Frequently Asked Questions

Note: Some of these FAQs are contributed by members. You can make your own suggestions in this forum topic


What makes an application "portable"?

Definitely check out:

What do you have against program installers?

To quote Roger Johansson (with his permission) from his posting on alt.comp.freeware:

Would someone be so kind to explain why one would be against a program installing? I don't understand the issue here.

I have many favorite programs on the D: partition, and they continue to work no matter if Windows crashes, and needs to be re-installed, or if I change to another version of Windows.

I try to avoid using programs which have to be re-installed when I reinstall Windows. I use more and more programs which do not depend much on Windows to work.

Many of my favorite no-install programs are programs I have moved to another partition than it was installed to, and I test if it works well from there. Then it is fairly independent from Windows and I keep it.

On C: I only have Windows and a few programs which do not work un-installed, so when I have to repair or upgrade Windows I have to re-install those programs too. That is why I try to minimize the number of programs which need to be installed correctly to work. If I can find a program which is less fussy and works in all situations, even if I have moved its program folder to another drive, I prefer that program.

What makes an application "stealth"?

For the purpose for this website, "stealth" means when an application is launched, used and terminated properly, it does not leave behind any entries in the registry or filesystem. Certain exceptions are permitted. For example, registry entries that are created/updated by Windows for the application (eg. MRU entries for dialog boxes, DirectX entries for DirectX-based apps), or temp files created in the official "Temp" folders are not taken into consideration. Note: "Stealth" does not mean non-traceability! In fact, it is quite unlikely you can hide your activities on a Windows machine from a capable system administrator.

Why is it so bad for an application to write its settings to the user profile folder?

Writing settings to the application folder is dangerous because you need to have admin rights on the machine and different users are stuck with each other's settings! Storing settings in the user profile folder also has the advantage that you could upgrade a program without losing its settings.

In a multi-user environment, it is indeed inappropriate to write settings in the application folder. However, portable apps are run from external USB flash drives or equivalent, so it is a personal device and writing settings to the application folder is therefore preferred. In addition, the admin rights requirement is no longer a concern since you have full access to the USB drive.

An application can cater to both multi-user environment and portability by checking with the user on startup (when it detects that the settings are not initialized yet) whether he wishes to write settings to the user profile folder or application folder. This should be relatively easy to implement, and makes no assumption on the user's preference. Underlying this mechanism is to check for a file eg. settings.ini in the application folder on startup. If the file exists, it write its settings to the application folder, otherwise to the user profile folder.

With regards to the issue of upgrading an application without losing its settings, you could just as easily upgrade a portable app without losing settings by avoiding the appropriate file(s). Some well-designed apps like Portable Firefox even has a explicit profile folder that you simply leave alone when copying over the new application files. This also has the added advantage of being able to easily maintain several versions of the same application, each with its own settings.

I just posted something in the forum but it didn't show up. What happened?

If this is your first post, it must be authorized by one of the site moderators/admins within 2 days, usually earlier, so please be patient. This is part of our strategy for combating spam on the forum.

What is the process for getting an application into the database?

Anyone who signs up as a forum member can add an application into the database after 24 hours. However, that application will be "private" and will not be displayed to the public. You need to get other forum members to vote for the application. Once an application has accumulated 10 votes, it will become public.

It's recommended that you go this route AFTER submitting the program in questions to the forum, or there's a good chance it won't get the necessary votes to go public. However, if you feel sure it will be welcomed, you can start the process by going to the home page and selecting "Add Entry":

Why hasn't [name of application] been added? It's portable and a great program.

First, see What is the process for getting an application into the database?.

You can help this process along by:

  • Doing portability testing. Even basic tests can help, such as explaining if a setting file appears in the local folder after launch or if moving it from drive to drive breaks functionality.
  • If it's still in "private" status, encourage other users to vote for the program.
  • Is the program already in the Submissions forum?
    • If no: post the program to the Submission forum along with detail described below.
    • If yes: try to explain what the program is, applications for it's use, why it's great, or include a screenshot that we might use in the entry.

How does the voting process work?

Each member has a "rank". The rank for a new member is initially 0. Each 50 messages posted to the forum, or two applications added to the database that have been voted public increases that member's rank by 1. The maximum rank for a member is 5.

A member can vote for an application by clicking on the "This app rocks!" link. The rank for that member will contribute an equivalent number of votes to that application. A new member with rank 0 will therefore not move the vote count at all, though if his rank moves up later, all votes cast by him will be restropectively updated.

The votes can also be withdrawn at any time by clicking on the "This app sucks!" link.

Do you support the software in the database?

No, we are just listing the information and this site is made up of volunteer effort. Some applications may, upon update, no longer be portable or even freeware. Please notify us in forums if you see an application like this.

How do I extract files directly from an installer without going through the whole installation process?

A program called Universal Extractor may be used to extract files directly from many different types of installer packages. This opens up the internals of a program without going through an (often non-portable) install process. Just move the installer into the window and choose OK.

Although many programs on the site work with the default program, for some newer programs, it may be necessary to manually update a component of the program: innoup.

1. Visit the innounp SourceForge download directory and choose the latest version (at the top of the list).

2. Download the file innounp[version number].rar and extract using Universal Extractor (or other RAR-compatible program).

3. Close the program and copy the resulting innoup.exe file to the \bin subfolder of Universal Extractor.

To extract from MSI files, you can try LessMSI or jsMSIx.

How do you test the programs to ensure they are portable?

There is a lot of good information in this forum topic.

A simplistic way is to extract the program and compare the before/after snapshot with RegShot to find out what was modified and where settings are written to. Dependency Walker to check whether the EXE uses any particular runtime (eg. VB, .Net, Java) or special DLLs.

How do I enable autorun on my USB drive so that certain applications or documents are launched when I plug my USB drive into the PC?

This appears to be a hardware issue. For more information, refer to Microsoft's USB Storage - FAQ for Driver and Hardware Developers and read the section on "What must I do to trigger Autorun on my USB storage device?" for more information. The conclusion is this: if your USB drive does not support it, you are pretty much out of luck.

Another solution is to resort to software. For example, there is a freeware called APO USB Autorun Suite that enables autorun for USB drives (thanks to Steve Towner and Dennis Lim for the recommendation). Another I found recently is BusRunner. Yet another one called AutoRun installs a small event handler to do the same thing.

But the software approach requires the software to be installed on every machine that you want this functionality enabled, and you need to leave the application running all the time. Hardly a perfect solution, but definitely cheaper than throwing away your USB drive and buying a new one!

What are some of the different software license types?


  • Public Domain - free for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction under copyright law.
  • Open Source - programs with source code available (Chromium Portable, XPY, OpenOffice).
  • Free Software - a separate term applied to not just open source but a share-and-share-alike license. (FastCopy, Free Download Manager, VLC).
  • Freeware - run and use freely, but you can't look under the hood (most programs on the site).
  • Liteware - a "lighter" version of an existing commercial version, but still has lots of good functionality (XMind).
  • Freemium - (free + premium) eg. free but lets you buy components (BlueGriffon).


  • Donationware (limited) - there are many forms of donationware. Some required you to fork over some money before certain features are enabled. Others are more tongue-in-cheek eg. postcardware, beerware, charityware. You don't really need to send the author a postcard or beer to use the software, but it will contribute to your karma if you do.


  • Crippleware - basic program is severly restricted, especially the most obvious operation e.g. a download manager that limits downloads.
  • Demo: Time-limited - only works for a short time.
  • Demo: Intro - just the very edge of the program to show what it could do if you bought it. This is similar to crippleware but separate in that it's functionality is so low, it's closer to a video demonstration than software.

Not Recommended

Note: with few exceptions, we make every effort to avoid the following programs. These exceptions include contacting the home website to check for updates or otherwise, sending a nag screen every 6 months, or small ads for programs by the same developer.

  • Adware - pays for itself through advertisements (uTorrent).
  • Nagware - annoys you to encourage you to buy the nag-free version.
  • Spyware - pays for itself by selling user-data to companies.
  • Malware - a very broad category of programs that hurt your computer, with some more invasive spyware considered malware.

We discuss the different license types in our forum here.

Why can't you include my adware/shareware/demoware/etc.?

Commercial developers can have an advertising budget and resources available to them to help get their name out. They don't need help the way freeware developers do. Additionally, as a conversation with several bundleware sellers one of our users shared with us, there is a big push in freeware to include some kind of revenue-generating software. For those that resist the urge to add these things, we want to say thanks.