Hardware

10 great ways to hack and trick-out your USB flash drive


LifeHacker has a nice piece called LifeHacker Top 10: USB thumb drive tricks. Some of the instructions could be a little better, and they should include some more screenshots, but this is definitely worth a look.

The tricks are:

  1. Boot an operating system
  2. Encrypt your drive
  3. Make a portable MP3 player
  4. Speed up or lock down Windows Vista
  5. Run a logoff message to unplug the drive
  6. Quick launch your workspace
  7. Assemble a PC repair kit
  8. Put on the DemocraKey "computer condom"
  9. Sync your data
  10. Assign custom icons

What are some other cool tricks you can do with a USB flash drive? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

13 comments
pjwvieviwdhy
pjwvieviwdhy

get multibootiso's and install will allow you to boot several different live linux iso's mint, and unbuntu with a mod to the menu.lst you can add hiren's boot cd which has an insane amount of useful tools and litexp. then install portable apps directly to the thumb drive and install liberkey ultimate to a folder on your pc then copy the apps from liberkey to the portableapps apps folder. this will give you one crazy usb. if your really advanced put backtrack 3 on as well you will have the keys to the kingdom 8 gig minimum suggest 200x read speed

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

For the advanced users, Katana may be worth a look; it has several liveCD images including Backtrack3.

d.esposito
d.esposito

I miss the days when it was possible to keep a whole suite of PC tools on one 3 1/2" floppy. The PC repair kit (#7) is exactly what I've been wanting for a long time. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way to download it. When you go to the link provided in the lifehacker article you're directed to the following site: http://www.dailycupoftech.com/usb-drive-systems/3/ There you find a link that says it will download the PC Repair Tools kit but it's actually a link to an html page that randomizes the page you're ultimately sent to, some of which are broken links, others are links to bogus download sites with offers to scan your PC for spyware. I eventually found one that looked like it was going to give me what I wanted but WinZip balks - saying the file is corrupted. Jason. Did you actually test any of these before you posted this blog? Is there a way to get a working copy of the PC tools?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Portable Apps (project? group?) is doing a great job. I'd recommend going there their list of downloadables to pick and choose your own custom collection if you prefer not to take the whole 150 meg package and it's default install locations. My USB has becomea complete portable Windows system less the Windows OS. I have my own selection of tools when out of the house and share it across my network at home for use on any of my win32/64 machines. If Windows needs a rebuild, reinstall the base OS and your back and running since everything else is waiting on flashdrive. The only down side is USB read/write speeds.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's a linux based liveCD but it may help you out. A google search may also locate the PC Tools collection specifically if you can get a close enough guess of the filename.

tmdowling
tmdowling

How do you ensure your data is secure if (when) someone else gets their hands on your stick? Last I heard, TrueCrypt encryption for the whole thing requires Admin access to the computer you plug into in order to de-crypt. Yes? No?

d.esposito
d.esposito

The torrent is the ticket. Looks like everything is there. Thanks much.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Surves me right for posting the link before trying to open the file. No love here either; it's a damaged file rather than a .zip version conflict if that helps. I did find the same file name on a bunch of different sites using google. I've not yet tried to open the four different copies I downloaded though so I can't tell you which actualy provides an undamaged file.

d.esposito
d.esposito

but I'm still not able to open the zip file. Winzip 9.0 reports that it does not appear to be a valid archive. Also tried to open it on a Linux machine using File Roller 2.18.1 Still no love.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

That's the down side to my method, if I loose the flashdrive while out and about; I'm snookered. currently, I compress select folders into an encrypted pgp or gpg file. I think there may be a few solutions that will encrypt the whole drive without requiring Admin rights though.