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Run apps off a USB drive?

  1. Aug 16, 2010 #1
    Hey, guys, do you have the experience of running your daily used apps off a USB drive?

    Which is I am now trying to do. But I find that only portable apps can be run like that.

    while some apps like MS office are not portably available. How can I do that?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2010 #2
    Windows uses something called the registry to keep track of settings for programs. Programs which use this registry won't work on a flash drive because the registry won't be present on any other computers you plug the flash dive into.

    If you're looking for a portable office program I recommend OpenOffice.
  4. Aug 30, 2010 #3
    Keep looking, you aren't the first person to wonder about doing this. It just hasn't really gotten much traction yet.
  5. Aug 30, 2010 #4
    The thing is that in windows applications are coupled with the OS Api'sand OS for a whole host of reasons. Windows even manages licensing, which most software publishers are concerned about. The freeware world may not care about getting paid or whether asia copies their work and puts it on the internet, but most US companies want to make money from their work.

    The other issue is security. USB devices are a big security risk, and more companies wish to block them from corporate desktops.

    Technically, there is a way to make windows think your USB drive is a hard disk. What will that buy you? well it will let you install the software to the USB drive as if it were a hard drive. What does it buy you? not much.

    You used to be able to hack the licensing in office, but they took care of that a few versions of windows ago.
  6. Aug 30, 2010 #5


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    Windows handles licensing and validation for itself, but as far as I know, third-party programs are on their own. And it would be perfectly possible to write a program that requires some validation mechanism but is still able to run off a USB drive.

    Some companies will indeed block Windows from mounting USB drives on corporate desktops, but I don't think the OP has that problem; otherwise, why would he/she be asking?

    Office (like Windows) is still crackable, it's just a lot harder than it used to be. (Of course it's just as illegal as it has always been :wink:)

    I'm with DaleSwanson, the major reason that non-portable apps are non-portable is the Windows registry. For comparison, on Linux (maybe Mac OS too, I'm not sure), where there is no registry, nearly all programs are portable - you can install basically anything on a USB drive. Heck, even the entire OS can go on a removable drive, as in a LiveCD.
  7. Aug 30, 2010 #6
    There are alot of poor security practices in companies, and not block usb ports is one of them. That is right up there with having a wireless network and having network jacks in public areas.

    The registry is more than a simple data store. Activex components cannot simply run from a disk.

    Unix apps have their own issues, and running them from a USB is the least of it. And installing on a USB drive does not negate the need for configuration requirements in the usr directory. Trying running a web server from a USB drive on Unix.

    And I could get windows to run off a USB drive. It is not terribly hard. But it would be painfully slow due to the access time.

    Windows made encryption part of the core api, along with the SAM api. I have not looked at in in years, but you can apply for unique ids from Microsoft.
  8. Aug 30, 2010 #7


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    Done. I just downloaded Apache, compiled with ./configure --prefix=/media/disk/apache; make; make install, and had it installed and running from a USB drive in under 5 minutes.

    I guess putting the entire OS on a USB drive would be a different matter from just putting some applications on the drive, though. So I suppose I shouldn't have brought LiveCDs into the discussion.
  9. Aug 31, 2010 #8
    Okay so now you have apache, but if you actually configure it to be a useful server beyond a hackable webserver you will have to have settings in usr and root directories.

    And that is the point. You can download drivers that will allow you to do anything with a USB drive on windows as well.
  10. Aug 31, 2010 #9
    Diazona, I understand you are trying to win some sortof arguement. But all OS's have limitations. Unix has config information that has to be on the root. ( web servers have to have root configuration. ). So does windows. With mac it depends. I was forced to develop on a mac a very long time ago and everything was really a script language for the most part.

    WIndows is a very feature rich environoment, and very secure out of the box. Linux is nothing out of the box, and the more rich you make it the more you run into the same issues.
  11. Aug 31, 2010 #10


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    No, not true. All the Apache configuration files are also stored on the USB drive. Along with log files, PID files, and everything else involved in running the program. Even man pages.

    I'm not trying to win an argument for the sake of winning an argument. It's just that you've said a couple things I don't think are right. Well, mostly one thing: you objected to my assertion that most Linux programs are inherently portable and can be run directly off a removable drive. I'll happily continue to back up that assertion.

    Anyway, the main point I wanted to make was simply that I think the registry is the main impediment to making a Windows app portable.

    (P.S. I would also disagree that Windows is very secure out of the box, but this would not be the place to have that discussion)
  12. Aug 31, 2010 #11
    If you believe that apache can run without root configuration, then you are mistaken. But I will be happy to let you believe that.

    I am really not going to give you informaiton you do not know, not that info, not for free.

    See this is why Unix installed web servers were so easy to hack in the old days, because people setting them up didn't understand how to do it.

    Windows is secure, IE is not, that comes back to the rich features.
  13. Aug 31, 2010 #12
    Perhaps if you had a program that would install the necessary registry files from the usb drive on insertion and remove them along with itself when the usb drive is removed...
  14. Aug 31, 2010 #13


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    Interesting idea, although I don't know that I've ever heard of such a thing. I'm not sure if there would be some technical obstacle to writing it.

    Of course, many people don't appreciate it when inserting a drive causes a program on that drive to be run automatically - for instance, what if the program is a virus? I guess it'd make more sense for the program to create the necessary registry keys when it's launched.
    I believe it can be done because I did it. You could do it yourself. Anyone who wants to verify what I'm saying is free to download the program and try it themselves.

    If you continue to believe that I'm mistaken, it's time for you to offer up some evidence. Tell me how I can verify whether Apache requires its configuration files to be on the hard drive.
  15. Sep 3, 2010 #14
    Live Cd's rock!
    I use both Linux and Windows PE live cd's to boot into and recover/repair hard drive situations. Of course, the BIOS boot order must be set correctly. How about for USB?
    Newer motherboards allow USB booting through BIOS, older one's do not.
    Nearly all motherboards allow for "boot from cd"
    For that reason, I much prefer to have Live CD's with me on a tech call.
  16. Sep 27, 2010 #15


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