Quick Tip: Add Google Portable Chrome to your toolkit and make your life easier

Google Portable Chrome lets you access your bookmarks, extensions and open tabs from any Windows computer. Find out how to make the most of it.
I fix misbehaving Windows computers for friends (or perhaps that should read "fix Windows computers for misbehaving friends") so I am always on the lookout for the best tools to help me get the job done. I have a 64GB USB drive on which I store program installs and portable applications such as Clamwin and FileZilla. These are a great benefit during repair jobs, when the biggest challenge is usually accessing the files, programs, and information I need.

I recently came across Google Portable Chrome and added it to my flash drive. This allowed me to get to several download and reference sites I needed to access. Portable Chrome is a great way to browse the internet on a PC you don't trust (because it may be virus-ridden, for example) or which you are rebuilding for someone else, since it doesn't change any local files, folders, or registry keys. It also has no impact on any versions of Chrome already installed.

To start using Portable Chrome, you'll need a working Internet connection and a browser. Access to get the installer.

Figure A

Click "Download Now" and save the resulting file to your hard drive.

Locate the installer, which will be called something like "GoogleChromePortable_26.0.1410.64_online.paf.exe" and run it. The installation process will begin.

Figure B

Click OK.

Figure C

Click Next.

Figure D

Click "I Agree" to the license agreement.

Figure E

Select the installation location - it does not have to be under your local profile folder, but you can pick another destination or drive. Then click Install.

Figure F

The program will download as shown above, and then the installation will run.

Figure G

Once the process has finished you'll have the option to "Run Google Chrome Portable" and then click Finish.

Figure H

Once the installation finishes, Chrome Portable is installed in the Destination Folder you selected. On my Windows 7 machine I selected the defaults for the installation so the application was set up here:

C:\Users\smatteso\Downloads\GoogleChromePortable (whereby "smatteso" is my user profile folder)

That folder contains these files and subfolders.

Figure I

Note that help.html file contains a lot of useful information to get the maximum benefits from Chrome Portable.

Now you will want to set up the Portable Chrome application so it has the information and settings you need. You have a couple of options; copying your profile data from your regular Chrome app so Portable Chrome can use it, or just synchronizing your stuff via Google Sync.

Option #1: Copy your local Chrome profile into Google Chrome Portable

If applicable, you can copy your locally installed Chrome profile to the new Portable Chrome folder so you'll have the same Chrome environment.

First, close Chrome to avoid "file in use" errors.

On XP and below access:

%USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\User Data

On Vista and above go to:

%LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data
Copy the contents of the folder (exclude Default\Cache and Default\Media Cache since you don't need the cache files and these will slow down the copy process) to the Data\profile subfolder under the new GoogleChromePortable folder. You can overwrite the existing files.

The Data\profile subfolder will then look similar to the following,

Figure J

Note: website passwords aren't copied over to the Portable Chrome folder.

Now launch Portable Chrome from the Start menu or using the "GoogleChromePortable.exe" program in your installation folder (the name may appear as just "GoogleChromePortable" depending on whether Windows Explorer is set to show file extensions). Confirm all your desired objects are present.

Option #2: Set up a new profile and synchronize your data

Another option is to just start up Google Chrome Portable, sign into your Google Account and synchronize the items you want so they'll be present in the application. This requires you to set up Google Sync if you haven't already (see the next section for details on how to set this up or review existing settings).

When you open Chrome Portable you'll see a fairly generic screen.

Figure K

Sign into your account. You will see a notification that the sync process will start:

Figure L

Click OK. The portable Chrome app will then start syncing. Your items will begin to appear. In the example below, Google Portable Chrome has installed all my extensions for me upon first use.

Figure M

Reviewing and configuring Chrome Sync settings

Click the menu button in the upper right of Chrome.

Figure N

A menu will appear.

Figure O

Click Settings.

Figure P

Click "Advanced sync settings."

Figure Q

As shown above, I have set all of my Chrome details to synchronize.

To take Chrome wherever you go, copy the GoogleChromePortable folder to a flash drive. Everything will still remain as is (at least up to the last time the application was launched and able to connect online to synchronize).

A few things to mention

Be wary that if you've chosen to synchronize passwords, these can put you at risk if someone else gains access to your Portable Chrome installation. You can set up a master password by customizing the GoogleChromePortable.ini file (this file contains further details; search for "PortablePasswords.")

Don't type any passwords on a suspicious computer you don't trust (other than the one you must use to log in with, obviously). Try the old trick of copying and pasting the appropriate letters from a website if you must login to an account (e.g. if your password is BostonStrong1 then copy each letter and paste it into the password window. It's tedious, but secure).

Portable Chrome doesn't store certificates; these are kept on the local system.

The Portable Chrome help file indicates "The built-in update feature in Google Chrome will not function." This means you must update the program manually if you want to keep it current.

The help file also states "If you wish to have portable plugins, be aware that many plugins are linked to locally installed programs and will not function correctly in a portable environment. When testing plugins be sure to test them on a system that does not have the plugin installed locally. If a system has plugins installed locally for Firefox or Chrome, your portable Google Chrome should find and use them automatically."

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Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.

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