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I do heaps of work on computers both at work and for friends and family.

Invariably I get stuck in a situation where an application I need is not on the computer I'm working on and Murphy's Law dictates that the damaged machine will not connect to the internet or that I am against it for time and downloading what I need will take too long.

Many years back I never went anywhere without a folder of CD's and small USB drive with small but invaluable apps.

I have decided that now is the time to create a new one and share the experience.

I am starting out with a 32GB Trancend drive, this is overkill as most of the apps are very small but I may want to also do a little bit of file transfer and my rule is that I'd rather be looking at it than looking for it...

Step 1: Planning

As I said in the last step, 32GB is far too large a drive to only use for utilities.

I am going to start to create a logical folder structure, this will be as follows:

  • Programs
    • x86
      • Network
      • Data recovery
      • Disk Management
      • Security
      • Office
    • x86
      • Network
      • Data Recovery
      • Disk Management
      • Security
      • Office
  • Portable Apps
  • Data

The programs folder is for install-able programs, please note these installs are all intended for Windows.

I made 2 sets of folders inside the Programs branch, this is because I like to have both a 32-Bit and 64-Bit version of programs to install, 32-Bit Windows machines are not as common as they once were but they are still around and they are now more likely to be the ones giving trouble.

The portable apps folder is used for applications that can run directly from the USB drive.

Step 2: Portable Apps

This one is the easy one to take care of.

Head here, to portableapps.com.

This allows you to install a launcher to your USB drive, it is like a mini operating system and you can then select various apps to run from the drive. This is very handy if the target machine is not in good shape. Most of the basic tools (and some advanced ones too) can be downloaded for this app.

I don't need to divide up the apps I've downloaded into categories as the launcher takes care of this for me, on download the website will offer you all 300 of the available apps, simply check the box on the ones you want and proceed with the download. Here's what I got with a short reasoning why for each but feel free to change to anything that suits:

  1. Notepad++ This is a great replacement for notepad and allows for recognition of code, highlighting variables and syntax etc, great for finding bugs and editing config files.
  2. Chrome I know, I know every computer has a browser but this one is mine, synched with my accounts and with all of my bookmarks. This allows me to access the bits online I typically use without all of the effort of clicking and searching.
  3. GIMP just because editing images with a familiar package is always good.
  4. 7 Zip file compression software
  5. Crystal Disk Info provides information on all connected drives
  6. dSynchronize file sync software
  7. Command Prompt command line access for access to files and controls at a base level
  8. Eraser safely delete files
  9. Explorer ++ more powerful file navigation than the default application in Windows
  10. Filezilla bulk file transfer
  11. LibreCad free 2D CAD design and view software
  12. LibreOffice free opensource office package for word processing and spreadsheets
  13. uTorrent a torrent engine for peer file sharing
  14. Password Gorilla login credentials manager
  15. Spybot scan for malicious files
  16. Process Hacker more comprehensive task manager than integrated Windows program
  17. Teamviewer remote access software
  18. TinyTask Cool little tool to record a macro allowing the automation of tasks
  19. Ultra Defrag hard disk defragmentation tool
  20. Virtual Volumes View provides data about virtual drives
  21. What Changed compares files and folders and reports on differences

Step 3: Networking Tools

  • Wireshark This is an awesome network packet monitoring tool, so much so Cisco recommend it for use in labs while training for CCNA!
  • Angry IP Scanner Software to produce a good view of devices and activity on your network

Step 4: Disk Management

  • SyncToy This is a Microsoft for synchronizing files and folders great for backups and recoveries where you don't want a heap of duplicated files.
  • Microsoft USB Flash Drive Manager (Standard) Another Microsoft tool, this one allows you to backup to and from USB drives.
  • Partition Manager This little gem has a free, home and Pro version, the free version allows basic partitioning that's great for new installs or making drives a little more organised.
  • Test Disk This allows you to check partitions and even recover damaged directories

Step 5: Data Recovery

  • Undelete Plus This allows you to recover deleted files, even ones that are removed from the recycle bin. (*note: when you delete a file, you do not really delete the file, you do however delete reference to the file in the file allocation table, this makes the data location where the file is available to overwrite, if you don't go wild saving or installing other files then you can find the fragments and undelete your files)
  • RoadKill Unstoppable Copier As above but works on USB and SD drives as well

Step 6: Security

Step 7: Office

  • OpenOffice Free light weight but powerful office tool, can produce files compatible with MS Office.
  • Adobe Reader Often overlooked but powerful tool for accessing .PDF files, great for all the manuals you download when something breaks.
  • Cute PDF installs a PDF printer to your computer allowing you to create .PDF files.

Step 8:

Cool. Love it. Always wants a nice list of software for fixing PC's
No problem, you could also make a bootable USB with Linux, there are some really good diagnostic tools available.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am an automation engineer but I will give anything a go. I don't know if you call if pessimism or just being an ... More »
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