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I have been on the lookout lately for some good tools to fill up my flash drive and I thought I would ask the Server Fault community for recommendations on good tools that will fit onto a thumb drive.

Some I use are Driver Packs, CCleaner and the portable apps suite.

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closed as off topic by sysadmin1138 Jul 11 '11 at 0:55

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If this were SO I would say notepad++. But, alas, I am at a loss. –  jjnguy Apr 30 '09 at 9:48
A good text editor is critical for server admin too I think –  Glenn Slaven Apr 30 '09 at 10:18
Wish that people would add items individually to a question like this because otherwise everyone posts huge lists which everyone eventually just gives up reading. –  Rory Becker Apr 30 '09 at 12:22

61 Answers 61

up vote 134 down vote accepted

These are the utilities I have on my drive:

  • CurrPorts displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer.
  • ftpserver3lite is an FTP server
  • ftpwanderer2 is an FTP client
  • ipnetinfo answers questions about an IP address: owner, country/state, range, contact info, etc.
  • miranda general messaging solution (supports most P2P messaging networks)
  • omziff encryption decryption tool.
  • FoxitReader wonderful alternative to adobe's PDF reader. light and fast and portable.
  • Qm (The Quick Mailer) if you just want to send an Email the old pasion way with no installation.
  • Restoration quick and basic undelete utility.
  • smsniff basic TCP sniffer.
  • torpark a Firefox-based browser for completely discrete browsing.
  • treepad just a nice utility to organize your data in, much like freemind and other mind maps.
  • cpicture a picture viewer
  • DriveMan for managing hard drives on the local computer.
  • FollowMeIPLite very much like www.whatismyip.com only much quicker.
  • hfs opens a small HTTP file server from desired folder, for instant file sharing.
  • angry ip scanner scans IP's
  • kill.exe - needs no introduction :)
  • putty a telnet utility every system administrator has got to be familiar with.
  • startup control panel, StartupList, regcleaner - really there are many registry cleaners/managers out there, lots of them fits nicely in a thumb-drive.
  • Revealer reveals passwords from password fields. It is very useful in many situations.
  • vncviewer client for the VNC remote desktop protocol
  • WinAudit audits a Windows machine. Lots of useful information.
  • xcopy.exe - it is still useful to have around.
  • TcpView shows all all TCP and UDP endpoints on your system.

Beyond Compare is fantastic, btw. Also, you might want to check out portable freeware.

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Beyond Compare, brilliant for checking for changes

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Beyond Compare is one of the applications I'd want to have with my if I were stranded on a desert island. Er, with a computer. –  dthrasher Apr 30 '09 at 13:08
Is that still shareware? I propose WinMerge, which is freeware... –  alex Jun 3 '09 at 21:01
It's worth buying and does a lot more than winmerge - I use it to test failed file transfers of large trees, but it can even go as far as showing you what's different in photos –  reconbot Oct 15 '09 at 18:49

Most Previously SysInternals Tools

Also Kudos to Palmin for mentioning "Sysinternals Live", in the comments. (see live.sysinternals.com/About_This_Site.txt)

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Might be worth to also mention "Sysinternals Live", see live.sysinternals.com/About_This_Site.txt –  Palmin Apr 30 '09 at 11:54

In top of that, I strongly recommend to add TrueCrypt if you keep any personal or confidential data. Sometimes I need to put customer's database backups and I'd be in great trouble if someone gets access to them.

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I got these from crazeegeekchick.com some time ago and I really love them.

  1. TrueCrypt – encrypt your thumb drive to protect your information

  2. ToDoList – A task management tool that allows you to repeatedly sub-divide your tasks into more manageable pieces whilst still presenting a clean and intuitive user experience. (Windows Only)

  3. Portable Firefox – Leaves no personal information behind on the machine - you can take along your browser/extensions/bookmarks anywhere

  4. Pidgin Portable – All-in-one instant messaging (supports AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, G-Chat, etc)

  5. WS FTP32 – ftp client

  6. FileZilla – yet another ftp client

  7. Notepad2 – a fast light-weight advanced text editor with syntax highlighting

  8. Notepad++ - this is one of my favorite text editors – now made portable

  9. Color Cop – this is one of my favorite freeware apps – includes an eyedropper you can drag over any window to grab the color value. It then offers a palette of 42 complimentary colors to the one you've picked.

  10. Ifranview – a light little graphics viewer/editor that packs a big punch. You can use it to work with screen captures, create slideshows and more

  11. GIMP – the popular open source image editor packaged as a portable app – very robust

  12. 7-Zip Portable – handles zip, gzip, tar, rar etc

  13. Allway Sync – syncs files between your thumb drive and PC

  14. Unknown Devices – helps you find out what the unknown devices in the device manager are

  15. TestDisk – data recovery software that can recover lost partitions or make drives bootable again

  16. UTorrent – my preferred bit torrent client – I love having this with me wherever I go

  17. Roeder's .NET Reflector – recently purchased by Red Gate, this still-free app can be used to explore .NET assemblies, understand relationships between classes and methods, find where types are instantiated and exposed or check that code has been correctly obfuscated before release. There are also over 30 add-ins available.

  18. Process Explorer – formerly Filemon and Regmon, this is an invaluable sleuthing tool

  19. TightVNC – based on the popular VNC remote control software, this version can live on a thumb drive

  20. WinMerge – compares differences between files and merges changes. It has the same features as the desktop version

  21. Text2Html – a text to HTML converter – converts text files into HTML format

  22. Portable Apps Suite – this is the mac-daddy of them all – it includes Firefox, Thunderbird(email), Sunbird(calendar),ClamWin (antivirus), Pidgin(see above), Sumatra PDF Readable, KeePass Password Safe, OpenOffice, CoolPlayer (audio Player) and even a couple of games

  23. Restoration – Recover accidentally deleted files – even after they were deleted from the recycle bin

  24. Infra Recorder Portable – cd and dvd burning

  25. RockXP – allows you to recover windows passwords or keys, change keys, display system password, and more – sneaky!

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[Update: Initially I deleted this answer because I spotted it was already mentioned in the question. However I think it would be good for it to see votes so I have checked the Community Wiki box to prevent people from thinking I'm trying to game the system]

Apps from http://portableapps.com/ like Portable Firefox leave no trace on the system you run them on.

Also the PortableApps app itself makes using them a piece of cake.

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What doesn't fit on a thumb drive, these days? 16GB drives are like $50!

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Perhaps the question should be changed to "RUN on a thumb drive." As in portable. –  Travis Jun 25 '09 at 19:11

Linux (e.g. Debian, Knoppix, Puppy). Even if the systems you're working with aren't Linux, you can get useful things done by having a full, working OS in your pocket; sometimes having a different OS can even be an advantage.

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Yes, especially one that identifies/diagnoses hardware even before it boots up. –  gbarry May 1 '09 at 0:50
Yes, especially if you need to get to a NTFS file that is behind an unknown password. –  DrFloyd5 May 1 '09 at 3:26

Wireshark - monitor network traffic.

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In addition the Sysinternals, AVG, Portable Firefox and PuTTY mentioned above my USB key contains:

  • WinDirStat - for hunting down large files and directories on hard drives
  • Stinger - for killing common virus infections
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+1 for WinDirStat I love it so much –  George Mauer Apr 30 '09 at 15:55

One of my most-used tools on my USB-Stick:

It's about the easiest and quickest (regex) find/replace tool available.

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A ton of sysadmin work is done at the command line, and deals with log files. Finding that needle in the haystack in minutes while other admins take hours gives you a significant edge in solving a critical issue. –  Adam Davis Apr 30 '09 at 17:08

A decent text editor (eg. notepad++). Process Explorer.

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I usually keep about a dozen different types of boot-images on my USB (and yes, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg to buy all this stuff):

The main reason being that when you work with governmental organizations, you can't always get access to the Internet, but (for me) it was easy to burn CDs there. It made debugging bad hardware, and problemtic OSs much easier.

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Definitely Total Commander. Just runs out of the install folder; does packing/unpacking, FTP, file diff, folder sync, multi-rename, checksum generation/verification. You name it...

For those who still own POP3 accounts; E-Res-Q (shameless plug!) allows no-frills access to a POP3 account for quick viewing and cleanup of messages (good for clearing spammed out or blocked-with-a-50MB-attachment accounts).

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DosBox of course, for when you need to emulate an old ODS machine for, umm, old office applications.

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Aside from SysInternals, utilities from Nirsoft are also useful.

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Installers for perl and vim

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Portable Total Commander is a must have for any portable environment.

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Win32 GNU tool set

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AutoHotKey can be placed on and run from your flashkey.

There are many things you might script an ability to do which might ease Server related tasks.

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This question is 7 hours old, and no one have mentioned a hex (binary) editor yet. Sometimes, even a sysadmin needs to look inside a file to check (or tweak) what realy lurks inside.

Lightweight but a little old, frhed a is free binary file editor for Windows.

HxD is a carefully designed and fast hex editor, seems more current.

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Make a thumb drive that is bootable to Ubuntu.

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Directory Opus, it feels like half of your computer is always with you.

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Maybe take a look on Framakey which is a compilation of modified program to use them on a USB stick.

It currently includes :

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • OpenOffice.org 2.0b
  • VLC
  • Coolplayer
  • Scite
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The Computer Repair Utility Kit that Technibble put together has most of the essential tools you'd need. It's been designed so that the tools can run from a USB drive. Unfortunately, they no longer distribute the toolkit themselves, but you can probably find a copy elsewhere.


Technibble also has lots of reviews of sysadmin tools.


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I'd say having a bootable WinPE image is crucial for desktop/server support.

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Far manager, of course, besides the stuff other mentioned. It is like Total Commander, but what is interesting about it is that it is a Windows console application - but it displays full UI.

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