Server FaultGood tools that fit on a thumb drive
[+184] [61] Shard
[2009-04-30 09:44:46]
[ usb-flash-drive ]
[ ]

I have been on the lookout lately for some good tools to fill up my flash drive [1] 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 [2], CCleaner [3] and the portable apps suite [4].

(9) If this were SO I would say notepad++. But, alas, I am at a loss. - jjnguy
(7) A good text editor is critical for server admin too I think - Glenn Slaven
For what OS? [this comment does not need 15 characters] - Tony Meyer
Any OS that uses config files longer than 15 lines long! - Glenn Slaven
(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. - Rory Becker
congrats on the first gold-badge in serverfault! - Amir Arad
This question doesn't specify the use-case (in what situation would you use this USB? Would it be for webserver admin? Or just to carry around with you for diagnosing problems on other machines? Or something else entirely?), O/S (Try running an exe in Linux without additional tools), dependencies (do you expect to already have python? perl? ruby? PHP?). Furthermore, I don't know whether it's a good idea to use rewritable media for software like that, anyway. Better to use ROM so that, if a machine later is found to be infected, the infection hasn't spread via the USB. - Parthian Shot
[+133] [2009-04-30 09:59:16] Amir Arad [ACCEPTED]

These are the utilities I have on my drive:

  • CurrPorts [1] displays the list of all currently opened TCP/IP and UDP ports on your local computer.
  • ftpserver3lite [2] is an FTP server
  • ftpwanderer2 [3] is an FTP client
  • ipnetinfo [4] answers questions about an IP address: owner, country/state, range, contact info, etc.
  • miranda [5] general messaging solution (supports most P2P [6] messaging networks)
  • omziff [7] encryption decryption tool.
  • FoxitReader [8] wonderful alternative to adobe's PDF reader. light and fast and portable.
  • Qm (The Quick Mailer) [9] if you just want to send an Email the old pasion way with no installation.
  • Restoration [10] quick and basic undelete utility.
  • smsniff [11] basic TCP sniffer.
  • torpark [12] a Firefox-based browser for completely discrete browsing.
  • treepad [13] just a nice utility to organize your data in, much like freemind and other mind maps [14].
  • cpicture [15] a picture viewer
  • DriveMan [16] for managing hard drives on the local computer.
  • FollowMeIPLite [17] very much like only much quicker.
  • hfs [18] opens a small HTTP file server from desired folder, for instant file sharing.
  • angry ip scanner [19] scans IP's
  • kill.exe - needs no introduction :)
  • putty [20] a telnet utility every system administrator has got to be familiar with.
  • startup control panel [21], StartupList [22], regcleaner - really there are many registry cleaners/managers out there, lots of them fits nicely in a thumb-drive.
  • Revealer [23] reveals passwords from password fields. It is very useful in many situations.
  • vncviewer [24] client for the VNC remote desktop protocol
  • WinAudit [25] audits a Windows machine. Lots of useful information.
  • xcopy.exe - it is still useful to have around.
  • TcpView [26] shows all all TCP and UDP endpoints on your system.

Beyond Compare [27] is fantastic, btw. Also, you might want to check out portable freeware [28].


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! - Factor Mystic
for HFS, be sure to use the beta version for additional functions. - djangofan
[+45] [2009-04-30 10:16:23] Glenn Slaven

Beyond Compare [1], 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
(1) Is that still shareware? I propose WinMerge, which is freeware... - alex
(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
@dthrasher If I were stranded on a desert island with a computer, I'd want some solar power and satellite internet. - Paul
[+45] [2009-04-30 10:25:15] Rory Becker

Most Previously SysInternals Tools [1]

Also Kudos to Palmin for mentioning " Sysinternals Live [2]", in the comments. (see [3])


(12) Might be worth to also mention "Sysinternals Live", see - Palmin
[+32] [2009-04-30 09:55:12] JAG

In top of that, I strongly recommend to add TrueCrypt [1] 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.


[+31] [2009-04-30 11:57:12] Scott and the Dev Team

I got these from [1] some time ago and I really love them.

  1. TrueCrypt [2] – encrypt your thumb drive to protect your information

  2. ToDoList [3] – 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 [4] – Leaves no personal information behind on the machine - you can take along your browser/extensions/bookmarks anywhere

  4. Pidgin Portable [5] – All-in-one instant messaging (supports AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, G-Chat, etc)

  5. WS FTP32 [6] – ftp client

  6. FileZilla [7] – yet another ftp client

  7. Notepad2 [8] – a fast light-weight advanced text editor with syntax highlighting

  8. Notepad++ [9] - this is one of my favorite text editors – now made portable

  9. Color Cop [10] – 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 [11] – 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 [12] – the popular open source image editor packaged as a portable app – very robust

  12. 7-Zip Portable [13] – handles zip, gzip, tar, rar etc

  13. Allway Sync [14] – syncs files between your thumb drive and PC

  14. Unknown Devices [15] – helps you find out what the unknown devices in the device manager are

  15. TestDisk [16] – data recovery software that can recover lost partitions or make drives bootable again

  16. UTorrent [17] – my preferred bit torrent client – I love having this with me wherever I go

  17. Roeder's .NET Reflector [18] – 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 [19] – formerly Filemon and Regmon, this is an invaluable sleuthing tool

  19. TightVNC [20] – based on the popular VNC remote control software, this version can live on a thumb drive

  20. WinMerge [21] – compares differences between files and merges changes. It has the same features as the desktop version

  21. Text2Html [22] – a text to HTML converter – converts text files into HTML format

  22. Portable Apps Suite [23] – 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 [24] – Recover accidentally deleted files – even after they were deleted from the recycle bin

  24. Infra Recorder Portable [25] – cd and dvd burning

  25. RockXP [26] – 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
same DBKK, same :) - Pure.Krome
The link for ToDoList is wrong. It should be I'd fix it myself, but I don't have enough rep yet ;) - Jim Harte
The ToDo List link has been updated. - Scott and the Dev Team
Filezilla is better than WS_FTP any day of the week. - LawrenceC
[+22] [2009-04-30 10:26:25] Rory Becker

[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 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
[+22] [2009-04-30 10:33:53] Blorgbeard

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
(1) Perhaps the question should be changed to "RUN on a thumb drive." As in portable. - Travis
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
[+18] [2009-04-30 11:24:58] Tony Meyer

Linux [1] (e.g. Debian [2], Knoppix [3], Puppy [4]). 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
(2) Yes, especially if you need to get to a NTFS file that is behind an unknown password. - DrFloyd5
Also, usually those linux images have also useful software that is actually unrelated to linux like memtest86. - Juha Syrjälä
[+18] [2009-04-30 17:53:23] Robert Deml

Wireshark - monitor network traffic.

[+15] [2009-04-30 11:12:58] Richard Slater

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

  • WinDirStat [1] - for hunting down large files and directories on hard drives
  • Stinger [2] - for killing common virus infections

[+14] [2009-04-30 12:11:39] Huppie

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

RegexBuddy [1]
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. - Rory Becker
(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
How about Strawberry Perl? :D - Lucas Jones
What's with the "aff=jatwood" portion of the URL? Is Huppie another Jeff Atwood account? - Nathan Bedford
Nope, but if you'll link them you might as well sponsor one of your favorite bloggers. - Huppie
I use a tool called WildReplace that would give it a run for its money... - djangofan
[+8] [2009-04-30 10:15:05] Alconja

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

[+8] [2009-04-30 12:43:58] Shalom Craimer

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.


[+8] [2009-04-30 16:39:39] Ates Goral

Definitely Total Commander [1]. 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 [2] (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).


[+7] [2009-04-30 10:59:57] Amir Arad

DosBox [1] of course, for when you need to emulate an old ODS machine for, umm, old office applications.


Games. I mean old games. - Amir Arad
Don't we all want to stick with WordPerfect 5.1 :') - Huppie
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
[+7] [2009-04-30 19:33:29] silent__thought

[+6] [2009-04-30 11:03:43] John

Aside from SysInternals, utilities from Nirsoft [1] are also useful.


Yes. Sysinternals and Nirsoft. A lovely combination. - John K. N.
[+6] [2009-04-30 16:35:55] SqlACID

Installers for perl and vim

never leave hone without it - Adyt
[+5] [2009-04-30 18:01:48] Manuel Ferreria

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

[+5] [2009-04-30 19:06:11] BCS

Win32 GNU tool set

[+4] [2009-04-30 10:41:56] Rory Becker

AutoHotKey [1] 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
[+3] [2009-04-30 15:53:08] Steven Behnke

I really like for this.

[+3] [2009-04-30 17:05:29] gimel

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 [1] a is free binary file editor for Windows.

HxD [2] is a carefully designed and fast hex editor, seems more current.


[+3] [2009-04-30 19:37:31] squillman

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. - Lucas Jones
Oooh, sorry for dogging you on the reply for so long! Didn't notice. Fresh install. - squillman
[+3] [2010-09-27 13:47:06] adolf garlic

For constantly updated info on this, check out

[+2] [2009-04-30 10:01:44] mwore

Directory Opus [1], 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? ^^ - Oskar Duveborn
[+2] [2009-04-30 10:33:28] paulgreg

Maybe take a look on Framakey [1] which is a compilation of modified program to use them on a USB stick.

It currently includes :

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • 2.0b
  • VLC
  • Coolplayer
  • Scite

Not much there (anything) that you can't get from PortableApps ( individually. - Lucas Jones
Firefox is the best! - Techboy
[+2] [2009-04-30 13:14:51] dthrasher

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
[+2] [2009-04-30 17:42:07] Michael Brown

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

[+2] [2009-04-30 19:20:41] saldoukhov

Far manager [1], 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
[+2] [2009-05-01 02:34:14] Christopher Galpin

To mention a few I don't yet see listed:

WhyReboot [1] (reports restart queued operations)
CPUID's CPU-Z [2] (hardware info)
CloneSpy [3] (duplicate files)
Scanner [4] (disk usage)

I also second @John [5]'s recommendation for the suite of tools by NirSoft [6] in addition to SysInternals, too many to bother listing separately.


[+2] [2009-05-04 09:53:59] Martin Marconcini

I work with a lot of MS-SQL installs so I always have a copy of the old (no longer shipped) odbcping.exe. Last Microsoft SQL version to ship it was SQL Server 2000 (afaicr).

Very useful to determine if there's a problem with a SQL Instance.

usage: odbcping [-S Server | -D DSN] [-U Login Id] [-P Password]

[+2] [2009-05-10 07:20:01] phillc

moveable python [1]


I can't understand why this isn't upvoted yet (?!). - Rook
[+1] [2009-04-30 23:41:36] jayrdub

You can get UBCD4WIN on a thumbdrive

[+1] [2009-05-01 02:38:23] Kurt W. Leucht

Installer for AVG anti-virus.

[+1] [2009-05-01 03:14:27] tsilb

VPC 2007 and Two VHD's:

  • XP Clean & patched / template box
  • XP Loaded with tools and goodies

[+1] [2009-05-05 07:45:17] thomasrutter

I just loaded up my thumb drive with:

  • 7-zip portable
  • Autoruns
  • Eraser portable
  • Filezilla portable
  • Firefox portable
  • JkDegrag portable
  • Process Explorer
  • Putty
  • Truecrypt
  • Vim
  • VLC portable
  • WinDirStat portable

I have another thumb drive that is a bootable live Linux which comes in handy for gparted, dd, etc.

[+1] [2009-05-08 15:29:14] scottm

sysinternals was already mentioned, but I wanted to point out Desktops [1] explicitly. It's an awesome tool when it works.

Desktops allows you to organize your applications on up to four virtual desktops. Read email on one, browse the web on the second, and do work in your productivity software on the third, without the clutter of the windows you’re not using. After you configure hotkeys for switching desktops, you can create and switch desktops either by clicking on the tray icon to open a desktop preview and switching window, or by using the hotkeys.


[+1] [2009-05-09 06:00:50] Peter Turner

I know linux has been mentioned, but DamnSmallLinux [1] has a VM version > 50 Meg's it's pretty awesome.


[+1] [2009-05-10 22:13:56] leander

For disk usage, I've seen utilities that use treemap visualization mentioned, but not the ancient, small, and unfortunately named Scanner [1] (distributed as

I find Scanner's sunburst chart much easier to read than treemaps, even if it lacks some of the features and speed of things like WinDirStat and SequoiaView.


[+1] [2009-05-11 11:12:33] amarillion

Use TiddlyWiki as a notebook:

Ideal for carrying all your system-administration notes around on a stick. A full-featured wiki with wiki markup, links and tags in a single self-modifying html file.

[+1] [2009-06-02 23:47:32] Kyle

OpenOffice! It's not perfect, but darned handy. There's a portable version too.

This way if I get to a machine that has some budget version of Microsoft Office, or heaven forbid MS Works, installed I have tools that I am used to readily at hand.

[+1] [2009-07-22 15:49:11] Umber Ferrule

Spacemonger v1.4 [1] for tracking down large files/directories. Free, small and colourful.


[+1] [2009-07-22 18:14:02] anonymous
[0] [2009-04-30 10:41:34] Damian Powell

Right now I have a 16GB OCZ Rally2 which I find dead handy. I keep lots of the tools mentioned above on it (in portable app form, mostly).

I've got the contents of some useful OSs on there: notably Windows XP, Server 2003, and also the Win 7 Beta. I created a partition that is compatible with W7 too so I can install directly without an optical disc. Dead handy for testing on laptops with varied hardware configurations.

[0] [2009-04-30 11:03:22] Brian

Tor -- you never know when you're going to need Web access that is free from cookies, Java, and other plug-ins.

[0] [2009-04-30 21:46:06] MarlonRibunal

JkDefrag v3.36 [1] - Better than the Native Windows disk degfragmenter. It can run from your USB drive. And best of all, it's FREE!


Superseded by and now at 4.0. Unfortunately, it's install-only but there's only one directory so you can zip it up and run that portably. - dmoisan
I stick to jkdefrag - mydefrag seems comparitively bloated. - Journeyman Geek
[0] [2009-05-01 01:24:07] rbrayb

Look at the PC Repair/Toolkit [1]

For reference:

  • DCoT Menu
  • Active@ ISO Burner
  • AutoCompress
  • Brute Benchmark
  • CCleaner
  • CDmage
  • DriveImage XML
  • Double Killer
  • DTaskManager
  • encopy
  • Eraser
  • explore2fs
  • File Assassin
  • Filemon
  • Hash
  • HDDScan
  • LC ISO Creator
  • LSASecretsView
  • Patcher
  • PMMon
  • ProcessExplorer
  • ProduKey
  • Regmon
  • Restoration
  • Roadkil’s CommTest
  • Roadkil’s Disk Image
  • Rootkit Revealer
  • SequoiaView
  • System Information for Windows
  • TweakUI
  • Universal Extract
  • Virtual CD Control Panel
  • What Changed?
  • Why Reboot?
  • WirelessKeyView

[0] [2009-05-06 11:22:52] Ash

If you need to view/edit XML files of any type I highly recommend First Object XML Editor [1].

Lightweight, no install, tree-view/editor synchronisation, syntax highlighting, and best of all a customizable Indent option (F8) to make sense of crazy Microsoft config files ;)


[0] [2009-05-09 19:41:07] Tim Lara

Drive Snapshot disk imaging tool:

No installation necessary, so you can just run the EXE on any host (Windows) to create a disk image to an external drive or network location.

[0] [2009-05-10 09:07:08] Osama ALASSIRY

I have a bootable Ubuntu USB thumb drive(recently updated to 9.04), It has saved Data from many dead laptops and PCs.

[0] [2009-05-30 06:06:10] Daniel

I like this USB software package --

[0] [2009-05-30 22:01:11] Wim ten Brink

Just wondering... How big is that flash disk supposed to be? I myself have one that is 32 GB and there's a lot that you can fit on that. ;-) If you use it on a system that can boot from USB, you might even consider installing a complete operating system on it, to run from USB. (Most likely going to be Linux.)

[0] [2009-06-01 15:43:27] Shane

I'm a fan of SIW (System Information for Windows). Lets you check a lot of computer information from a small exe file that fits on a thumb drive. It's got a free version as well which has always done everything I needed it to.

[0] [2009-06-03 20:49:48] KPWINC

I would add the following:

  1. Tunnelier
  2. KeePass

[0] [2009-06-03 20:57:58] XTZ

Clonezilla Live, Knoppix and Trinity Rescue Kit are great for larger usb drives. I edit the syslinux.cfg file so all 3 are bootable.

[0] [2009-06-21 01:14:01] fretje

Pendrivelinux [1]: make your thumb drive bootable!

They also have persistent installs now: your-whole-pc-on-a-stick ;-)


[0] [2009-06-22 01:33:41] Peter Hahndorf

I like to mention two old-school apps I use:

  1. Windows NT 3.5 File Manager (winfile.exe). A single file that gives me raw access to the file system. For 2000/XP use the version that came with NT4 Service 4. Under Vista/7 the original version doesn't run anymore, but there is a patched version at

  2. 4NT, a powerful command line interpreter, for the cases when Powershell is not installed. Sadly, the vendor discontinued it.

[0] [2009-07-22 17:57:51] asd

iperf and wireshark are good. Not sure why you'd use the other sniffer when Wireshark is around.

[0] [2010-02-13 21:27:51] Oskar Duveborn

Win7 install/PE and ghost32 for PE.

[0] [2010-08-11 13:50:50] matt

I would probably find windows boxes unusable with FAR manager, or any OFM.