How do I use software without installing it

These portable tools belong on every USB stick

Arne Arnold, Thorsten Eggeling, Stefan Forster and Michael Rupp

Portable tools can be used directly from the USB stick without installing them. They do not burden the Windows system and are just as powerful as their installed counterparts. Here you will find the best tools and suites.

A good collection of portable programs belongs in the hand of every advanced PC user. You can put the programs on a USB stick and use them on any PC or save them to your data partition and use them independently of your system.

One of the advantages of portable tools is that they don't make any changes to your Windows system. They do not leave any traces in the start menu or in the registry. So you can be completely sure that the programs are not putting a strain on your system. All that is needed is some storage space for the tools.

Although the programs do not perpetuate themselves with configuration settings in the Windows registry, they do remember new settings. Most tools create a simple configuration file in text format in their own program directory.

However, this is only possible if the tools are stored on a writable data carrier. If you have a USB stick with activated write protection, the creation of the configuration file will fail.

Security: However, there is a small disadvantage with the portable tools. Program updates may only be available with a delay. This means that security gaps in the portable versions may remain longer without an update. After all, many of the portable tools offer an internal update function that loads the available patches.

FAQ:10 USB-C Questions and Answers

Portable tools

From the huge number of portable tools, we have selected ten top programs that should not be missing in any tool collection.

1. Eset Online Scan: Good antivirus tool

The tool scans the computer for PC viruses. It's called an online scanner, but behind it is a portable tool. After starting, it first downloads the latest virus signatures, which takes some time. Then the scan of the PC starts automatically, which in turn can take some time, even several hours. If the tool has found a pest, it helps to eliminate it.

2. Wise Data Recovery Portable: data recovery

You simply start the data recovery tool Wise Data Recovery Portable from the USB stick - there is no risk of overwriting deleted files during an installation. After the search, the tool not only shows all the deleted files found, but also how good the chances of recovery are.

3. Process Explorer Portable: System Monitoring

If a Windows computer is behaving strangely, it is always a good idea to take a look at the running processes. So that you don't have to be limited to the little information from the Windows Task Manager, there is the portable Process Explorer tool. It offers some useful functions that the Windows on-board tool does not have. Tips on using the free Process Explorer can be found here.

4. Teamviewer Portable: remote maintenance from PC to PC

EnlargeThe free program Wise Data Recovrey finds accidentally deleted files.

For remote control of a PC over the network or the Internet, keep Teamviewer ready on the USB stick. The remote tool, which is free for private users, is useful for solving PC problems and for using applications that run on another PC. During remote access in a scalable window, files can also be transferred in both directions if necessary. The remote desktop is displayed via an AES and 256-bit encrypted connection.

5. Xnview MP: Portable and fast image viewer

The versatile photo tool Xnview MP can quickly display photos in the window or full screen for almost every popular graphic file format. In addition to basic tools such as cropping and changing image size and colors, a slide show function for photo presentation and image conversion into the desired format are also included. The software, which is free for private users, displays meta recording data, can edit it and embed watermarks in images.

6. VLC: video and music player for almost every format

If music, films and streams are to be played on the go, a single free tool is sufficient for this: the VLC Media Player Portable can play video and audio files, DVDs and Internet streams. VLC brings suitable codec modules with it, so the player does not have to rely on the codecs installed on the respective guest PC. Information about the content played is only stored on the USB stick, not on the computer on which the playback takes place.

7. Sumatra PDF Portable: PDF viewer

Sumatra PDF Portable displays PDF files with an operator guidance reduced to the essentials. The directly executable viewer has all the important functions such as scrolling forwards and backwards, zooming, rotating, printing and displaying the table of contents. Sumatra uses internal functions for PDF rendering and does not simply rely on Adobe Reader. As a result, attacks through potentially contaminated documents that target security holes in Adobe Reader are now in vain.

8. Thunderbird Portable: Proven mail program

The Thunderbird mail program has served us well for years. The big advantage of the portable version: Backups and relocations of the entire mail program including messages to another PC are child's play thanks to the portable version. The many practical extensions for Thunderbird also work in the portable version.

9. Firefox Portable: Popular internet browser

The Firefox browser released the Quantum version at the end of 2017. This was significantly faster than the previous versions. And with the following updates, the browser now offers more functions and good data protection. These are good reasons to stick with Firefox or to return to the browser. In any case, it belongs in our tool collection of portable programs.

10. Libre Office Portable: Comprehensive office package

You can get an office suite with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and drawing program with the free Libre Office Portable on the USB stick. The plus point of this further development of Open Office is the support of the common Microsoft file formats such as doc and docx as well as the reliable PDF output. As is known from MS Office, the suite comes with wizards and templates so that standard documents can be created relatively easily. Unpacked on the stick, the suite occupies around 430 MB.

Other helpful tools:

  • AS SSD Benchmark measures the transfer rates of SSDs and hard drives. That can help with that.

  • Avira PC Cleaner is a portable virus scanner that does not offer many options, but is sufficient for a quick test.

  • CPU-Z, CW-Sysinfo, GPU-Z and Hwinfo also provide detailed information on the hardware in the PC in a portable manner.

  • Notepad ++ is a well-equipped text editor that can also display multiple files in tabs.

  • W10 Privacy helps you to make numerous settings for more data protection under Windows.