Turn Thumb Drives Into Feature-Packed Giveaway Drives

Turn Thumb Drives Into Feature-Packed Giveaway Drives

Flash drives aren’t quite a dime a dozen, but it’s pretty easy to amass a bunch of them in your office drawer. This guide will help you turn them into software-packed giveaway drives.

Why give flash drives away? I’ve found that despite only using a single flash drive, I had a drawer full of them in my office. Between getting promotional flash drives, finding lost or abandoned drives with no identifying information, and friends tossing their old small drives my way, I had quite a pile of them. Rather than let them sit there until they were so obsolete I just threw them away, I decided to pack them with software to give away to people. Whenever someone sees me using my flash drive on my laptop to run all sorts of programs or someone expresses interest in the kind of stuff we do at Lifehacker, I’ve always got a few in my laptop bag to share.

My approach to creating the drives is to create mock drives on my main computer. I have a folder for each of the smaller drive sizes, like 128MB, 256MB, and so on. All files for that size flash drive are stored in the folder, ready to be copied onto a drive. I aim to only use 50% or less of the capacity of the drive. This way the person who receives it won’t have to clean house immediately to get some usable space for their own files. The list below is arranged in order of drives from smallest to largest. Each size includes the contents of the previous size, so Firefox, for instance, is on every drive size even though it only appears under 128MB; the largest drives contains everything on this list.

I include applications based on one of two reasons: Either the application is one I use on a daily basis and love (like Firefox and Everything), or the application is good enough for me to recommend it, even though I don’t use it on a daily basis (such as Thunderbird). Every drive includes, in addition to the software listed below, a readme file with a basic explanation of the software’s functionality and a link to the software’s website. Without further delay, the lists!

128MB Drives

  • PStart: The PortableApps.com menu is great, but PStart is a tiny, no frills, start menu I prefer.
  • Firefox: The ever extensible browser we all know and love.
  • Notepad++: Notepad on steroids, great for casual notes and coding alike.
  • EjectUSB: Tiny utility for shutting down and removing traces of applications before removing your flash drive.
  • 7-Zip: Archive creation and extraction tool.
  • ClamWin: Virus protection on the go.
  • Easy Duplicate Finder: Speedy little app for weeding out duplicate files.
  • Q-Dir: There are a handful of great portable file managers, but Q-Dir won me over with the 4-pane design.
  • Everything: Ultra-fast NTFS file indexer, I can’t image using a computer without it.
  • Fast Copy: A file copying application that is head and shoulders above the cruddy default Windows copy handling.
  • KeePass: Excellent password manager, strong passwords are must.
  • U3 Removal Tool: I don’t give away drives with the U3 system still on them, still I include this tool so that recipient can help other people ditch U3.
  • VLC Media Player Portable: Rock solid music and video playback.

256MB Drives

  • FastStone Capture: No longer freeware, the link here is to an older but still great version. My favourite screen capture tool.
  • FileZilla Portable: When the basic FTP in Firefox won’t cut it, FileZilla picks up the slack.
  • ImgBurn: Fantastic CD/DVD burning tool. Requires a small tweak for portable usage, explained at the link provided.
  • JkDefrag Portable: Like FastCopy, a much better defragger than the Windows default.
  • JPEGCrops: Excellent bulk image cropping tool.
  • Pidgin PortableInstant messenger with support for multiple chat protocols.
  • Sumatra PDF Portable: Faster and more portable than Acrobat.
  • Toucan: Backup, synchronise and encrypt the contents of your flash drive.
  • WinDirStat Portable: Visualise disk usage for easy disk cleanup and management.
  • Eraser: Secure file deletion.
  • Infranview: Snappy image viewer with a ton of features.
  • System Information for Windows: Returns a huge amount of information about the computer it is run on like hardware configurations, serial numbers, and more.
  • 512MB+ Drives

  • Open Office: Open source and portable Microsoft Office alternative.
  • Mozilla Thunderbird: Robust email client.
  • Mozilla Sunbird: Calendar and Task management.

If you have a suggestion for an addition to the list of portable apps I include on my giveaway drives, sound off in the comments below; I’ll try the software out and consider adding it to my next batch of giveaway drives.


  • GOMplayer is ‘the shit’ when it comes to viewing any kind of video files — sleek and slick, and includes everything in a nice n’ tight little package (of course you might have VLC for those odd files like imcomplete/damaged downloads that no other player will so much as look at without falling over).

    SpeedCrunch calculator, simply because Windows Calc is brain-dead, I could go on…

    jZIP is the best compression tool I’ve found in years of testing, but there’s always something better on the horizon..

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