How to Use Windows Portable Apps

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Sometimes the effectiveness of a computer is measured by the applications for which it is powerful enough. And that’s really the main reason computers exist as hardware – to run software and applications. Did you know that there are Windows Portable applications that you can take with you and run on any Windows computer?

What is a Portable App?

A portable app is a computer program that doesn’t need to be installed in Windows like traditional applications, so you can take it with you on a portable device or cloud drive and use it on any Windows computer. When your USB stick, portable hard drive or other portable device is connected or your cloud drive is synchronized, you’ll have access to your software and personal data just like on your own PC. And when you unplug the device, no personal data is left behind.

Portable applications offer some distinct advantages over their traditional counterparts. They’re lightweight and allow you to switch from one computer to another while carrying your applications and settings with you. Here’s why they’re different and why they’re sometimes – but not always – a good choice.

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There are obvious advantages to this separation of functions. Multiple applications can share the information contained in registry entries or shared code libraries, avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort. Storing user-specific settings in one place and system-wide settings in another means that applications can make better use of many different Windows functions designed for a multi-user system. First of all, each user can be sure that his or her own settings will be loaded when the application starts, simply because he or she is logged in with his or her own Windows account. Functions such as file and share permissions are built on this structure. And when all program settings are saved in specific areas, the backup of your system becomes more reliable.

Why Use Windows Portable Apps?

The most important advantage of using portable applications is obvious: it is portable. For example, if you plug them into a USB stick, you can take them from one computer to another. They leave no trace on the PCs running them. Everything, including all saved settings, is stored directly in the portable application folder on the USB stick. It’s very similar to the way things worked in the days of MS-DOS and Windows 3.1.

However, portable applications can also be useful when you’re not moving from one computer to another. For one thing, they leave a smaller footprint on your PC. They are generally lighter than most installable applications because they do not need to be installed. You can synchronize them (and their settings) with your other PCs by using something like Dropbox. Or you can use an application only once without worrying that it will cause damage to your system.

Of course, there will always be applications that you will need to install. Either they are simply too big or too sophisticated to run as portable applications, or they need to take advantage of the multi-user or security features of Windows. But many applications are available in both varieties, which means you can choose between an installer and a ZIP when you download them.

How to Use Windows Portable Apps

First of all, you should know that it’s a good idea to have a portable application launcher. Think of it as a Windows Start menu, but only for portable applications on your USB stick. The Launcher can also handle updating and installing portable applications.

Perhaps the most popular launcher is Another good launcher is the LiberKey. If you want to launch an IT Tech Toolkit, you should also add the NirSoft Launcher to your USB. A good directory of portable applications can also be found at

Disadvantages of Portable Apps

  • Easy to lose. Portable software is not essential for distracted people who are constantly losing storage space or sharing it with friends. When you lose your flash drive, you lose all the data and the work you’ve done.
  • Reduce the settings. Some portable applications don’t have all the features of their full desktop versions. However, this is not that common as most developers tend to provide fully functional portable applications to users.
  • Limited choice of software. Not all software has a portable version. Some programs are designed to require certain operating system files to function properly. For example, Freemake Video Converter requires Net Framework 4.0, and these programs store user options and settings in various locations, including Regedit, application data folders, and many others. Software of this type cannot function properly without these settings and therefore cannot be used as laptops.
  • Voltage sensitive. A sudden and sudden voltage surge can destroy all application data. To avoid this, remember to make backups and read our top ten Android apps for data storage.
  • Limited storage size. Memory size can sometimes be a real problem – if it’s small, it may not be enough for all applications. But with large USB memory, there’s a risk of overloading your computer, so be careful when reading the software requirements.

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