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Don’t let your spare USB drives go to waste! Use them to prepare for disaster and turn them into toolkits that might one day save your neck.
USB jump drives are a dying breed. As the process of transferring data becomes increasingly wireless, many are left with underutilized USB drives crammed into drawers.
That is, until disaster strikes. Thumb drives — when prepared — can prevent users from losing everything if confronted with PC issues beyond their control. Anti-virus, anti-spyware, operating system (OS) installs, and file recovery: all of these options and more are available on your thumb drive. That is if you make use of it. Read on to turn your spare USB into a geek utility belt!
Before You Begin: Writable & Non-Writable USB Drives
There’s tech enthusiasts, and there’s tech professionals. While any of the following tools can be safely installed onto a regular USB, there are a few worries you should consider before creating a professional USB resource.
USB drives are fantastic memory tools for a quick data transaction, but they’re also susceptible to viruses. Since the same USB drive is often plugged directly into multiple desktops and laptops, it’s the perfect victim for pesky, insidious malware.
Luckily, write-protected USB drives have been a long-time favorite for tech professionals everywhere. Write-protection prevents programs from writing or installing onto your drive. That means no pesky software can sneak its way onto your drive undetected.
While more expensive, write-protected USB drives allow the use of USB drives without fear that an unknown malicious software will tag along. If you’re unsure of whether your USB is safe or not, head to the article previously linked to protect your USB proactively.
Create a Bootable USB
First, we have to turn our regular USB into a bootable thumb drive. There are plenty of programs that do just this, but few are as reliable as YUMI. YUMI creates a bootable drive on your USB, allowing users to boot disc images of an installed ISO.
The process of installing whole OS distributions, and booting them from a USB drive, is surprisingly simple. They also provide users with a safe, free way of restoring an OS, recovering files, and more.
Head to the website, download the program, and proceed to install as few or as many ISO files onto your USB as you’d like. Remember to test whatever image you’ve downloaded onto your USB to ensure everything is working properly — before you need them.
Bootable USB Toolkits
Like all other facets of your PC, you can choose from a manual and automatic way of creating your USB toolbox. Some programs do the work for you, while others have to be downloaded one by one.
For most Windows users, Linux seems like a strange beast. It does, however, provide an excellent platform by which users can scan, diagnose, and repair PC issues.
Linux distributions come in all shapes and forms, from the lightweight Puppy Linux to the technically excellent Kali Linux. Whatever your decision, installing a backup Linux OS you can boot from your USB can be a godsend. Most Linux distributions allow users to run the image directly from your USB, allowing you to copy or move files from the hard drive (barring catastrophic damage).
There are certain emergency disk images which will allow users to recover, fix, or maintain pretty much every issue you can have with Windows. Install these emergency disks as you would a disc image using YUMI.
Hiren’s Rescue CD is top of the heap. A long-time trusted recovery image, Hiren’s allows users to run a mini version of Windows and provides users with disk utilities.
Ultimate Boot CD also shares the top spot for its comprehensive utility options, simple interface, and widespread approval among the tech community.
Again, remember to test your images before relying on them to fix issues and transfer data.
While bootable USB drives are well and good, other tools are necessary to turn your USB drive into a fully-fledged utility belt. While these tools can include any software you desire, there are a few tried and tested portable application providers which host programs specifically designed to be implemented from a USB drive.
Portable programs do not interfere with your bootable images, so feel free to load up your USB with as few or many additional tools as you’d like.
Any tech aficionado who has installed, or re-installed, an OS is familiar with Ninite. Ninite is a simple program repository which allows users to download common desktop programs (Chrome, iTunes, Java, etc.) and applications in one discrete packet.
While using Ninite is essentially the same as downloading and installing files one by one, Ninite has the added benefit of working both offline and online. That means you can instantly begin downloading programs onto a new OS without the need of finding, downloading, and installing each individual program.
Select the programs you prefer and click Get Your Ninite on the main Ninite web page to download the package. It’s that simple!
PortableApps makes smaller, portable applications of typical installer programs. While users are also able to create their own portable application, PortableApps provides users with safe and updated applications to use.
You can run them from your USB as you would any desktop program, and PortableApps has an excellent selection of Windows protection program and utilities. I would personally recommend the following assortment of programs, available on PortableApps, to cover general PC needs:
- Security: ClamWin Portable, Eraser Portable, HijackThis Portable, Kaspersky TDSSKiller Portable, Spybot-Search & Destroy Portable
- Utilities: CPU-Z Portable, GPU-Z Portable, Revo Uninstaller Portable, UltraDefrag Portable
Just like that, you’re set.
The vast majority of Windows users have no idea SysInternals exists. Yet, the SysInternals library provides free, official tools to fix issues within the Windows environment.
While the list of programs and their functions can be dizzying, you can download a SysInternals Suite complete with SysInternals’ most vital programs. Download the suite onto your flash drive and you’re set! While SysInternal programs are somewhat more technical than your everyday programs, they’re among the most useful as well.
That USB you have collecting dust in your drawer can seriously save your neck one day, so protect it. While your individual USB may vary in terms of programs and images, those presented above will integrate plenty of functions into your freshly feature-packed USB drive!
Any other USB trickery you’d like us to explore for you? Let us know in the comments below!