Like a Swiss Army Knife but for PCs
If you’re like me, you probably have a bunch of useless USB sticks laying around the house. USB sticks still come in handy every so often, but more and more I rely on the cloud. There are those times, though, when you can’t connect to the cloud and a USB stick is your only choice.
I carry a USB stick with me when I travel that has a whole bunch of apps and files that I can use to scan for wireless networks, partition drives, burn CDs and DVDs, edit photos, and lots more.
In this article, I’m going to write about 12 useful tools you can carry around on your USB stick to accomplish useful tasks in your daily life. Feel free to post a comment and let us know what apps you have on your USB stick.
NirLauncher is collection of more than 150 free utilities created by NirSoft. Nirsoft, if you didn’t know, creates all kinds of amazingly useful apps for Windows to do pretty much anything you can think of.
They have programs for recovering passwords, viewing wireless networks, viewing browsing history, viewing open TCP/IP ports, testing Internet download speed, monitoring folder changes, and lots more. All of the utilities can be run from your USB drive without needing to install anything on the host machine.
It is always essential to carry around a portable antivirus program with you at all times, especially, if you have to copy files from someone else’s computer to your USB stick.
It’s best to scan all those files first and make sure they don’t contain any viruses. Microsoft Safety Scanner is a free utility that you can download to your USB stick, which contains all the latest virus definitions.
Another good portable antivirus program is Kaspersky Virus Removal Tool, which is also free. One more good one is ClamWin Portable. And if you want, you can put multiple antivirus tools on your USB stick, just for the heck of it.
Infra Recorder is a great portable app for recording CDs and DVDs on the go. You can also create disc images and even use the program to copy an existing CD or DVD to another disc or image. It’s a very simple to use program and supports rewritable CDs and DVDs also.
Explorer++ is a nifty little Explorer replacement utility with a lot of features. It includes tabbed browsing for viewing multiple folders. It also has a display window that will show previews of files as you select them.
You can also use it for more advanced tasks like splitting and merging files, changing file dates, saving a directory listing, etc.
It’s always a good idea to keep a good media player on your USB stick in case you want to play a file on someone’s computer and they don’t have a media player installed or don’t have the correct codecs installed.
The portable version supports a wide variety of video and audio formats including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4,DivX, XviD, WMV, MP3, etc.
GIMP is a popular freeware program for editing photos. I’ve used GIMP quite a few times off my USB stick, so that’s why I am recommending it. A lot of times I have a friend or family member who wants to email some pictures, but they are huge.
I just fire up GIMP, resize the photos for them and they are good to go! It also supports layers and other advanced photo editing features.
KeePass is one of my favorite programs because it’s absolutely essential if you are someone who is really serious about securing your passwords.
Also, I use a different password on just about every site, so it’s hard to remember them all. KeePass is encrypted, very secure and a great way to keep track of all your passwords while on the go.
Recuva is a great program that you can use to recover deleted files or photos. It works on hard drives and external media like flash drives and SD cards too.
It will give you a list of files that can be recovered along with their recovery potential and a preview of the file too. The program has been around for a long time and works very well.
A network scanner comes in really handy if you need to quickly see all the devices on the network and get info like their IP address, MAC address, host name and more. The program can also find shared folders, listen for open TCP ports, remotely shutdown machines and lots more.
TreeSize is a program that quickly scans hard drives or network locations and will tell you exactly how all the disk space is being used. You’ll quickly be able to tell which folders are the biggest, all the way down to the file level.
I’ve used it many times when I go home to my parents house and they can’t figure out why they don’t have any more space left on their hard drives! Another good one is SpaceSniffer.
Obviously, if you need to browse while on someone else’s computer, it’s always a good idea to use a portable web browser. That way there is no history of your browsing stored on their computer. It’s a nice way to keep clean your tracks and not have to worry about anyone else snooping around in your stuff later on.
If you forget to log out of your email program or if they have an add-on that saves any login info typed into the browser, you could allow someone else to access your account. Using a portable web browser prevents that.
The final program I use is Pidgin, so that I can log into my Google Talk account and chat with friends. It works with a lot of services like Bonjour, ICQ, AIM, IRC, Sametime, etc. Really useful when you need to chat while using a different computer and you don’t want to type in your credentials.
So those are 12 portable freeware programs you can use on your USB stick to get things done! Feel free to a post a comment and let us know what you find useful. Enjoy!