Create The Ultimate USB Rescue Drive

by Cyle — Categories: tools, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , 6 Comments

Ever been at a friends house and needed to edit a photo, but all they have is MS Paint? Or have you ever been at grandmas and she asks you to remove the hundreds of viruses and spywares (she got from clicking the “You’ve won! Download this for your prize” banners), but she has no anti-spyware software and still on dial-up? Well that’s where a rescue USB drive comes in handy. There are many programs that can be installed and run from a USB drive. You can even run entire operating systems from one, which makes it easier to remove viruses buried in current OS files. Below is a list of at least 75 programs and operating systems that can be run straight off a USB stick. There are many more, but these are the ones I have found most useful. I’m sure I missed some, so leave me a comment if you know of any that are have-to-haves.



Software Bundles and Launchers

These make it much easier to find and run the programs off of your USB drive, but do not work with every program. They are like start menus for your thumb drive programs. You must download the software from their website though. If you use any of these then I would recommend downloading the applications from their websites since it will be integrated with their launchers.


My favorite. They have a ton of programs and it is very easy to install and use.


I have used this one before, and must say it is just as good as the rest. I love how they have suites that download and keep all the software updated. The ultimate suite has about 150 applications and most are listed below.


I have personally never used this one, but a lot of people swear by it so I am including it.

Appetizer Dock

I have not used this one either, but it is just a launcher. You can add already installed programs to the dock. It also has keyboard shortcuts and autorun support for multiple programs.


Graphic/Image Editors and Viewers

Use these programs to edit images and view them. It makes it much easier than using MS Paint.


I love Gimp! It is similar to Photoshop, but free! I use this to edit most of my images. There are many more simple editors out there, but I have been using Gimp for years.


I use this mainly to view images, but it can also do some editing. It does all the basics like crop, rotate, etc. and can do more through plugins.


I have no experience with this one, but it looks legit.


This is an image viewer, organizor, and converter.

FastStone Photo Resizer

Convert, rename, resize, crop, rotate, change color depth, add text and watermarks to images in a quick and easy batch mode.


Document Based

Microsoft Word does not come installed on most computers and WordPad just doesn’t cut it so here are some document based portable programs.


Very similar to Microsoft Word, but free! I use this when I do not have access to MS Word.


Just like OpenOffice. And similar to MS Word.


Just like MS Word and the other document programs.


This is more of a text editor geared for developers. It has syntax and highlighting for all the major programming languages.


PSPad is my text editor of choice when doing web development. It makes it much easier to use than just a simple text editor like WordPad. (Download zip file and extract on USB drive)

Foxit Reader

A simple to use PDF viewer.


Games and Emulators

My favorite section! These are great to keep on your USB drive for when you get bored at work or school. It’s great because your saved game file is always with you and can just pick up where you left off on any other computer.


AssaultCube is a first person multiplayer shooter. Similar to Counter-Strike. (Install to USB then run BAT file in folder)


A Texas Holdem style poker game. Can be played with other humans or computers or both. (Download zip file and extract on USB drive)


You know what minecraft is! It is a must have! (Download exe file to USB and run)


3rd person army command style game with many game modes including multiplayer.


Super Nintendo Emulator. Make sure and download the roms (games) which will have to be found elsewhere.


GameBoy Emulator. Make sure and download the roms (games) which will have to be found elsewhere.


NES Emulator. Make sure and download the roms (games) which will have to be found elsewhere.


Web Browsers and Email

You know grandma is still on IE 4 so why not bring over a better browser when you have to get on her computer!


Very popular web browser by Mozilla.


Very popular web browser by Google.


Take your email with you with this email client from Mozilla.


Instant Messaging and IRC

You know grandma is still on IE 4 so why not bring over a better browser when you have to get on her computer!


AOL, MSN and Yahoo chat client. Also can do IRC.


Video chat client.


Full IRC client.


FTP and P2P

These are must haves for uploading and downloading a lot or large files.


FTP client. I use this just about everyday and highly recommend it!


SFTP, FTP and SCP client.


Multi-thread download manager. Very useful when downloading large files over http.


The easiest Bit Torrent client I have ever used with tons of features.


File Management and Archivers

I would highly recommend keeping some of these on your USB drive, especially the unzippers.


An easy to use archiver for 7z, ZIP, GZIP, BZIP2, TAR, RAR files and more.


Easily compare files with this differencing tool.

Xenon File Manager

A file manager with tabbed browsing, bookmarks and even portable file associations.


Folder synchronization that allows you to configure your synchronizations in detail.


Media and CD/DVD Burning

Here are some media converters, burners and editors.


Simple and powerful audio editor.


Media player. It can play most every audio and video file plus DVDs


Able to extract, convert, and encode your audio files.


CD, DVD, VDVD burner. Can do both data DVD and video DVD.


An iPod manager. You can move files from/to your iPod.


Networking (Servers and Remote Desktop)

Here are some media converters, burners and editors.


An integrated server package of Apache, mySQL, PHP and Perl.


An excellent screen-sharing and file-transfer app


Very small and simple screen sharing program.


HTTP File Server. Use this to send and receive files.


System Information

Here are some media converters, burners and editors.


Disk usage analyzer and cleanup tool.


Mainboard, memory, cpu and other information gathering tool.


An advanced System Information too.


Lists all installed browser add-on, buttons, startup items and allows you to inspect, and optionally remove selected items.


System Utilities

Here are some system utilities.


Record all screen and audio activity on your computer and save it to a video file or streaming Flash video


Disk benchmark utility that measures performance for sequential and random reads/writes of various sizes for any storage device


Disk Defragger.


Lightweight registry and file comparison utlity for taking before and after snapshots of the Windows registry and file system.


Disk Defragger.


Visual network diagnostic tool combining the functionality of tracert and ping.


Recuva recovers files deleted from your Windows computer, Recycle Bin, digital camera card, or MP3 player.


Security and Encryption

This is probably what most of you came for.


A secure data removal tool.


Easy-to-use secure data removal tool.


Securely carry your email, internet and other passwords with you.


Application used for real-time on-the-fly encryption.

Magic Jelly Bean

Utility that retrieves your Product Key (cd key) used to install windows from your registry.

IE PassView

Reveals the passwords stored by Internet Explorer Web browser.

Wireless KeyView

Recovers all wireless network security keys/passwords (WEP/WPA) stored in your computer.


Virus and Spyware Removal

These are a must have for a USB drive!


Antivirus and spyware scanner.

SpyBot – S & D

Detects and removes tens of thousands of spyware and similar malware from PCs.


The number-one tool for cleaning your Windows PC.

RootKit Revealer

An advanced rootkit detection utility.

Dr. Web Curelet

Standalone anti-virus and anti-spyware scanner.


Whole Operating Systems

Sometimes you cannot use a computer because it is so infected with viruses. Sometimes you don’t know the password to log in. Thats why you need an entire operating system on your USB drive. You can add multiple if you would like too! Here are some tips for installing an OS.

  • Get Yumi (MultiBoot USB Creator)
  • Download the ISO’s of the operating system you want. For a list of working OS’s visit Yumi’s page.
  • Open Yumi and select which drive and which OS and where the ISO is located. Then click Create. This does not erase your files on the USB, but does erase the boot record (which was probably empty to begin with)
  • You can keep doing this and install more than one operating system if you would like.
  • To view or uninstall an operating system then click the Remove checkbox in the top right of Yumi
  • To boot from the USB, turn your computer on and access the boot manager (it will say press F2 or something to access it when booting up). Then choose Boot from USB. Yumi will then prompt you which OS you want to boot from and will give you a list of installed systems on your USB. After you select which one you’re in!

Below is a list of my favorite, but check out Yumi’s list for a lot more.


A very popular linux distro. Fast, secure and stylishly simple.


Linux-based penetration testing arsenal that aids security professionals.

Ultimate Boot CD

Assembles over 100 PC hardware diagnosis tools into one OS.


A modern, portable, small and fast Linux operating system with a modular approach and outstanding design.


Windows password cracker based on rainbow tables.

Hiren’s Boot CD

All in One Bootable CD.

AVG Rescue CD

Removes infections, repairs files and recovers systems.



I know there are a lot of apps I missed. If you know of any I miss that you just can’t live without then comment and let me know please.


  1. AKASH says:

    keeping up all the applications make it easy to understand….It was helpful Thanks!!!!!!!!

  2. Web Designer says:

    Gene Wilson, before using IO de-frag Back up your data because it sometime remove or close some sectors on hard-drive at least that’s what it does to my system.

  3. Matt says:

    FalconFour’s Ultimate Boot CD is one of the MOST useful portable OS’s i have used. It comes loaded with a lot of good tools has a version of Windows XP called miniXP alone with Hirens BCD and tools from UBCD all combined into one powerful boot disk. It initially comes as an ISO for a CD but after loading GRUB on your flash drive and extracting the contents of the ISO to the flash drive it boots right up from USB without a hiccup.

    Check it out.

  4. Gene Wilson says:

    I have found “Smart Defrag” by IO Bit to be pretty good. Among other things it can defragment more that one disk at a time, often a useful feature for me. Love your list.

  5. sph says:


    There is one program which has to be in the “Software Bundles and Launchers”-category: PStart
    It’s free and can be found here: PStart @ pegtop.net

    It’s “just” a launcher. It could be used local or on any USB-stick or similar. When launched, it creates a tray-icon (the ones besides your windows clock) which provides “just” a popup-menu.

    The behaviour of PStart can highly be customized – as well as the popup-menu itself, of course. Add shortcuts here. Create groups. Add folders. Use icons, descriptions, whatever you like – IF you like.

    If needed, you could write notes to it (like you would write some sticky-notes) and it has a built-in search function, too.

    All PStart needs is one executable file (.exe) – and one XML file where all the settings and configs are stored in. That’s all.

    Of course, this is nothing you download and then it’s ready to use – you have to “build” your own popup-menu in the way you like – but it’s easy and all done really fast, after a few minutes of playing around.

    Once you added all the groups/shortcuts/folders you like, you’ll get addicted to it 😉

    I use it on every single USB-Stick i own – for launching programs or a fast access to folders i need. I use it on every desktop PC i’m working on (a few…). I never really liked the Windows start menu – so i was happy to completely replace it by PStart. I don’t use any other “menu” – and i don’t NEED any other menu or dock or widget or whatsoever.

    This is just plain simple and it just works. It’s brilliant.

    Get it, use it – thank me later… 😉

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