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This is in the process of being written for a presentation to the Oxfordshire FHS Computer Group meeting on Monday 6 February 2012. It is an update and expansion upon the session I ran at the 2011 PUG AGM.

Your Computer on a memory stick

PortableApps is an application launcher system (essentially a second 'start menu') that runs from a USB device - this can be a memory stick or a real hard disk.

It can be run from any drive (not just a USB drive), I have my netbook's hard drive partitioned into C: and D: and run PortableApps from my D: drive.

Why would you want to run applications from a USB drive?

Because programs running this way will run on any Windows system without making use of (or leaving traces in) the host computer's registry or hard disk. All the settings and personal options for your programs will be stored on your USB device and carried with it to the next use, on whatever computer that might be.

First things first

The home of PortableApps is

This is the place to look for full details of the project as well as the practical results (and answers to regular questions).

Available Programs

I suggest you browse the range of programs available on

You'll see that there are a good number of them spanning several broad categories:

Portable App Directory™

  • Accessibility
  • Development
  • Education
  • Games
  • Graphics & Pictures
  • Internet
  • Music & Video
  • Office
  • Security
  • Utilities

Download & install the launcher system

Now look at the download page

The currect version number is 10.0 - don't be confused if you have downloaded a previous version, 10.0 is the version that followed 1.6 (maybe they count in binary!)

Get the basic installer on the left button - you probably don't really want the free music or the memory stick with PortableApps preinstalled.

Fetch & Install

Download the installer to your desktop (or if you are like me, to a folder 'PortableDownloads' on your memory stick).

Then run it, making sure the drive is set to that your USB memory stick.

You should now have two folders on that drive:

Folder 'Documents'

This is your portable 'My Documents' folder, many Portable Apps (especially the office ones) will use this automatically.

Folder 'PortableApps'

This is your portable 'Program Files' folder … and more. Each packaged App will contain within its folder three sub-folders 'App', 'Data' and 'Other'. Portable Apps don't use the host computer's registry, they store all their settings in their 'Data' folder, so it's also the portable 'Applications & Settings' folder.

As well as the folders, you'll find a program 'Start.exe' (in v1.6 it is called 'StartPortableApps.exe') and an 'Autorun.inf' file.

Autoruns are increasingly frowned upon, whereas the v1.6 autorun file runs 'StartPortableApps.exe', the v10 autorun file only provides the windows icon and label for the USB drive.

To start up the menu/launcher system, run 'Start.exe' from the USB drive.

The menu system will pop up (by default in the bottom right of the screen) and will auto-hide after a short while. You can bring it up again by clicking on the PortableApps icon in the system notification area.

Now for some Apps

You can download each installer from the Apps directory (you browsed that earlier) or you can bring up your newly installed but empty Portableapps menu and click on 'Manage Apps'.

'Manage Apps' provides a convenient way to tick boxes for the Apps you want and then press go - and make a pot of tea because it may take some time … Start gently! I suggest you start by just ticking two or three Apps - FireFox, 7-Zip and Xenon would be my suggestions.

Personally, I'd include NotePad++ as well but you may prefer another plain text editor.

Some Portable Apps to consider


This is a popular free zip/unzip program. It's always useful to have.


This is a file manager, pretty ordinary eh? BUT this one will override the host Windows file associations and open files with the appropriate PortableApp where it can.

Libre Office

Libre Office is the replacement for Open Office. Because it's a large package, download and installation may take a while!


This is a PDF reader. You might also like to look at the Sumatra App with some people (OK, Alan Simpson!) prefer.

GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program)

This is a free photo editing program. It has loads of functionality but I hessitate to com,pare it to Photoshop mainly because its user interface is so unlike Photoshop. GIMP clearly displays it origins in the Unix & X-windows world.


This is a lighter weight image browser and editor. It may well provide all the image edit facilities you need.


Both Firefox (web browser) and Thunderbird (email client) are available as Portable Apps - but also see Opera below :-D


Filezilla is a well respected FTP program.


Scribus is a free Desk Top Publishing program, available as a Portable App.


Both ClamWin (anti-virus) and Spybot (anti-adware) are available as Portable Apps allowing you to check the host computer.

I have downloaded a number of the installers in advance and will install a few of them as the talk progresses.

Some non-standard portable apps


Opera combines the functionality of a web browser and a mail client into one program. You will find it is available in both PortableApps form and as Opera@USB … don't use either of these as Opera's normal Windows installer - from - can install into your PortableApps system. When you run the Opera installer, click 'Options' (bottom left) to get the choices displayed. When you change the installation path to your PortableApps directory, you will find the central choice, previously greyed out, will now allow you to specify 'Stand-alone installation (USB)'.


HTTrack is a program that can download a web page (or even a whole site) to your computer for browsing offline. It's not on the PortableApps directory but you can get a portable version from here

This will download as a ZIP file. Create a flder 'WinHTTrack' within PortableApps and use 7-Zip to unpack it into that folder.


This is a file manager, yes, another one. Strictly, it's not free - it's 'nagware' but you can use it indefinitely if you put up with the nags. It's merits are … it's very good for keyboard (as opposed to mouse) working; it has a very good folder synchronisation facility; and it can be installed on a SB stick.

The main TotalCommander page is at and the USB instructions are at

First, install the TotalCommanderLauncherPortable program.

Then install TotalCommander into the empty PortableApps/TotalCommanderLauncherPortable/App/TotalCommander folder.

Finally, copy the contents of the totalcmd folder up into the TotalCommander folder and delete the now empty totalcmd folder.

Yes, it's not exactly a smooth installer, maybe that's why TC is mostly used by geeks …

MailStore Home

Make sure you get the Home version - - and not the trial of the full version.

Just run it, you will get options for normal or partable installation. Thee latter will show all your drives and also 'Other', using this you can install it into PortableApps\MailStoreHome (you will have to create the folder) and then run it from your PortableApps launcher.

Family History programs


This is well known in the Linux world but there is a windows version and a Portable version as well. I am not an expert on its use, indeed I've barely used it. Still, it's free and worth a try if you want something you can carry on a memory stick.


GenViewer - - is a very useful GEDCOM viewer program. Regrettably :-? the CD version is too clever to be run from a USB disk. The paid-for version (is well worth the money and) has the ability to create a package of itself and a GEDCOM file that you can send to friends. For convenience, put the created EXE file in a folder (any folder, mine's called GV) within PortableApps and your file will appear in the PortableApps launcher.

Roots Magic

This is something I'm not exactly familiar with but RootsMagic can export itself and date in a RootsMagicToGo form on a USB drive. Another option for adding your family history to your Portable environment.

And then PediTree

Copy or move your Pedigree folder into the PorrtableApps folder. Open the file Peditree.ini and add these two lines at the end:


When you next pop up the PortableApps menu you should find PediTree listed, click it and you should find that the Open menu defaults to your PortablePedigree folder!

N.B. It would do that anyway if there were no c:\pedigree folder to be found, but you will probably be testing this out on your home computer which does have a c:\pedigree :-)

And finally Pedigree

To start with, I suggest you add two Apps to your menu:

  • from the Utilities section
    • Command Prompt Portable
  • and from the games section
    • DOSbox Portable

On a Win32 host system there should be no real trouble running a DOS program. Indeed Pedigree will appear in the PortableApps menu and will run when clicked - although some work needs to be done to sort out the font size!

If you like a more traditional approach, run Command Prompt Portable an then type:

cd portableapps\pedigree

On a 64 bit Windows 7 system that won't work but Colin's FAQ has the answer - DOSbox is available as a Portable App.

Before going further, check whether your pedigree folder includes the file dpmi16bi.ovl and if it is not there you should follow Colin's FAQ instructions for 64bit Win7 and install Ped26N. Even if it is there, you might want to check you have your version of Pedigree as up-to-date as possible!

If u: is the drive letter of your USB drive, run DOSbox and at the Z: prompt type:

mount v u:\portableapps\pedigree

At this point you may still have Pedigree in a very small window … something to work on!

portableapps/start.txt · Last modified: 2018/08/30 00:19 (external edit)