is it possible

Posted on 2006-04-13
Last Modified: 2010-04-26
to store programs on an external hard drive and run them from that drive? I dont want to install them on the computers hard drive. If so what would be the logical choice for external hard drives. I have been doing a lot of work for my company bringing in my software and installing it on their computers. I just want to be able to access the program from an external hard drive. I am tired of having to install the software then having to delete it when I am through.
Question by:lavak
    LVL 7

    Expert Comment

    When you install software, it does more then just add files to the HDD.  It creates entries in the registry among other things.  Your best bet is to uninstall after if you don't want any traces.  You will not be able to install to an external HDD then switch PC's and run that program, without installing it first on second PC.
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    In the old days, a program was a program.  You could install it and copy the directory around and it would work for MOST programs.  That was about 20 years ago.  Nowadays, as JasperIAM has mentioned, programs install themselves in a system by putting registry entries and various support DLLs all over the place, including the windows directory.  You COULD install the software to a removable media device on BOTH computers , assuming the device's drive letters are the same on both computers.  Then it would only be usable on one system at a time, but if you didn't want a trace of it left behind, you'd have to do as JasperIAM says, and uninstall the program when you leave the system.  Note: There are a FEW programs that you can install on a removable medium and that's the only place it puts files - but by and large, MOST programs will not work this way and the ones that do are usually relatively small utilities or "fun" programs.
    LVL 14

    Expert Comment

    yes you can install programs to an external drive, and yes you can run them from that drive.

    be aware that a lot of programs install files outside of their own program's directory, such as "program files\common files" or directories underneath "windows", in addition to making registry changes.

    a few programs install a service or startup program that's loaded up from its directory, in which case you'll get a non fatal error on boot up if you don't have the external drive plugged in.

    so just because you install a program to an external drive, doesn't mean you aren't cluttering up the system drive or windows installation. what you would do is prevent someone from running those programs without the external drive hooked up.

    if the software you're bringing in on your own is that beneficial to your work, perhaps the company would consider purchasing it for you to use at work; especially if you can demonstrate how it saves you time and makes you more productive.  be careful in how you bring this up if you've been installing your own programs against company policy!  (some are very particular about that sort of thing and many people have been shown the door because of it)...

    you might also want to double check the licenses of the software you're installing to make sure that it's acceptable to install on a work computer if you've also got it installed on another at home...
    LVL 9

    Expert Comment

    Hi lavak

    Plug hard drive in computer 1, install software to external hard drive.
    Plug hard drive in computer 2, install software to external hard drive.
    Plug hard drive in computer 3, install software to external hard drive.

    It's up to you (it shouldn't matter) if you choose to install it to the same location on the external hard drive each time, or have a folder structure something like
       \Program Files 1\...
       \Program Files 2\...

    You'll still have registry entries and other common files junk floating around on each PC, like has already been said, but it's not normally much compared to the size of the installation.

    Steve :)
    LVL 44

    Accepted Solution

    WIth XP, it is just a matter of going into disk management, with that external drive plugged in, and assigning it a drive letter that nothing else will use.  Pick a high letter like "N".  XP will remember the physical device and tie the drive letter to that device, even if removable (even zip).  Now install what you want on drive N, and it will work fine, just remember to put the disk containing the program in before clicking on the program icon.  The beauty of picking a high drive letter, is, say the device dies, and you need to buy a new removable later on, you can reassign it the same drive letter, even if you add/subtract devices in between.  Dont make the mistake of assigning it the next letter above the last fixed drive, that is too changeable depending on your running configuration.  

    Expert Comment


    My suggestion would be to plug your external into you work machine and install the software onto your external drive, as mentioned already all the actual data files for your program will be copied to your external but all the other junk that goes with the software package will be stored locally on your work machine in the windows folders or in the registery. Then when your external is removed when you go home, and someone else tries to open that software it will not function due to the data files on your external not being present. i don't know why you want to uninstall the software completely, because withou the external drive the software wont run. then what you do is install the software in the same fasion at you home, then all you do everyday is unplug your external and plug it into the machine that you are using at that time! I hope that works for you. Further more not sure how advanced you are willing to go with this, but I have a similar problem - my solution was setting up a VPN connection through the net to my home PC, and i use a remote connection to actually work with the software installed on my home pc, straight from my office desk. or if you had a permanent VPN setup, you could install the software at your office onto a mapped network drive on my home machine? just a thought but honestly VPN is not the fastest thing in the world. I'm in South Africa and our fastest internet line is currently 1024kbps to the average user!!!

    Good luck

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