Here are a number of new uses for that old USB drive you have lying around. (Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
Sticks used to be so cool. They came in every shape and material, of small plastic rectangles to rubber cuffs, novelty, animals and pens with a built-in USB drive. We marvel at the data that they contain a simple drag-and-drop in a special icon. They were easy and wearable, and yes, about the size of a human thumb.
Those days are over. Cloud technology is made of USB disks, redundant and worse, a liability, because they can easily get lost. Most of them are gone in junk drawers, banished with the old mobile phones and various chargers, forgotten.
There are a number of rituals no longer necessary in high-tech households, such as the folding of a card or remembering a phone number. The teens can get, but if you are 30 years or older, you will probably laugh with nostalgia at this list of 20 things we can’t do more, because of the technology.
Unlike other outdated tech, such as Cd’s and Palm Pilots, the stick is still useful, and not only for the storage and transport of information. It is time for usb-sticks a new lease on their electronic lives.
Check out these seven useful, fun and downright useful ways to use USB-sticks.
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1. Run your own Google Chrome on other computers
Many of us get nervous about sharing of web browsers. There are numerous personal institutions and private search histories, and that we would rather not share with each other. Portable Apps, a site that collects apps that run on USB drives, Google Chrome Portable is a version of Chrome that live on a flash drive.
Portable records of your settings and extensions, so if you find yourself in front of a borrowed computer, pop the memory stick in the USB port. This is especially useful for travelers, who may find themselves in a internet cafe or hotel business center. The Portable software is both familiar and efficient, and does not affect any version of Chrome that is already on the machine.
2. Go incognito
The Tails operating system has an intriguing slogan: “Privacy for anyone anywhere.” You can run Tails from a USB drive on a computer, and keeping your activity private and anonymous by acting as an independent OS.
You will need two USB drives for the first Tails installation and it can seem a bit involved, but the Tails site will walk you through the process.
Tails is a way to protect your privacy when you use a public computer or a computer you don’t trust. It can also be a way to hide your tracks if you’re shopping for birthday or holiday presents on a computer to share with your family.
Click here to learn more about the Tail of the operating system and for the direct download links.
3. To use if the key to your computer
You can use any USB drive into a key to unlock your Windows computer. Download and install Predator on your PC and a flash drive. Once it is set, the computer will only work when the USB drive is connected.
Pull it out and the display goes dark, and the keyboard and mouse are disabled. Plug the power cord back in to work again.
Predator can be used on multiple computers, so that the same flash drive can unlock more than one machine.
You can also use different flash drives as keys for the same computer, so everyone in your family (or certain members) can unlock a certain PC. Predator starts at $10 for the home edition.
Click here to learn more about the Predator and for the direct download links.
4. Scan for viruses
If you know or suspect that a computer is infected with a virus, you can use a USB-disk to scan and remove the offending software. PortableApps provides you with various options, including the ClamWin Portable, McAfee Stinger is a Portable, and Spybot-Search & Destroy Portable. Install it on the drive, plug it into the computer and run them to check and clean the machine.
5. A Dead Drop
This is a novel: a “dead drop” is a spy-speak for a method for the transmission of secret information. Historically, agents would depart secrets messages in a trash can or behind a loose brick. The berlin artist Aram Bartholl started a trend of USB flash drive “Dead Drops”, which have led to a cult following around the world.
icipants leave the USB drives in public, maybe laid in a wall or tied to a tree. Dead Drop users are encouraged to bring their favorite files, whether it be photography, poem, or other creation.
You can find out how to take part in Bartholl’s Dead Drops site.
Do not forget that fixing your computer is an unknown USB drive comes with a range of potential security risks, so you may want to use a different computer for your Dead-Drop activities.
6. Boost your Windows experience
Microsoft has long offered a little known feature of Windows called ReadyBoost. It is intended to be the speed of certain processes on the computers using standard hard drives. While it is an advantage for some computers with Windows 10 people with older computers and those using earlier Windows operating systems, the most likely to see a speed improvement.
It does not work for computers with ssd-drives, such as those often found in high-end laptops.
ReadyBoost uses an external flash device in a hard disk cache. Microsoft gives instructions for setting up a ReadyBoost drive for Windows 7, but this also works on more recent versions of the operating system. It is worth a try if your computer feels poky.
7. Create a Windows recovery disk
Do not wait until your Windows PC suddenly melts. You prepare by turning to a free USB flash drive into a recovery disk. This station allows you to troubleshooting tools if your Windows computer problems, even if he does not start well.
Follow Microsoft’s instructions to create the disk. You need at least a 16 GB USB stick if you choose the option to make a backup of your system files, but this will let you reinstall Windows if necessary.
Once the disk is ready, label the usb stick and save it where you will be able to access it easily if your computer begins to act.
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Learn about the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and provides advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.