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.

  • 9
    If this were SO I would say notepad++. But, alas, I am at a loss.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 9:48
  • 7
    A good text editor is critical for server admin too I think Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 10:18
  • For what OS? [this comment does not need 15 characters]
    – Tony Meyer
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 10:22
  • Any OS that uses config files longer than 15 lines long! Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 10:38
  • 13
    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. Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 12:22

61 Answers 61


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.

  • So is Qm for sending email the old fashion way, or the old passion way ;) Considering how frustrating the old days could be, sometimes you did have to be passionate about it! Commented May 1, 2009 at 5:00
  • for HFS, be sure to use the beta version for additional functions.
    – djangofan
    Commented May 17, 2010 at 19:20

Beyond Compare, brilliant for checking for changes

  • 10
    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
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 13:08
  • 1
    Is that still shareware? I propose WinMerge, which is freeware...
    – alex
    Commented Jun 3, 2009 at 21:01
  • 2
    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
    Commented Oct 15, 2009 at 18:49
  • @dthrasher If I were stranded on a desert island with a computer, I'd want some solar power and satellite internet.
    – Paul
    Commented Feb 13, 2010 at 21:12

Most Previously SysInternals Tools

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


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.


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!

  • Nice list. I know I can search for these, but I'm lazy. If you provided links, you'd get an upvote...
    – dbkk
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 18:42
  • same DBKK, same :)
    – Pure.Krome
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 23:59
  • The link for ToDoList is wrong. It should be codeproject.com/KB/applications/todolist2.aspx. I'd fix it myself, but I don't have enough rep yet ;)
    – Jim Harte
    Commented May 9, 2009 at 0:06
  • The ToDo List link has been updated. Commented May 13, 2009 at 11:06
  • Filezilla is better than WS_FTP any day of the week.
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Mar 12, 2011 at 14:12

[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.

  • this is the site i refer everyone to so that they dont have to pay for unneeded software on the internet.
    – djangofan
    Commented May 17, 2010 at 19:29

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

  • No, the price has gone down significantly since you have posted your answer. You can get one for like $20USD
    – dance2die
    Commented May 7, 2009 at 14:52
  • 1
    Perhaps the question should be changed to "RUN on a thumb drive." As in portable.
    – Travis
    Commented Jun 25, 2009 at 19:11
  • It is not so much space constraints but as for use. For example the use of driverpacks on your own computer doesnt make much sense as drivers dont just get up and walk away while they have alot of use on a flash drive
    – Shard
    Commented Jul 2, 2009 at 8:13

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.

  • 2
    Yes, especially one that identifies/diagnoses hardware even before it boots up.
    – gbarry
    Commented May 1, 2009 at 0:50
  • 2
    Yes, especially if you need to get to a NTFS file that is behind an unknown password.
    – DrFloyd5
    Commented May 1, 2009 at 3:26
  • Also, usually those linux images have also useful software that is actually unrelated to linux like memtest86. Commented May 5, 2009 at 19:16

Wireshark - monitor network traffic.


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

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

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

  • Is this really useful to a SysAdmin? A programmer I can understand but not sure what value this has to the target audience of ServerFault. Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 13:43
  • 2
    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
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 17:08
  • How about Strawberry Perl? :D xkcd.com/208 Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 19:10
  • What's with the "aff=jatwood" portion of the URL? Is Huppie another Jeff Atwood account? Commented May 1, 2009 at 4:13
  • Nope, but if you'll link them you might as well sponsor one of your favorite bloggers.
    – Huppie
    Commented May 4, 2009 at 5:44

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


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.


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).


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

  • Games. I mean old games.
    – Amir Arad
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 13:18
  • Don't we all want to stick with WordPerfect 5.1 :')
    – Huppie
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 17:18
  • actually in israel there are probably several DOS station still at work. some hebrew applications problems (printing mostly) of 'back then' were solved in such a not-elegant, un-upgradeable manner that they have to keep them untill they completely replace the system. israeli insurance agents know what i'm talking about.
    – Amir Arad
    Commented May 4, 2009 at 13:38

Aside from SysInternals, utilities from Nirsoft are also useful.

  • Yes. Sysinternals and Nirsoft. A lovely combination.
    – John K. N.
    Commented Nov 29, 2012 at 15:25

Installers for perl and vim

  • never leave hone without it
    – Adyt
    Commented May 20, 2009 at 8:53

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


Win32 GNU tool set


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.

  • One of my favorite tools of all time (apart from the painful variable syntax). Of course you don't even need Autohotkey itself if you compile your scripts into executables.
    – Ash
    Commented May 6, 2009 at 11:15

I really like http://portableapps.com/ for this.


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.


Make a thumb drive that is bootable to Ubuntu.

  • I use Fedora 10 (slower than 9, unfortunately), but +1. Do you do a fresh install or use the USB-installer thingy? I do a plain install, even if I have to manually set up GRUB. Commented May 1, 2009 at 15:34
  • Oooh, sorry for dogging you on the reply for so long! Didn't notice. Fresh install.
    – squillman
    Commented May 8, 2009 at 22:05

For constantly updated info on this, check out



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

  • +1 best Windows sysadmin tool there is - and it has a thumbdrive export option, can it be better? ^^ Commented May 2, 2009 at 21:26

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
  • Not much there (anything) that you can't get from PortableApps (portableapps.com) individually. Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 19:10
  • Firefox is the best!
    – Techboy
    Commented Apr 30, 2009 at 21:04

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.


  • This is one of the best sets of repair tools out there. I use it on a daily basis.
    – bjtitus
    Commented May 2, 2009 at 19:20

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


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.

  • oops. I didn't see yours before I added mine. FAR makes windows usable efficiently.
    – matt
    Commented Aug 11, 2010 at 13:51

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