviously necessary to clarify what a portable app is. If you install a program on your computer (let’s use Skype as an example), then it installs with a LOT of necessary files. Those files sit in the background and are needed for the program to work properly. However, those files have the potential to slow the computer down, and when you uninstall the program, those extra installation files may be left behind on the computer, clogging the system up.

With a portable version, no actual installation of the Skype app is necessary. You simply double-click the .exe file and the program opens immediately for you to start using. The file itself is very light, nothing is installed in the background. Since nothing is installed, you can move the portable app to a USB stick, removable hard drive, cloud storage, or burn it to a disk. When it comes time to delete it, just delete the app folder and it’s instantly gone.

Why Should I Use Them?

Other than the fact it will make your computer run more smoothly, here are some other reasons why portable apps are so cool.

  • If you are using someone else’s computer (friend, relative, employer, Internet cafe, etc), then you can plug in your USB stick with your preferred portable apps and settings. Other peoples computers are either locked down to new apps, or it’s just plain rude to install something without asking.
  • If you use an older computer which makes a snail look like the world speed champion, then lighter portable apps make all the difference.
  • If your computer has virtually no storage space left for installing something, portable apps on a USB stick are an absolute godsend.
  • If you are teaching someone of an older generation how to use a computer, getting them to use portable apps is a whole lot easier than teaching them how to install something.

Three Downsides To Using Them

  • New features for the full installable versions sometimes take forever to make their way to the portable version.
  • Portable apps are only for Windows computers.
  • When opening a portable app, it may tell you an update is available. But when you go to update it, it installs the full version. I have had this problem continually with Skype.

The 12 Best Portable Apps To Put On Your USB Stick

USB sticks are dirt cheap these days. So get one from Amazon for at least $5 and put these 12 apps on. Then next time you find yourself on a computer that isn’t yours, you will be all set to rock and roll.

Firefox

My current default browser. This portable version from PortableApps.com is the exact same as the official installable browser from Mozilla. You can log in and sync all of your bookmarks and settings, and they will stay on the USB stick.

Chrome

Or maybe you prefer the Google Chrome browser? Each to their own. Again, this version is the same as the installable version and supports bookmark and website syncing.

Skype

Although Skype is being eclipsed these days by other VOIP platforms such as Zoom and Facebook Messenger, it still remains the favorite for people keeping in touch with friends, family, and work colleagues. The portable version gives you the ability to stay in touch wherever you can plug in your USB stick.

VLC Player

When it comes to playing every type of video and audio file possible, VLC Player remains the absolute reigning king. In all of the years I have used it, it has never let me down once. Now you can use it as a portable app to watch your TV shows and movies on the go.

CDBurnerXP

Burning disks may be so 2000’s but some people still do it. Especially oldies like me, who like to have the feel of a physical disk in their hands. CDBurnerXP is an all-in-one disk burning solution that is so simple even the dog can do it for you.

Above, I have linked to the download page. Click on More Download Options and you will see the links for the portable versions. Remember to get the right version (32 bit or 64 bit).

KeePass

We’re big fans of KeePass here at gP. What many may not have realized is there is a portable version of this popular open-source password manager.

One of the advantages of KeePass is that you can put the password database inside a cloud storage account. So whatever computer you are on, the password database will always sync everytime you update it.

GIMP

Photoshop may be the premier software app for sticking your boss’s head onto a cow’s body, but not many people can afford the breathtaking price tag that Adobe demands. This is where GIMP more than ably steps in to fulfill the needs of those with not so much money and a hatred of their boss.

The portable version is even better, although one downside is that it tends to run a bit slow when you first start it up.

LibreOffice

The days of only having Microsoft Office as your word processor is long gone. Now you have other options – free ones – and if Google Docs is not to your liking, then you can try the popular and easy-to-use LibreOffice.

It is identical to Microsoft Office in many ways. The only difference is that it is totally free – and there’s a portable version. Which are two things you can’t say about Microsoft Office.

Eraser

If you are using someone else’s computer and you need to download a file, you cannot be too careful about disposing of it afterwards. Especially if that file is related to internal work discussions or personal information that would be embarrassing if it fell into the wrong hands.

Eraser is a secure file and data deletion tool. It’s like the Windows trash bin but with a nuclear bomb attached. By the time Eraser is finished deleting your file, any chance of someone recovering it afterwards will be close to zero.

Spybot Search & Destroy

If you are in an Internet cafe, the chances are quite high that the computers may have a few hidden gremlins on them. Whether it’s a trojan horse virus, a keylogger, or something worse, you should always exercise extreme caution when using a public terminal.

So Spybot Search & Destroy is a good program to run before you start inputting usernames and passwords. Run it to see how many viruses are on the computer you’re using. You may be shocked by the results.

Conclusion

Portable apps really do have a lot going for them. The fact that they are only for Windows computers though is a lot to do with how the operating systems are set up and anyone who does not use Windows is just plain out of luck.

But if you do use Windows, you should look for the portable versions of your favorite software (assuming it exists) and keep it on a USB stick on your keyring.


3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. DebbyS  

    Some great ideas! I might actually download some of the programs as I have a lot of unused thumb drives. Also, I’m writing this note so I’ll be alerted when others add their own ideas to this article 😉

  2. Jim Shunamon  

    If you are a little more tech inclined I would also add some type of partitioning utility like GParted or Parted Magic. And it never hurts to have a second USB drive with a bootable live Linux distro of some sort. These have come in handy for me on so many occasions I can’t even begin to count.

  3. Ziggy  

    PortableApps.com is a great place to get a wide selection of portable apps – all FREE!

    I use Mozilla Thunderbird, PicPick, LazPaint, Foxit Reader, GeekUninstaller, and AutoRuns, just to name a few. The choice at aforementioned site is surprisingly good and should suit the needs of those who can’t afford to dish out heaps of money for paid versions of software. A good example of this would be LibreOffice, which is a very good replacement for Microsoft Office.

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