A USB Drive is known for carry data, be it music, photos, documents, videos, etc. But there's a whole other side to these handy little gadgets. Take a look at these 10 ways that a USB drive can be used for more than just storing data.
1. Run portable applications (just like your smart phone)
Portable apps are becoming more and more popular everyday and businesses are starting to see the benefits of using them internally and externally to market their products. USB drives are perfect devices for these applications. For instance, OpenOffice, which is a complete office suite that contains a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, drawing software and database, is available as a portable app. Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird offer portable web navigation as portable applications. If you take these tools, sometimes the ability to check your email, surf the web and be able to use a full office suite, in combination with the mobility of a USB drive, you've given yourself the ability to redefine your office environment!
If you need more, you can choose a variety of other applications for use on a USB drive from Portableapps.com. You can even download an suite package of applications that include some cool tools like an audio player, games, antivirus utilities and a customizable menu system that is dedicated to your USB drive.
2. Boot an operating system
Some of us older geeks remember making thirty copies of a "boot disk" on old 3.5 floppy disks.
If you crash your hard drive and you can not get into windows to fix anything or (worst case scenario) save any files to a safe location, you'll need what is called a boot disk. Since it's a pretty rare thing for a computer to have a floppy disk in it, you're going to need a USB drive. Both Windows XP and Linux support creating USB drive boot disks; sorry Mac users, you're gonna have to find a different option (more than probably costing you hundreds to thousands of dollars).
3. Install an operating system
Some of us newer geeks know that netbooks do not have DVD-Rom drives, so there's no way to install software that is on an optical disc (optical disc, HA!).
Now if you bought a new netbook or any computer system that does not have a DVD-Rom drive, the only way you'll be able to reload the computer with your operating system is to install the OS from a USB drive. This is going to be a major thorn in optical disc manufacturers side for years to come (and may put them out of business) but it is a sign of things to come for the USB drive.
Connect to a wireless network
As more of us are moving to wireless networks for our devices a USB drive is a must. Take, for example, my home. My wife and I have two laptops, a desktop, a netbook, a wireless printer, two smart phones, an Xbox 360, a wireless home theater system, and a PlayStation 3. All of these devices connect to our wireless network. I used a USB drive with our network settings to setup each of these devices to connect to the network. This saved me from writing down the network address, the security key and the network settings and then inputting these settings into each device. Pretty slick. To learn more about using the Wireless Network Setup Wizard, see the Help And Support Center, which is accessible from Windows XP's Start menu. To learn more about using the Windows Connect Now feature, see Windows Help And Support, which is accessible from Windows Vista's Start menu.
5. Create a password reset disk
I've noticed that more and more password protection systems are getting really tricky for you to create passwords that are easy to remember. Most of us have one word that is our standard password. But some systems require 7 characters, some require 8. Some need 1 number anywhere, some need 1 number at the beginning and at the end. Some really get out of control with 1 capitalized character, 2 numbers, no reapeating characters and on and on. It's getting really tricky to remember passwords. Well a USB drive can become a password reset disk for a major one, your Windows User Account. Just plug in the drive to reset your password and your back into your system.
6. Boost PC performance
If you're running Windows 7 or Vista, you can use a USB drive to speed up your system with the ReadyBoost feature. This utility will use the space on a USB drive as a memory cache to compliment the memory cache on your hard drive. This works especially well because a flash drive is more responsive than a hard drive that has physical moving parts.
Using ReadyBoost is really pretty easy. Just plug in your USB drive (preferably from Bizdriveusb.com) into your system and click ReadyBoost at the prompt and then follow the instructions.
7. Use it as an MP3 Player at work, home, and in the car
As we grow more and more MP3 friendly, there are many places that are becoming more MP3 friendly. If you're at work, plug your USB drive into your system and Windows Media Player will play your MP3s directly from the drive. Many home theater receivers now come with a front panel USB port for playing MP3 files. And most new aftermarket car stereos and quite a few OEM car stereos have a MP3 compatible USB port that will play MP3s. Best of all, there's no iTunes involved. To see information about aftermarket car stereos and home theater systems that are USB ready, visit Crutchfield.com.
If you are carrying a USB drive that has some sensitive data that, in the event that you lose the drive, you want to keep from prying eyes you can password protect the drive. A program called Rohos Mini Drive can safeguard that data. This tool allows you to create a partition on the drive and then password protect that partition. Just copy files into that partition and they are secure.
9. Run a Website from it
If you are a web developer, you'll be interested to know that you can run a web server that supports Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Perl from a USB drive with Server2Go. Server2Go runs right out of the box with no installation and will run on all versions of Windows, supports the most common browsers, and is completely free. Having a portable website is a pretty cool idea, especially if you are giving a sales presentation and need to give a live website demo.
10. Lock your PC
You know the scene in the movie, when the secret agent inserts his passcard into a security system or PC to login and logout? Well it's pretty easy to do the same with a USB drive. Predator is a software system that can turn your USB drive into a key for your PC. You can lock and unlock your computer just by inserting your USB drive. While the drive is connected to your computer, everything works as it should. Once your remove the drive, your computer is locked completely, even your keyboard, mouse, and screen are disabled. Plug the USB drive back in and everything comes right back up.