Probably the best thing since slice bread, USB Drives have become "the portable computer".
What used to be a device for just storing files, USB drives have become a must have computer accessory. From creating bootable drives and speeding up Windows Vista to creating a pocket recovery tool, many non-saving-data uses have been found for these handy devices.
And while the list of ways to use a USB drive continues to grow, so does the list of tips to make them more functional.
So what are some of the tips? Below are the top 10 tips that make USB drives more functional.
1 – Create Shortcuts On Root Folder Of USB Drives
One problem with USB drives is that you can't create shortcuts to a folder or program, on the USB drive, since the drive letter will change from PC to PC when you insert the drive.
For example if you have a portable application installed on the USB drive and you want to create a shortcut to the executable to run the app from the root folder of the USB drive. If you create the shortcut using the drive letter F, it will work as long as the drive is always using the letter F. Problem is, from PC to PC it won't always be that letter.
To get around this problem, freewaregenius.com has a nice solution using a batch file and converting it to an executable. For the complete how-to, check out How To Create Shortcuts For Use On USB Drives.
2 – Change The Icon Displayed For USB Drives
With the popularity of USB drives growing, so does the number of drives you have plugged into your Computer. One problem you will run into, is trying to identify which drive is which when viewing them in Windows Explorer.
An easy solution is to identify them with different icons so you can tell them apart, from other USB drives and mapped drives. To do this check out Change Icons Displayed For USB Drives.
3 – Assign USB Drives To A Folder
Working with several portable USB devices on one computer can end up being complicated since Windows assigns the next free drive letter to a device that gets connected. Obviously, this can lead to some confusion.
So what can you do to avoid being confused? Assign them to folders. To do this you can use Windows disk management functionality and mount drive letters to folders. Here's how: Assign USB Drives To Folders.
4 – Quickly Eject USB Drives Using USB Disk Ejector
This little program can be copied on to all of your USB drives and allows you to quickly eject your drives.
What makes this utility so special then just using Windows built in tool for ejecting drives? For one, XP doesn’t specify which drive is which, while this utility does identify each drive and avoids the guessing game. Check out the details at Freewaregenius.com.
5 – Installing An Entire Suite Of Applications
One reason why USB drives are very popular is the capability to run applications from them without needing to install them on your computer. And what could be any better than being able to run the same browser and email client on any computer?
How about an entire suite of applications. That's what PortableApps.com provides, the capability to run Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, instant messager client and more. You can even run an antivirus software.
And while this is pretty cool, installation of these apps is a snap. Find out how with this article – Run FireFox And Thunderbird As Portable Applications on USB Drive.
6 – Make Your USB Drive Come Back Home If You Lose It
One side effect of USB drives is their size. Their small. Which can only mean one thing….sooner or later your going to loose it.
So how can you increase the chances of having the lost drive returned to you. With this great little tip – Have Your Lost USB Drive Ask For Help.
7 – Make a Rescue Disk Stick
There are plenty of solutions for creating a rescue CD for those times when Windows won't boot and you need to access your files or fix the system. With many new computers including the capability to boot from a USB drive, it was only a matter of time that USB Drives could be used as a recovery tool.
Ghacks.net has a great how-to for creating a USB recovery stick for Windows XP. Even though it is built with XP source files, you still can use the stick to boot other versions of Windows to recover your data.
To build your own recovery stick check out, Ghacks.net.
8 – Add A Start Menu For Launching Your Applications
One problem with USB drives is that if you want to run applications, you need to open up the drive and find the program executable to launch it. This means having to dig through a long list of files and folders to get the application that you want.
To help make it simple to run your applications, the web site dailycupoftech.com has a nice solution for creating a menu that's dead system to use – USB Drive Menu System.
9 – Speed Up Vista
Want to squeeze more performance out of Vista? Plug in a USB stick.
Vista has a featured called ReadyBoost that allows you to use a USB key as virtual memory in order to enhance performance. Get the details here – Enable Any USB Drive To Work With ReadyBoost.
10 – Boot Linux From Your USB Drive
Linux pretty much invented the "bootable operating system on a CD" which lets you boot many different Linux distributions off a CD (Knoppix as an example). The big side benefit to this is being able to "test drive" an OS without the hassle of needing to install it.
Now, USB is taking over the portable booting of an OS. So if you want to create a Linux solution here's a great source to create a bootable stick – pendrivelinux.com.