Most people use a flash drive (thumb drive, USB drive) only as a file transfer device. If that’s all you’re doing with it, you’re missing out on one of its best features.
This article from PCWorld.com provides more details on why you’d want to consider carrying around a flash drive thusly configured, and how you’d go about setting it up:
All the web apps in the world won’t help you when your PC breaks down or falls prey to a particularly nasty piece of malware and refuses connect to the Internet. A properly loaded USB drive, on the other hand, can be a machine saver. And when your grandma calls with a dire PC emergency, you’ll be glad to have an always-ready “ninja drive” to slip into your pocket as you run out the door.
In this article we’ll show you how to load out a USB drive with everything you need in case of a PC emergency. So next time your computer breaks down, don’t panic. Instead, take a deep breath, plug in your ninja drive, and start making things right.
The first thing you’ll want to install on your drive is PortableApps—a free, open source platform for installing desktop applications on removable media, like a USB drive. PortableApps manages the installation of new portable software on your USB drive, and also acts as a frontend when you’re actually using the USB drive, letting you easily browse and launch applications.
PortableApps maintains a list of hundreds “portable” versions of popular free programs, designed to work without installation. You can find the full list here.
Each of the following apps with the word “Portable” in their title is available for the PortableApps platform. You can download them at the links provided, or just start PortableApps and click on Apps > Get More Apps. You’ll see a large list of applications appear. Just check the ones you want and click Next to download and install them all automatically.
The article lists many apps specially designed to reside on a flash drive but able to access, diagnose and repair a balky, fussy, infected or otherwise damaged PC hard drive.
One of the better features of such a setup is that you could also put it to use on a friend’s or colleague’s failed computer to help get them up and running again, or on a PC that you might have to utilize at a remote site.