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Running apps from a USB drive ??

Posted on 2006-06-25
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Hi all,
I'm almost sure the answer is "NO" though, i'll give it a shot anyways.I thought i could install windows on a USB drive but, i just changed my mind because i may not be able to boot from a USB drive in most computers. So.. is there anything to do which allows me to install applications (general ones not specifics) on a USB drive ? I heard something about U3 but it's also limited to certain programs.
Thanks in advance !
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Question by:kyrlean
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by:callrs
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What do you mean by USB drive? A flash drive or a hard disk?

You CAN'T run applications on a flash drive -- since such pen drives have about 10000 write cycles before they expire. An application can literally write 10000 times in a single day.

USB hard drive? No problem. It will have its own drive letter, and it's a real hard drive. So yes, go ahead & run applications off of it.

P.S. Newer BIOSes seem to allow a boot from a USB drive. E.g. Once I left a usb flash drive in someone's  computer & the computer tried to boot off of that. Search Google for this, or just go into your BIOS setup & see if USB boot option is there.
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by:XY_GT
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You can run applications off flash drives but they will die very quickly. There are some applications out there made for flash drives though that are designed so this doesn't happen. A great site that lists alot of the applications around is http://portableapps.com/.

Running applications off a hard drive is fine, as callrs said.

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by:abarneslouortho
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sure you can run apps off of a flash drive with u3, but if you want general apps, you will have to do what callrs suggested.  a usb hd.  the catch:

you will need to intall the program on the machine so that the registry values will be added but point the installer to install to the usb drive.  gets to be a real hassle if you want to run a lot of applications or the same application on many pcs as each install will require a different install source
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by:kyrlean
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Thank you all guys !
callrs:  at first, my intention was a Flash drive, but i can bring a USB HD to this scenario.Let me double check something. Is there any work around to the registry issue ?
For some applications which privacy is not involved, wouldn't be a problem to install the files on the portable drive and use the computer's registry. For otherwise some registration keys won't work on a different computer (besides the one the registration was generated).
Some magic is still possible ?
Thanks !
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by:scrathcyboy
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If you use a USB hard disk, then use windows disk management to set it to a high enough letter, like P for programs so that changing disks will not bump it off the drive letter you assigned (VERY important).

Now when you install a program, install it to P:\Program Files\theprogram

The installation will make links to P -- now you can run anything from P, at the speed of USB, remember, not hard disk speed.  This works fine, but it is slow.

It is unworkable on a flash drive, for reasons mentioned above.
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by:scrathcyboy
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As for moving it from one system to another, NO, that is not easy.  Each program install writes oodles of registry entries, and unless they are assigned to the right drive letter, you will not be able to run anything.  Windows and the applications installed into it are NOT easily tranposable to different drive letters.
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by:callrs
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>> Is there any work around to the registry issue ?
I use Truecrypt (it's free) to encrypt an entire second internal hard drive. I mount the container to drive Z: & I've installed applications on the encrypted drive. The registry entries point to Z: drive. Works for me...

Without such encryption, you can use a program to have drive letters stay the same for each (internal only?) drive. Let me know if you need it & I'll locate it.
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by:kyrlean
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Well, i found it callrs,i didn't get it :-) Can you elaborate on that. I'm not connecting things,sorry! i think i'll need a step by step explanation of the process.All this will allow me to install applications om my..let's say portable hd and work with them anywhere as i do on my computer ?
Thank you !
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by:callrs
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Portable? Ohhhhhhh. Ok that's different.  I was thinking on the same computer that you installed them on.

Some applications will run OK on another computer. Some wont. One way to test: Try running an application over the NETWORK from another computer at home (using file & print sharing). If it runs fine from the external computer, then it should work on the USB on another computer.

Software registration issue...If the entries are kept in the registry, or perhaps even in a file, you can build an INSTALL KIT using InstallRite (www.epsilonsquared.com). Run InstallRite to make a snapshot of the main drive (not the use drive). Then install a program (or more). Then take an after snapshot, etc.

So InstallRite gives you an exe that will transfer all registry entries & file additions to the computer that you want to run the app on.
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by:kyrlean
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OK. Before i install a program on my computer i'll run InstallRite to take a snapshot of C:\ and then, i'll take the exe created by it, i run the exe file on a different computer,and then i can run the program off of my portable drive. Is there it ?
Thanks again !
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by:callrs
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Yes. but remember, InstallRite will transfer ALL additions between snapshots.
I have not tested InstallRite myself, but in theory it should work.  And if you Google for: InstallRite, other's have been happy with the program.

Some programs have very sophisticated registration issues which might not even work even with InstallRite.

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by:kyrlean
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Right. specially the one i 'm thinking of right now !! That's ok, do me a favor and take a look at the link below and tell me what you think.Is it a different solution or the problems i will encounter will be the same ones ?
Thank you !

http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/09/09/windows_in_your_pocket/
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by:abarneslouortho
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hmm...dont know what program you're thinking about but..

looking at that link, it sounds genius and i'll be making one for my workplace, but it sounds as if the ad aware and nero and other plugins are the only things compatible with it.  i may be wrong.  even if i am wrong, that seems like a whole lot of trouble because it would boil down to:
1. installing the program on your computer
2. dragging the files to your drive
3. editing an inf file, which in itself can be hard to find everything that needs to be edited
4. getting the drive to recognize the installation

dont know if this would be the best route to go.  I'm leaning more towards using callrs' idea of installrite, and like him i haven't used it but it sounds like a solid dependable technology.
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by:kyrlean
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I'm thinking about something. Maybe i could use a cd or even a dvd to avoid boot problems, and then i'll have an entire OS running from a cd like some portable versions of linux.That would be a nice solution, and as far as i can tell you,the programs you can install are limted only by the space you have...I'll be studying the options. Thank you !
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by:abarneslouortho
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this sounds a bit more plausable.. i think you mean...

having the OS on a cd/dvd to boot from... then having the external drive for storage correct?
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by:kyrlean
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Yeah, that would be my durty trick ! :-) I could have it on a cd/dvd or for instance, keep the  files on a USB drive to burn it to a cd/dvd later. I don't know, i'm trying to find a solution to carry my programs (and privacy) wherever i go.Do you know any simplier/faster way to create such a disc besides the one at that link ?
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by:abarneslouortho
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im not the best on this one, but im guessing that there would be some way to make a bootable image of a fresh xp install seeing that it is under the 4 gb capacity of a dvd... but i found a problem with this, unless someone knows of a workaround.....

think about what you/i/we are proposing.  having a portable c drive more/less.  now the problem comes in when you remember that the registry is still on the c drive even though all program data goes to the external drive...

like i said, i dont know much about BART PE, so if it makes a way around this woohoo!! otherwise.. you've met the next layer of a big safe...
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by:callrs
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>>and then I'll have an entire OS running from a CD like some portable versions of linux
Not exactly. Windows wants to write to the disk. Writing to CD/DVD is not as simple as writing to a hard disk. Bart's CD may be the closest you can get to a Windows OS on CD.
"Bart Lagerweij's free utility, PE Builder, condenses the original setup data for Windows XP into a slender operating system that is ready to run from a CD or a USB flash drive. This compact, portable version of Windows includes all the important system tools for dealing with a PC emergency"
(above from your link)

More from: http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/faq/#4
->
BartPE has these limitations:

To reduce its size, only a subset of the available Win32 APIs is included. Included are I/O (disk and network) and core Win32 APIs.
Distributed File System (DFS) name resolution is not supported.
The drive letters assigned during BartPE are not saved to any registry that persists when you reboot. The drive letter assignment when you create partitions is in the order of creation, but the drive letter assignments when you reboot will be in the default order.

"Can BartPE boot from USB flash drives (UFD)?

Probably. But booting from UFD is not always stable at the moment. It is very dependent on what exact hardware is used. Some bioses cannot be set to the correct emulation and other systems hang or abort when the windows USB drivers are loaded. Tricky stuff, maybe better support in future...
Try Pe2usb: Installing Bartpe To Usb Flash Disk. http://www.911cd.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=10806"
<--

Some of your programs may run fine on Bart's CD. Some that need the greater features of Windows may not.

If you have a home network setup, try the network test....if you can run your apps across the network, then they should run from external drive as well. But the software-registration is an issue that can be dealt with by re-registering, or possibly by InstallRite.

Another option: burn your favorite applications' install programs (or the fully installed program folder) onto a DVD & then take that DVD with you to use to install or run programs. Some programs may run fine off the CD, some won't. Just a matter of testing your apps like with the network test above.
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by:kyrlean
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You're right callrs. But all this take a while to test.I'll probably get back to you guys tomorrow.
Thanks again!
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by:noam_dz
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Please checkout http://www.sandboxie.com/
Which will allow you to virtually install apps on the host computer i.e. All changes to HD or registry will be recorded on your usb drive.
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by:kyrlean
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It looks interesting noam_dz. I forgot the name of an old and famous software that uses the sandbox conception,and it is good though,i'm not sure if it really works for the purpose i want because many programs needs to access the registry before they get executed.So.i'm at work rihght now.I'l check it later on
Thanks !
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by:callrs
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Just an aside here: Interesting info if you Google for: applications portability, applications portability xp, etc.
E.g.
 http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:tpUWlk3nvxwJ:www.vpit.ualberta.ca/softricity/pdf/white_paper.pdf+applications+portability+xp&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=5&lr=lang_en
"What if Applications Could be Managed Like Data? Strategic ..."
www.softricity.com/products/delivery.asp      Softricity Technology: On-Demand Application Streaming
"Softricity's Application Portability supports the deployment of virtualized applications via USB flash drives, CDs or portable hard drives"

------
Applications should be portable. If some aren't then it's unfortunate...

>>i may not be able to boot from a USB drive in most computers

Newer BIOSes: That point may not be true anymore. Newer computers allow boot from USB:
http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm?articleID=1676    Beginners Guides: USB Memory Drive Projects - PCStats.com

USB as Boot drive: www.oreillynet.com/digitalmedia/blog/2004/10/utility_to_make_usb_flash_driv.html (links to weethet.nl/english/hardware_bootfromusbstick.php WeetHet - Boot from USB Flash drive, and the HP Drive Key Boot Utility)

Old BIOS: If BIOS doesn't support boot from USB (in older computers), I think that you could boot from a floppy with USB support to start the boot which then loads the OS from the USB drive...

Present & ideal solutions: Check if the computers that you will be using have USB Boot support. If they do, then just install the OS onto a USB hard drive that you can take with you. BUT, ideal is if you could just plug in your USB drive anyplace - library, college, or wherever, and then run your favorite apps without a reboot into your own drive*...Software makers, are you listening? : )


---
*I was able to do this with a certain application (AIM) a few years ago: installed it on my computer, copied the installation folder to a ZIP drive. Then at the college, copied the installation folder to a Temp drive on the college computer & ran it.  It worked! Other applications I would download direct from the net & install to a Temp drive & run them from there. The college has practical restrictions on installs, but some applications installed fine into the Temp directory.
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by:mtz1of4
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I'm with XY_GT.  What app are you trying to take with you?
http://portableapps.com/
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by:kyrlean
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@ mtz1of4
In fact i really use firefox and Filezilla,so these app won't be a problem, but i would like to be able to rum any program i have specially the ones i need a license key. I'll give an example:  SitesPinner  a great,great,great tool to speed up the process of building a website. And they let you use it, fully functional, for free, during 15 days.If you build 1000 websites and make a lot of money from it, you're all set.But don't think you'll be able to run the same license in more than 2 computers because you won't.I don't wanna go to details here,even though i don't know necessarily how do they manage it ,but that's why i'm trying to figure how to put an OS with all my programs and why not to say..files and setting in my pocket. :-)  (well,that was just an example/reason...)

  @ callrs
There's a lot of information there buddy,i'll try to take a shortcut and leave you guys alone a soon as possible :-) I'm not that great at hardware so please, go a little deeper on this..

"USB hard drive? No problem. It will have its own drive letter, and it's a real hard drive. So yes, go ahead & run applications off of it."

 Tell me the difference between a USB HD and USB Flash drive since both are external, and you connect them trhough a USb port.
If you have a link to one of those USB Drives you're talking,which enables me to boot and load Windos from it, i'll be very pleased.
Also if its size doesn't exceed an entire computer dimensions, would be even better :-)
Thank you !
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by:mtz1of4
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So you are trying to circumvent licensing. OK. I would consider finding free, opensource software for your purposes, like http://portableapps.com/apps/development/web_editors/portable_nvu will also give you a WYSIWYG web editor.

Good luck.
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by:kyrlean
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Nice link mtz1of4 .I'll take a look, sounds interesting.But i don't really need a free web editor, i have a legal license for SiteSpinner,and i just would like to take it with me wherever i go,(within others applications).
Thanks !
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by:noam_dz
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Did you checkout http://www.sandboxie.com/ ?
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by:kyrlean
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Yes i did it  noam_dz ! As i said above it's really good when it comes to security, but certain softwares as you know,check for some registry settings or files before they run,and since they can't find it ,because they're not there, i'm still unable to use them.
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callrs earned 500 total points
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>>Tell me the difference between a USB HD and USB Flash drive
- USB Flash drive has a limit of about 10000 write cycles. After that it's toast.
- USB Hard drive is just like an internal hard drive - no apparent limit to write cycles.

>>Also if its size doesn't exceed an entire computer dimensions
Large capacity ones could be about double the size of an internal drive. BUT, 10 GB+ USB drives now exist that are not much larger than USB Flash drives! Google for: tiny USB Hard Drives.

http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2004/04/15/113811.aspx     The Old New Thing : Why can't I install Windows on my USB drive?
"Someday is today! SureBoot Corporation (www.sureboot.com) already has this functionally working for Windows 2K and XP. Their technology allows Win 2K/XP to boot and run from any USB or 1394 storage device. Not just external hard drives, but also storage devices such as USB key drives... They are able to do all of this on legacy machines that don’t support USB or 1394 devices in the ROM BIOS. "

The whole page above is worth a read.
Well,, my eyes are weary right now. I need a break from this topic for a day or two to do it justice.Ttyl.
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by:kyrlean
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Great shot guy ! Before i read let me thank you again , and as far as i can tell you,considering the comments you posted above ,the problem is solved.
Take your time buddy !
Thanks a million !
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by:kyrlean
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Hey callrs !
Did you get a chance to download sureboot ? I flled up the form yesterday and so far... i didn't here anything from them.
Thanks !
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by:mtz1of4
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kyrlean,

Sureboot looks a little outdated already.  The Beta for it expires in 2 days on 6-30-06.  Perhaps with registration you'll get more info but I see from it that they started out in 2003 and not much more has happened.  Saw bad grammar on the sureboot site (could just be a bad spellchecker) and remember when the first post came from 2004.  
The beta also mentions CD/DVD disk, not USB until Future Releases.  
Also, when I googled Sureboot support forum, i got 3 results, none of which seem to point to Sureboot support.  It sounds like it might have been a dream for them.

Of course, I did find this over at PCWorld.com, http://www.pcworld.com/howto/article/0,aid,3669,pg,3,00.asp
Of course, that is from 1998 and just mentions a Different sureboot.

Did you see this Experts exchange post?
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Q_21299906.html
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by:kyrlean
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I checked mtz1of4. And unfortunately i'm still stuck.I'm changing my mind and maybe i could abandone the USB drive idea.and try a cd though,the process to include a specific program on it is a big pain in the neck.Sureboot looks awesome,because it claims to simplify this, but...it looks like it doesn't even exists :-) ....









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by:kyrlean
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Is there any way i can use a combination of tools/softwares to run for instance, a Ghost image of my system from the cd/dvd ? That would be a good solution if it's possible.
Thank you !!
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by:noam_dz
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"check for some registry settings or files before they run,and since they can't find it ,because they're not there, i'm still unable to use them. "

You should install the software inside sandboxie then it is fully self contained including registry access.

Read the forums , look more indepth .
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by:mtz1of4
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There's always a laptop.


I think this is what noam_dz is talking about.
http://portableapps.com/node/1124

Looks promising and you can keep track of the development there.


You said> Is there any way i can use a combination of tools/softwares to run for instance, a Ghost image of my system from the cd/dvd ? That would be a good solution if it's possible.<

I've never tried actually running a program from a Mounted Image of a hard drive, so I can't say if it will work, but probably not.
But callrs pointed you to a lot of good info about BartPE and you could read this also.
http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/faq/#27

If you're looking for a fast easy solution, I don't see one currently but sandboxie does look very promising.  Read through that posting on the portable apps page.
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by:kyrlean
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Yes, i mentioned about BartPE above at this link =>http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/09/09/windows_in_your_pocket/ and i think it's the only option i can work with so far. I will look deep on sandboxie although i don't really understand how it could help me on installing some programs in more than 2 computers due to the fact that i explained above in a previous comment.But i may be missunderstanding the sandbox conception which i thought i know well, and then i can find the solution.
Thanks again!
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by:nickcmp
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at the moment it is possible to run many applications from a usb flash drive(mozzila thunderbird, firefox, vlc player etc. , and very soon it will be possible to run (boot from) mac os classic on a usb drive here is the link:
http://portableapps.com/
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by:nickcmp
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also you can take a look at this if you want to run mac http://nothickmanuals.info/doku.php?id=minivmac
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by:callrs
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Here, we, go, again...
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_21909599.html     Booting Windows XP From USB Hard Disk
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