Check out our Editors' Choice of Portable Apps by category or view them in one massive list, and support this community site by donating.
[Doakio Editor's Note: This article was restored from Gizmo's Freeware archives as a service to the freeware community. Gizmo's Freeware provided high-quality, volunteer freeware reviews for decades. They shut down in July of 2021.]
This list provides a collection of portable apps from across Gizmo's Freeware and other sites. Portable freeware is an amazing development and is forcing software vendors to adjust their wasteful ways.
They reduce problems with uninstalling software (you just delete them and don't have to worry about failed installs or incomplete uninstalls), they allow for extra flexibility in copying or moving software to different locations on a portable device or on a PC, and they help improve your privacy and security by running from portable devices like flash drives.
Take your “computer setup” with you, keep every piece of free software that impresses you or run them, say, at a library. I suggest starting a collection, or an army actually, of your favorite portable apps instead of trying to minimize the number of programs you install.
For an introduction to portable software, read the Guide to Portable Applications.
Step 1: At each download site make sure to get the “portable” or “standalone” version. Most sites clearly label it as such. Usually it's a regular file name ending with EXE, ZIP, or PAF.EXE (usually, but not always, without words like “setup” in the download file name).
- EXE files run “as is”, or they self-extract after you double-click them.
- ZIP files must be extracted first. Right-click the ZIP folder > “Extract All…”, or double click on it if you associate archive files with something like 7-Zip.
- If the downloaded file ends with PAF.EXE, just double-click it and install it to a folder of your choice (and if you copy over the previous version of a program it even deletes the older version first).
- Other download formats usually have a special launcher (such as the downloads for LiberKey). But sometimes you choose portable as an option during installation (Foobar music player comes to mind).
Step 2: It's a good idea to create a folder for your portable apps, if you haven't already. I suggest creating a sub folder for each program within your portable folder or moving its existing folder to your portable folder (as long as they allow for relative paths; a few don't and would quit working if you move them around freely). In any case, after you get the portable app functional, you must make a shortcut to it:
- The easiest way is to create a shortcut in a portable launcher (or the portable launcher that comes with a suite of portable programs). PStart, for example, allows you to drag and drop EXE files and automatically create a shortcut in its launcher. Whereas, PortableApps Suite type launchers automatically search its PortableApps folder and add shortcuts for you after you refresh or restart the launcher (just as long as you create individual folders for all your portable apps).
- Or go to your portable apps folder, right-click on the main application for the portable app (usually it's the one with a recognizable icon and a large file size), and select “Create Shortcut” or “Send to > Desktop”. Then simply right-click the shortcut and select “pin to start menu” (Vista), or drag the shortcut to the start menu.
- Read How to Manually Create a Program Launcher for an interesting approach (the approach I'm using).
- Or upload your portable apps to an online backup site, such as Windows Live Skydrive, if you intend on using them on various computers.
TruPortable: Portability + Stealth
We will start marking applications as “TruPortable” if they work as standalone apps and run without waste (few significant registry entries, few auto installation features, little need for user tweaking, etc.).
This excludes registry entries automatically created by windows. An application must work from a flash drive and run without problems on most computers. We also require no user involvement (to make an app portable). For this designation, we want apps to do their job and leave the rest of the computer alone!