Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Get a boost from your thumb drive

Thumb drives are amazing. They’re fast, they’re small, they make great keychain fobs, and they’re affordable. I have seen 8GB thumb drives for as little as $30, and 16GB’s for $50*.
That’s right– sixteen billion bytes. (The hard drive on my P-II [still running] is 4.3GB’s.)

Yes, thumb drives are all those things, and they’re practical too. By purchasing a U3 drive, or downloading the Portable Apps suite, you can easily convert your thumb drive to a “computer on a stick” and run your applications from it (as opposed to the host computer). This can be particularly useful when traveling, as you can carry your bookmarks, contacts, and documents with you.. and you won’t leave histories and ‘tracks’ that someone can read later.

In this article,, I tell you the steps for installing (pretty much) any program onto your thumb drive. By doing so, you can load your favorite, and most useful programs onto your computer-on-a-stick.. allowing you to carry a computer on your keychain (sort of).
I recommend loading a antivirus, and a couple of anti-spyware onto your thumb drives, and — since thumb drives are small and “losable”– using encryption to render the drive unreadable without knowing the password.

In another article,, I describe how to make a thumb drive “bootable”, and how you can load it up with diagnostic and repair programs; thus turning it into a recovery tool, and portable repair kit-on-a-stick. (This is for the more geek-inclined, but there is some good information there even if you aren’t skilled in computer repair.)

But even if you aren’t interested in using a “computer on a stick”, Vista users can still get some extra mileage out of your drive that you might not be aware of…
Tip of the day: Improve Vista’s performance with ReadyBoost. Loyal readers of this series will already know that 1) Vista is a resource hog, and 2) the best way to improve Vista’s performance is to give it lots of RAM. Well, the flash memory in your thumb drive may be fast enough for Vista to use as additional RAM (this is determined by the make/model of your thumb drive. Typically, the discount, or generic drives are not fast enough).

When you plug in a thumb drive, a small window opens which provides a list of options of what you want to do with this device– one of the options is “speed up my system”. Select this, and another window opens; click “Use this device”. If your thumb drive is capable of ReadyBoost, you’ll see a slider which allows you to allocate how much of your drive’s room you want to give over to the Vista OS– accepting the default is fine.
That’s it. You’re done. Pretty painless way to add RAM, eh? (cheap, too.)

Today’s free link: today’s free link is a repeat, but it is simply the best way to encrypt your volumes (drives), files and/or folders — such as your thumb drive. Download the free TrueCrypt, and make sure a lost thumb drive won’t be a minor disaster.

* As a testiment to Moore’s Law, just two weeks after posting this, I have seen the prices go down $20!

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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April 11, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, thumb drives, tweaks, USB storage devices, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments