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Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better, Third Edition by Gina Trapani, Adam Pash

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Hack 69: Carry Your Life on a Flash Drive

Level Medium

Platform Windows (with a flash drive)

Cost Free

Portable hard drives such as USB flash drives get cheaper, smaller in size, and larger in capacity by the day. Instead of lugging around your laptop or emailing yourself files, store your favorite software applications and important data on a thumb (flash) drive about the size of a car key. Then plug it into any computer for quick and easy access on the go.

This hack covers popular portable applications and some practical uses for these small drives.

Why Use a Flash Drive?

Consider a few scenarios in which a USB drive loaded with your favorite applications and important documents might come in handy:

  • You work on a set of files on several different computers (such as at the office and at home, on the laptop and the desktop) and you want easy access to them from one place.
  • Your IT department doesn’t give you administrative rights to install your favorite software on your office computer.
  • You’d like to back up your files and store them offsite, such as home files at the office or work files at home. (You can store USB drives in a safety deposit box or mail one to Mom in Florida every few months, too.)
  • You don’t want to download and install your favorite application at every computer you use.
  • You want to avoid using your in-laws’ hijacked web browser to download virus scanners and spyware cleaners; instead, you want to take the tools you need to fix their computer along on your ...

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