10 Best Uses Of A USB Drive
Have any old USB drives lying around? You can use them for more than just data transfer. Hitesh Raj Bhagat outlines ten ways how you can put that drive to good use
THE humble pen drive has been around for a long time. Prices have never been cheaper, and larger capacities are easily available too. If you're a computer user, you probably have several of them. Apart from using them to just transport your data, there are a myriad other uses for one, as long as you have a one with a decent capacity and speed. For most of these uses, a 2GB drive (prices start at 250) is more than sufficient, though as is always the case with digital storage, more the merrier!
PortableApps is a Windows launcher that can run entirely from your USB drive. What this means is that you can carry a suite of all your favorite applications like Firefox, Chrome, VLC Media Player, Foxit Reader, 7-Zip and more, all on the drive. Plug it into any remote computer and you’ll have all your favorite applications with you. All you have to do is head to the website and download the PortableApps program. There are even preselected app bundles available for download.
Get it from www.portableapps.com
Computer maintenance & troubleshooting
A USB drive can play host to various applications that can help fix, maintain or troubleshoot a computer in need. First, you can start with Trend Micro’s HouseCall or Kaspersky’s virus removal tool. Glary Utilities can be run to do a complete maintenance check (registry clean, removal of temporary files, manage startup programs). Finally, Ultimate Defrag can be used organise the files for better speed and reliability.
Get all the apps from
Run an alternate operating system
Linux and various versions of it are available for free. But some special versions of Linux like Puppy Linux, Damn Small Linux and Xubuntu are small and light enough to be run completely from a USB drive. This means that you can run and check out Linux for yourself on any existing Windows computer, without making any changes to it! The added advantages of these ‘Live’ builds of Linux is that they have very minimal hardware requirements, which makes them blazing fast, even on older machines.
Get them from www.puppylinux.org, www.damnsmalllinux.org, www.xubuntu.org
Automated backup of selected folders
You may have a 500GB hard drive in your computer, but the most important data to you on that drive will be lesser. It could be a folder of your photographs, videos, songs or important documents. Rather than take a complete backup of the drive which is a time-consuming process, you can use Microsoft's SyncToy to selectively backup and synchronise certain folders between the hard drive and an external USB flash drive. Once configured, all you have to do is plug the drive in to backup the folder.
Get it from: http://goo.gl/Zz77V
Run a complete media player
XBMC (Xbox Media Center) started out as media center for the Microsoft Xbox, but is now versatile software for PCs to playback multiple formats of multimedia files in a slick interface. XBMC Live is a special version, designed to run from USB drives and it can be used to run a pre-configured version of XBMC on any machine for demo purposes. Pretty much anyone who sees the Live version gets the full version instantly.
Get it from: http://xbmc.org/download
Encrypted Data with self-destruct feature
If you're paranoid about someone stealing data from your USB drive, you can secure the data with USB SafeGuard. It encrypts data on the drive with advanced AES 256-bit encryption. You can assign a password to selected folders or to the entire drive. And there’s a setting that can erase the entire contents of the drive if someone enters a wrong password too many times.
Get it from
Work securely on a remote computer
Democrakey offers a suite of handy applications that you can store and run from your USB drive. When you are away from your own PC and want to use the Internet on an unknown PC, Democrakey can keep your data and information safe. It includes the Tor Browser (for anonymous web browsing), Clamwin (to check the PC for viruses), AbiWord (to read Word documents) Thunderbird Portable (with pre-installed add-ons to send anonymous email) and TrueCrypt (for file encryption).
Get it from www.democrakey.com
Increase performance with Ready Boost
With Windows Vista and Windows 7, if you have a fast enough USB flash drive, you can use it for Ready Boost. Ready Boost is a feature that uses the space on your USB drive as extra RAM, instantly boosting the overall speed of your Windows system and programs. Not all USB drives are fast enough to be used for Ready Boost. To check, right click on the drive's icon in My Computer, click Tools and then the Ready Boost tab.
For more information: http://goo.gl/JztRI
Use it as a ‘key’ to access several PCs
You might have seen this before in the movies; a USB drive is inserted into a computer and it immediately springs to life. A free application called Predator can be used for exactly the same thing. Download and install Predator, and pair a USB drive with it. With the USB drive plugged in, you can continue to work, but as soon as it is removed, the screen darkens, the computer locks, and keyboard/mouse input is disabled. Plug it back in, and normal usage is restored.
Get it from: www.montpellierinformatique.com/predator
Make a “life-backup”
This can literally be a life saver. Many of us may have not stopped to think about what would happen if we lost all our belongings in a fire, flood or natural calamity. The size and portability of a USB flash drive is actually ideal to store digital copies of all your important documents like bank information, credit card details, birth certificates, legal papers, insurance papers and anything else that ties into yours or your family’s life. Be sure to keep one away at in a locker or at a friend's place in another city for extra peace of mind.