How To Run Software Directly Off a USB FD

This how-to will teach you how to run software stored on a USB flash drive if you use either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X 10.4 or higher.

Step 01

Go to if you use Microsoft Windows or go to OS X Portable Applications - FreeSMUG if you use Mac OS X 10.4 or higher. If you have a U3-compatible drive and use Microsoft Windows, you can click on the U3 logo in the system tray (where the clock is), and a menu should pop up. Click on Add Programs in the menu.

Step 02

Get the application from FreeSMUG (Mac) or (Windows), download the application you want by finding the application on FreeSMUG or by clicking on Applications in the menu on If you're using a U3-compatible drive, it should pop up with a browser, click on the category you want under Find Software, and then download the application by clicking on the image that says Free or Trial.

Step 03

For U3-compatible drives, it should automatically install the software. However, if you downloaded the application from FreeSMUG (Mac) or (Microsoft Windows), you will have to install it yourself. For Mac users that use FreeSMUG, open the .dmg file and drag and drop the folder onto your USB flash drive. For Windows users that used, follow the installer and tell the installer where your USB flash drive is, though after the first time, it will remember.

Step 04

Run the program from your USB flash drive by running it from the menu in U3, or just find the folder on your USB flash drive and run the program if you use a Mac or used under Windows.

Alternatively, you can install a program onto your flash drive in the same way that you would install it on your computer. Simply click on the installer's .exe file and chose your flash drive as the location to install to. You do not need a special flash drive for this. However, this does not make the installed program portable (i.e., able to be run off of the USB drive on another computer). Often, the program's installer places files in Windows' Common Files folder, in the user's profile folders, or creates Registry entries required by the program, such as a license or user settings. So, any program installed this way may be unreliable or non-functional when run on another computer. It's better and easier to use programs designed to be portable.

  • It's possible to run the application on a external hard drive or on an internal hard drive if you download the applications if you don't use U3.
  • All software on has been tested and modified to ensure that it is portable. These programs have been specifically tooled to not leave any personal information behind.
  • Scan the files you download for viruses.
  • Not all applications are meant to be portable. If the program requires the Visual Basic runtimes or the .NET framework, it will work on computers that have that but not on computers that do not.
  • Commercial software might be able to be run portably, but check your End-User License Agreement to ensure you are using it legally. If you're only allowed one copy and you're using it at school or work and someone else is using it at home, you're using the software illegally.
  • Some programs are more portable and stealthy than others. If it's not specifically designed not to do so, it can leave files and registry entries behind.



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