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.  😉

5 thoughts on “Anyone for a Computer on a stick?”

  1. Flying Dutchman

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a big fan of portable apps for all the reasons you mention, but not of these menu suites, for two reasons:
    1. The included apps are not always the latest version and it usually takes a while until they’re updated.
    2. They usually include the more “popular” apps in certain categories, which are not necessary the ones I’d like to use.
    A good example of both the above is KMPlayer, which is included only in Lupo PenSuite but is far from the latest version (I myself prefer PotPlayer).

    So, having a big number of apps included doesn’t say much if you can’t keep them up to date – we all know that one of the greatest Windows vulnerabilities is outdated S/W.

    Lupo PenSuite is also trying to distinguish itself from the others with the different versions of its suite and especially with the 64bit one (which shows some clever thinking) though currently it’s so limited, it’s hardly worth talking about it – of course this is not entirely Lupo’s fault, trully 64bit apps are still rather rare even in the realm of installed apps.

    LiberKey in particular comes, imho, with the disadvantage of not letting you download any of its apps as stand-alone. It was also involved in some sort of controversy regarding Open Source licensing and GPL violations – haven’t followed this to the end, as I don’t care much for menu suites, but I’m not a believer of “any publicity is good publicity” either.

    Anyway, I understand that these are useful tools for a lot of people. Myself, I prefer to get and update each of my portable apps individually, preferably from the developers’ sites.

    Flying Dutchman

  2. Greets Mike,
    My favorite picks for portable applications are:
    *FireFox, *ThunderBird, *TrueCrypt, *KeePass, *IrfanView, *AdobeDreamWeaverCSx, and *WinAmp (not listed but available @PortableApps site).
    I currently use a 32GB USB drive with a hidden TrueCrypt partition; for loss protection.
    I don’t often update these portable apps, unless for compatibility purposes and/or to synchronize data with desktop WinOS.
    Thank you for broadening my horizons with additional information. 😉
    Regards, Randy

  3. Im a computer dummy, My computer gos reeelly slow and I cant download cause it comesback as error. Help…………………………………………………………………

  4. Hello Sister,
    We would be more than happy to address your issues, however this is not quite the proper place for this type of question. If you would use the link I provide at the end of this reply you will find some really helpful advice. When you arrive to the page notice on the top is a banner asking you to register, click this and follow the prompts. After registration you are a member of our forums and have full member privileges and can begin a new topic. To do this scroll to the bottom of the page and look on the left for a button with NEWTOPIC* in red on gray. Click this and ask your question. It appears you have 2 basic questions; 1) Computer has slowed down and 2) Trouble downloading. Ask these as individual topics and try to include as much information describing each issue as you can. This will enable us to better troubleshoot the issue. I will try to answer you best I can but the real beauty of a forum is that you will likely receive answers from other knowledgeable users as well as the staff, and the message thread created will no doubt help other readers with similar issues. This is what we are all about. 😉
    Here is the link I promised you:
    Good Luck!

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