Anyone for a Computer on a stick?

Last week I made mere mention of Portable Applications. Since then I have spent some time looking at the real deal. Looks like it is time to review some of the freeware offerings. Easy to complicated, there are many menu suites available today that integrate the applications you wish to carry with you on-the-go. In every case I have found that 4Gig can prove to be comfortable. 8Gig may be optimal, in fact you might have room for 2 separate installations.

Portable Applications…
1) do not require installation
2) can be executed from any USB flash drive, and from any PC hard disk drive (internal or external)
3) leaves no traces of its use in the Windows applications registry or any other user folder in the host PC hard drive
4) does not conflict with the programs installed in the host PC hard drive (for example, X-Firefox executed from a USB flash drive does not modify (or conflict with) the counterpart Firefox program installed on the host PC)

Portable projects appear to have started about 7 years ago as flash drives became more affordable and therefore more practical than burning cd’s. Today there are some great projects that offer start menu like interfaces to organize these great apps on your drive. Lets have a look at the free offerings of some of these menu systems that make a flash drive a true Computer-on-a-Stick! They represent many years of thoughtful development and corroboration with users worldwide. Personally I love them all, so as not to show any favoritism to any I have put the reviews in alphabetical order.



Essential SARL


 The French Connection. Release v1.0en on 6/18/2007 has a long history of updates as seen in the 3 page Applications Log. LiberKey’s dedicated tools for “portabilization”  (aka LiberKeyPortabilizer), portable file associations and portable desktop shortcuts make it a unique menu system. Today’s version 5.5 with 293 available apps from their own library, offers 3 pre-canned packages. Basic (13 apps), Standard (85 apps) and Ultimate (146 apps). After loading the Ultimate package and an additional 19, I had 165 apps occupying 2.31G on my drive. The website has an interesting invitation to sync your drive (they refer to as a KEY) with them. After doing so the application list will know which apps you have and display to you the list of apps you do not have.



Lupo PenSuite

Lupo PenSuite Team “The free collection of portable software for everyone”


 Starting with v1.0 on 10/13/2005 after years of development to v6.8 12/26/2009. The version numbering changed to 2010.02. After 5 updates 2011.04 is today’s current release that offers at least 27 additional language packs and 43 skins. Lupo offers 3 packages, Zero is the menu only without apps. Lite has a small selection of apps and about 180 in the Full pack. A staggering list of over 500 apps can be found on Lupo’s website. A collection optimized for 64bit packaged together in a separate download includes: CCleaner, CPU-Z, Defraggler, InfraRecorder, MediaInfo, Q-Dir, Recuva and TrueCrypt.




Rare Ideas, LLC “Your Digital Life, Anywhere”


 Founded by John T. Haller, the developer behind numerous portable applications. The site and project started out of a portable version of Mozilla Firefox in March of 2004. The first stable release v2.0 PR2 for Windows was July 27, 2010. Today’s multilingual (54 locales) version 4.2 has a very nicely maintained library of at least 230 applications including Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird and SeaMonkey. OpenOffice and many other Open Source programs are included in this list. The program has a built-in application loader the allows you to download apps direct from the site. When you return to this module the only apps listed are the ones you have not added to your drive. The program also checks for new versions for you and depending on your settings will either alert you or download for you automatically. The authors also offer a monthly newsletter to keep you up to date with improvements as well as apps that are added from time to time.

For an extra 9.5 megs you can put on your drive which was designed as a fork of PortableApps, it has many enhanced features including:

custom buttons
multi wallpaper switching
auto-executing apps on start
ejection scripts
special behavior for authorized PCs
local/www searchbar

Two versions of are currently maintained:

The stable release (currently 1.0) has a limited set of features (although many more than PAM)

The experimental release is a quickly moving target with new features added regularly. These new features are not thoroughly tested, although the menu tends to remain quite usable.





Project team

Pasta isn’t the only good thing we get from Italy. Conceived in 2005, WinPenPack is an open source project that aims at collecting the most frequently used and most popular open source and free applications made portable. Also offering 3 packages, Personal is the menu system only. The Essential pack comes with 43 apps and the Full includes 45.



Have I have missed any freeware menu systems designed for Windows please post them here and add to our review.  😉

About the Author

Mike Conroy

When Mike was introduced to Windows it was invoked as a DOS command line. This new GUI (Graphical User Interface) was quite useless as the mouse was still being developed. The next nightmare technology had to offer was installing the driver for the new HID (Human Interface Device) –mouse-- in the autoexec.bat and the config.sys files. He remembers a man talking about system memory, the man said "640K, who will ever need more?" One day, just before placing his telephone into a 300bps saddle to dial-up a BBS (Bulletin Board System) he had to tackle extended and expanded memory, because someone said you now need 1024KB (.00097656 GB), that was the 1980's. Things have changed exponentially since then. Now neither phones or computers need a wire, the mouse is nearly obsolete, the BBS is a world wide network and a laptop really fits on your lap!

There are 4 comments

Comments are closed.