The Pocket Computer

So, what if you needed a computer that was completely separate from your other computer? You can do a lot on your phone today. But what if you want a full screen and a real keyboard? Enter PortableApps.

I was working someplace where I needed/wanted applications I didn't want on my work computer. For that matter, installing applications (back when they were programs) was difficult as well. I found PortableApps and ran it and wiki on a stick from a USB drive. There were some real advantages. My notes, in the wiki were with me at whatever computer I was sitting at.

But PortableApps allows you to have an “office experience” on a USB drive. Your applications and files all ride in your pocket. End the PortableApps and take the USB drive out, everything comes with you.

I have not used PortableApps is a few years, but I still get their newsletter. They have made some changes. One, you can install PortableApps to a cloud drive. So, from a computer, you can open your Dropbox, then run a computer, then surf the net from the net.

What you need

A USB drive.
The installer from

USB drives are almost becoming obsolete. They are also cheap. For this test, I bought a 16Gb drive for $5.50. Gotcha! PortableApps will re-write the USB drive. Use a blank one.

Download and run the installer. You now have the PortableApp environment. Start it up.

The first thing you will notice is…no apps! Not a problem. Go to the Apps section of the PortableApps web page and start installing them. I started with Chrome. If you really want to leave very few tracks, Once you have a browser on your PortableApps drive, you could then use that browser to install the other apps.

Apps on My Demo Drive

  • Chrome
  • Pidgin chat client
  • PDF X-change PDF reader
  • Red Notebook. Note taking Application
  • LibreOffice
  • FastStone Image Viewer
  • VLC Media Player

There are several hundred apps available. You could build a PortableApp stick for network discovery, music/video creation and editing, or play a handful of games. I have decided to go with a basic, private pocket office.

The full list is available at:

PortableApps and Security

“Now I can be all James Bond-y and have a secret computer.”

In a word, not so much, but sort of. Your documents and files are all on the USB drive. Your word processor is on the USB drive. So that you typed your resume at work will not show in the machine's history at work. If you used your PortableApps browser to look for work, from work, that would not be in the computer's history or in the history files of your computer's browser. If you are looking for something on the edge like this, PortableApps will cover you, sort of.

Your computer would show, depending on the IT Tools used, that an application called PortableApps ran from a USB drive. The internet history from your USB drive is totally visible to anyone (like the IT staff) looking upstream from your desktop. So, that someone at your computer went to or on your lunch hour is totally trackable. You were warned.