Carry a PC in Your Pocket

A notebook PC is a handy thing to have, but lugging one around everywhere you go can be downright inconvenient. Fortunately, there's a solution that fits right in your pocket: The ubiquitous USB flash drive, often called a keychain or thumb drive.

With the right device and software, you can plug your flash drive into a computer at an Internet cafe, hotel business center, or elsewhere, and have all the tools and files you need to do your work--complete with your own personal launch menu. Sure, you can use online applications like Google Docs or Zoho Office (see Life Without Desktop Software for more on these), but a flash drive lets you carry a much wider variety of the applications, utilities, and other fun doodads you've come to depend on.

Here's everything you need, from hardware to software and beyond, to get going in the world of pocket computing.

Harness the Right Hardware

To get the most out of portable computing, you need a good flash drive. Here are some things to consider:

Take a drive on the reading edge

Take a drive on the reading edge. The faster your flash drive, the more smoothly programs will run. When shopping for a drive, look at the specs and try to find one with a read rate of 15 mbps (megabits per second; in megabytes, 1.9 MBps) or faster. If you already have a flash drive, you can test its speed with a free utility like HDTach for Windows.

Look for high-speed USB. A USB 2.0 flash drive will perform much better than USB 1.x. Make sure the drive you buy specifies USB 2.0 or "high-speed USB."

 U3 or not U3?

U3 or not U3? Some flash drives (notably those from SanDisk) are labeled "U3," meaning they use a proprietary format to create applications for USB drives. Such drives usually come with a built-in pop-up program launcher called LaunchPad and a few programs, or they at least link to a Web page for downloading and installing free and for-pay U3 applications. SanDisk claims that only U3-compatible programs will run on such a drive, but I had no problem running U3 and non-U3 programs side by side on the same memory stick. (However, don't expect your non-U3 apps to show up on the U3 launch menu.)

With so many portable applications available from a variety of free sources these days, you don't necessarily have to get a U3-equipped drive. If you do have one, you can either take advantage of the LaunchPad feature and its various apps, or you can find utilities for removing U3 LaunchPad software from and from . And if you change your mind about such removal, SanDisk has a .

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Dunn

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?