Portable Apps on USB Drives

Jen DeLeo, Ben Gottesman, and I got a preview demo of an app that will be bundled with Lexar Media’s high-end, high-speed USB drives starting in July. PowerToGo, announced at CES this past January and developed by Ceedo Technologies, lets you carry your apps with you and use them on any PC, but also saves your preferences, bookmarks, cookies, history, and even temp files. When you unplug it from the host machine, it leaves nothing behind. It sounds a lot like U3, but PowerToGo differs in numerous ways, and generally looks like a more flexible platform. First, you can load and use nearly any app you want; you’re not limited to those that come loaded on the drive, as you are with U3 drives. Both platforms let you access a continually updated list of “preapproved” apps (Lexar already has about 100), which will load with a click, but you can also load your own apps as long as they are capable of being made portable; some won’t be, because they are tied too closely to the host machine.

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Ceedo appears to be redirecting registry entries and the file system for PowerToGo apps, but we’ll have to wait until we’ve had more time with the drives to see exactly what they’re doing. Lexar left us with a Lightning drive loaded with PowerToGo; it’s a preproduction unit but very close to final. When you plug in the drive, an accessible, Windows-like interface opens up. To add Lexar-approved apps, just go to Add Programs and install them. FireFox and Opera browsers are available, as are AIM, Skype, RoboForm (for password management), Picasa (for image management), and lots more. Adding your own app (one that isn’t already approved by Lexar) isn’t a very intuitive process, but Lexar said that by launch time, it would be bundling a program to assist users in that. If you already own a Lexar JumpDrive you’ll be able to download PowerToGo in July. The basic program with a 90-day trial of Windows standard apps is free; an upgrade to PowerToGo Plus with unlimited use of Windows standard apps will run you $29.99. If you don’t have a Lexar drive but still want to try out PowerToGo, you can download Ceedo’s version from their web site. Or you can try building a USB key with portable apps from scratch. Check out PC Magazine’s article, the Ultimate USB Key.

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