7 Portable Apps for Windows that You Need in Your Pocket

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By now, the number of flash drives and USB sticks that you’ve accrued in your life is probably creeping into double figures, as they lie listlessly in your drawer while you figure out whether you should turn them into dedicated movie drives or something equally creative.

So here’s an idea for you. You could fill one of your spare flash drives with portable apps, which you can run directly from the disks and plug-and-play in whatever computer you like. Here are seven of the best ones out there to get you started.

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Portable web browsers let you surf the Web (anyone still refer to it as that?) without leaving any trace of your personal information like browsing history, cookies, login sessions, etc. on the computer. Obviously, as soon as you’re connected to the web with the portable version of Google Chrome and use your Google accounts, your data will inevitably end up in the company’s vaults, but Chrome users are aware of that by now. The fact remains that it’s the best browser around (and certainly better than an outdated version of Internet Explorer if you’re in an Internet cafe).

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Not long ago, we wrote that 7-Zip is the best file compression tool around, doing the job that much more quickly than its closest rivals. 7-Zip is a free and open-source application with a high compression ratio and powerful file manager and is worthy of keeping around in your USB portable apps collection for when you need to do some quick compressing.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free and open-source image editing tool with powerful features. It’s a perfect alternative for Adobe Photoshop, considerably less resource-intensive, and contains many of the same advanced features for hardcore editing. It takes a little getting used to if you’re coming from PhotoShop, but it does much the same job, and it can do it portably without Adobe’s massive installation process.

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VLC has long since been the fastest, most robust video player out there, and being portable makes it even better. Using VLC media player as a portable, you can play a vast number of formats – such as MKV – alongside the standard MP4 that makes up most movies. It has just about all the video codecs you need built in, too, so there’s no need to download extra ones.

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LastPass is a great password manager which lets you securely store and manage all your passwords. It garbles and encrypts your passwords and stores them online (don’t worry, it’s very safe). Handily, the portable version integrates with portable web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.

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CCleaner is a free Windows clean-up utility which lets you clean such junk as redundant registry keys, cookies, and excess temporary files off your system. If you want to wipe your web browsing after you’ve been in an Internet cafe, for example, then you can just pop in a USB stick with the portable version of CCleaner on it, then use it to wipe all your browsing history. (And you can let it clean up the entire computer while you’re at it!)

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LibreOffice is my favorite alternative to Microsoft Office. The open-source suite contains equivalents to Word, PowerPoint and Excel and has much the same compatibility and functionality as Office. The portable version brings all the power of the entire suite to whatever PC you’re on, without having to go through the tedious process of installing it all before using it.

A good way to think of portable apps is as your personal computing setup on a USB stick, ready to be used on any Windows PC you plug yourself into. Obviously, each person has different needs, and there are hundreds of portable apps out there, so if you don’t find what you need in this list, don’t let that put you off searching for the portable apps you really need!

This article was first published in Oct 2014 and was updated in July 2017.

Image credit: USB computer memory stick

16 comments

  1. ” ClamWin is a free and portable antivirus software with high detection rates…”

    Tested by who to have high detection rates? Last I heard, it’s so rarely even tested by any of the main testing organizations. It CLAIMS high detection rates, but I suspect it’s no where near the market leaders. And the market leaders do a crap job of detecting malware as it is. Still, it’s probably better than nothing…

    Also, GIMP is FAR from being a “perfect alternative to Adobe Photoshop” – although it’s one of the few that is both powerful and portable. The problem is the learning curve for people used to Photoshop. The Portable Apps site has a list of some other image editing utilities here: http://portableapps.com/apps/graphics_pictures

    The rest of your list is excellent. I’d add the following:

    HWInfo (for system info)
    System Information Viewer (for system info)
    Teamviewer Portable (for remote support)
    System Explorer (for Process control)
    Windows Repair All-In-One (fix Windows issues)
    AdwCleaner (remove unwanted browser utilities)
    Combofix (malware removal)
    D7 (malware removal and fixes)
    Rkill (malware removal)
    Roguekiller (malware removal)
    Q-Dir (Four-Pane Explorer alternative)
    TeraCopy or SuperCopier or Ultracopier (fast controllable file copy)

    I’ve got a couple hundred more I keep on USB keys for PC tech support use. :-) I also keep a number of installers for items that are likely to come in handy, such as Malwarebytes Antimalware. If I work on a system that doesn’t have something installed I need, I’ve got it handy.

  2. I would also add BitBack from bitback.org. You never know when you need to undelete some files.

  3. Great article! So, how about we get all these apps in one location so we can download more than 1 (or all) at once so as not to have to go to each link to do so?

    Thanks, and enjoy the day!

    Bill

  4. Say what you will about Windows (and I have said many, well-deserved, things) but they are number one in their ability to run standalone apps. It’s a flexibility other OSes lack.

    Ubuntu is working on (yet) another framework to be able to handle this. Maybe it’ll turn out as easy to use as it’s Windows counterpart – copy exe/bin to USB, run exe/bin from USB.

    • Ubuntu really does not need to develop portable apps. There are portable and live Linux distros which take the whole OS with them.

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