Hard disk failures and theft are a fact of life. It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when is it going to happen to you?

But neither of these events need to be a disaster. You can easily turn them into an incident or even a hiccup.

One of the things I really dislike about Windows is when Microsoft introduced the registry when they released Windows 2000. I don’t care what arguments they have for it being a good idea, as far as I’m concerned it’s a bloody nuisance as it means that apps are no longer self-encapsulated in their own folder.

That means that if your hard drive crashes and you have to reinstall Windows, you also have to reinstall all your apps too. So what should take an hour to reinstall Windows and then another 30 minutes to recreate links to all the apps on your second drive, can take several days before you get everything back to the way it was before the crash.

Of course if you’re like me and you’ve made your system partition as small as possible and you take full partition backups every so often, then you can be up and running quickly. But it takes a fair bit of technical skill to know what you’re doing and re-partition your drives, and it’s definitely not for everybody.

But of course Microsoft bloat and madness got a little bit worse when they introduced the /winsxs/ folder in Vista, making whole partition backups take much longer for zero benefit.   Don’t get me started.

However, there’s a partial solution to the problem in the form of PortableApps. These are free tools that will run from a memory stick and don’t need to be installed on your PC. Aha!

So if your PC goes bye-byes, all you need to do is re-install Windows, and most evberything else will work immediately from your memmory stick. You can even copy it all to another hard drive or partition in your system if you like, in order to speed things up – you don’t need to run it all from a memory stick, just make sure it’s in synch with your hard drive every day or so and you’re fine.

There are lots of free tool that come with the PortableApps platform including FireFox, Opera, and Chrome browsers, OpenOffice, and Skype to name a few. And there are pretty much variants of most of the key apps you need to run too.

So what you can do is get a cheap memory stick and external hard drive, PortableApps with PortableFireFox, PortableKeePass, and PortableToucan to synch and back it all up – all of them free.


Then it doesn’t matter if your PC is stolen or terminally crashes. As long as you still have your USB stick and backups of your key data and bookmarks (FireFox has an excellent bookmark backup), you can restore everything you’ve lost.

It’s happened to me and got me out of trouble.

It’s seriously worth a look over the weekend.

-Frank Haywood