Some Brilliant Things You Didn’t Know They Could To Do Old USB
Not so long ago, the ubiquitous USE stick was an essential piece of hardware. Physically more portable than an external hard drive or a recordable DVD, but offering generous capacities at low costs, these brilliantly flexible storage devices helped us perform vital tasks, such as backing up data, transporting files from between PCs, and more. These days, though, it’s easy to find yourself with a drawer full of the things, no longer serving any purpose other than to gather dust. You can blame that on the rise in mobile devices with their own built-in storage, and the simultaneous proliferation of free ‘cloud’ storage. Together, these factors have rendered the once all-conquering USB stick more or less redundant.
But instead of tipping your drawer of flash memories into the bin, why not put them to use? USB sticks can be used for so much more than Just shuttling flies from one PC to another. In fact, there are many clever ways to breathe new life into your old storage devices. For example, depending on the capacity of your USB sticks and the tools at your disposal, it’s possible to convert them into your very own portable PC-on-a-stick.
However, if you’re still determined to get rid of your old USE sticks after all that, we’ll explain how to dispose of them securely.
- Run Windows 10 from a USB drive (Minimum USB size 16GB) :
Believe it or not, it is possible to install and run Windows 10 in full from an old USB stick. And we don’t mean just copying a Windows 10 ISO file to it.
We’re talking about a proper Windows 10 installation with the latest update that will let you boot directly to your very own, personalised copy of Windows on any PC you plug the drive into.
For this, you’ll need a decent-sized USB stick – it will work on a 16GB stick, but we recommend at least 32GB because this will give your portable PC its own permanent storage to play with. You’ll also need a copy of Windows and a free tool called WinToUSB, which will let you install Windows on to the drive.
To get Windows 10, head to Microsoft’s download site at (microsoft.com) and click ‘Download tool now’. Run the Media Creation Tool, selecting the ‘Create installation media’ option. Don’t select the USB flash drive option when prompted, though. Instead, choose the ‘ISO file’ option (see screenshot below), which will download a copy of Windows 10 to your hard drive first.
Next, download the free version of WinToUSB from (easyuefi.com)Version 4.5 supports the latest edition of Windows 10.
Run it, then click the browse button next to the Image File box to look for the Windows ISO file you just downloaded.
In the ‘Operating system’ window, select the version of Windows 10 you want (we chose Windows 10 Home), then click Next. Select your USB stick from the dropdown menu on the next screen, then select ‘MBR for BIOS’ in the pop-up window (this will provide maximum compatibility) and click Yes. Select ‘Legacy’ if you’re prompted to choose a partition method.
Windows will now be installed on to your USB stick, erasing any other files you might have stored on it.
Once complete, plug the stick into any PC and restart it – bear in mind that you may need to change the PC’s boot priority, in order to bypass the hard drive and boot to your USB drive instead.
The one drawback with running Windows 10 from a USB stick is that you’ll need to pay to activate your new copy of the operating system – currently £120 if from Microsoft; it’ll still work without activation, but some features will be locked and you’ll constantly be reminded to activate. There is, however an alternative that’s completely free…
- Run a smaller operating system on a USB (Minimum USB size 2 GB):
If you don’t like the idea of paying for another copy of Windows, or don’t have a big enough USB stick, you can still create a smaller (and completely free) portable computer using Limit The principle is the same as above; you’d just be installing and running a different OS from your USB stick.
Linux isn’t nearly as easy to use as Windows, but It’s easier to install than you might imagine. Some versions, such as Linux Mint, look and work just like Windows and come with tons of software :
– office suites, media players and more
To give it a go, download Linux Mint from
– there are several versions, but we recommend Cinnamon 19.1. This was released just a couple of months ago and Includes new features, such as a tool that lets you quickly switch desktop layouts. Now download a tool called Etcher from wwwbalena.io/etcher – this will Install Linux to your USB stick. Get the portable version of Etcher if you’d rather not install the tool.
Now grab your USB drive – a 4GB one will give you lots of room to store files, but 2GB will work too – and run Etcher. Click ‘Select image’ (see screenshot above), then browse to your Linux Mint ISO and click Open. Next, click ‘Select drive’ and browse to your USB stick, then click ‘flash!’. As with the Windows 10 route, you may need to change your PC’s boot priority before you boot to the USB drive.
- Browse the web privately, anywhere (Minimum USB size 512MB) :
Running the portable version of Chrome from a USB stick means you’ll always have access to your bookmarks and tabs without having to log into a stranger’s PC or a public computer. But, most importantly, it means you’ll leave behind precisely zero traces of your browsing on the host PC when you unplug the USB stick.
The newly released version 72 of Chrome Portable is available from portableapps.com. Download it, then run the executable file. Follow the installation process and, when you reach the Choose Install Location screen, click Browse and select your USB stick from the list.
Chrome Portable will then install in a new ‘GoogleChromePortable’ folder on your USB stick (see screenshot above). You’ll only need 500MB of free space on your stick for Chrome and you can carry on using the rest for storage.
- Create a personal portable apps toolkit (Minimum USB size 1GB) :
Why just stop at your web browser when you can cram your USB stick full of the best tools around? There are hundreds of programs that, like Chrome Portable, can run from an external storage device, rather than being permanently installed on a host PC.
So many, in fact, that it’s a good idea to use a tool to help you find, manage and install the best ones for you. So, get the PortableApps tool from https://portableapps.com/download – the latest version (16) adds some great new features, including the option to pin portable apps to your taskbar.
Insert your USB stick, then run the installer and select the ‘Portable – install to a portable device’ option when prompted. Next, choose your USB stick as the destination.To run the tool, double-click the Start.exe program from your USB drive. PortableApps will check for the latest versions of available tools and present you with a categorised list of portable tools that you can install.
To add the ones you want, just tick the boxes and click Next (see screenshot left). How about Gimp and IrfanView for image editing and browsing, LibreOffice for all your office needs and VLC for playing music and videos? If you want to store even more on your USB sticks, download 7-Zip. This lets you create and open almost all compressed file formats, including ZIP, RAR and LZH.
All these apps are free, so your only limit is how much space you have on your USB stick.