How to Run Apps from an External USB/SD Drive in Windows 10

Posted by Matthew on September 27, 2016

The USB stick, or drive, has replaced the floppy disk. So now you can save image and documents to USB sticks. In addition, you can also install and run apps directly from them. Adding lots of software to external storage devices can save quite a bit of hard disk space. This is how you can run apps from an external USB drive or SD card in Windows 10.

Firstly, insert your portable drive into the desktop/laptop. There should be a few USB ports to add the drive to. Open File Explorer to check that the USB stick is listed on the left of the window as shown below.

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Click the Cortana button on the taskbar and enter ‘storage’ into its search box. Select Storage to open the window in the snapshot directly below. This shows you the default drives the files and apps save to.

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Click the New apps will save to drop-down menu. It should include the title of your external drive as below. Select the USB stick from there and press the Apply button.

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Now press the taskbar’s Store button. That opens the Windows 10 Store from which you can now save apps to your USB stick, assuming you have a Microsoft account set up. Install an app from there, and it will save to your selected storage drive instead. So now you can run the app from the USB/SD drive.

Alternatively, you can run apps from your USD/SD drive with the PortableApps.com Platform software. Open this website page and click the Download 14.1 button to save its setup to Windows 10 (it’s also compatible with Mac OS X and Linux). Then open the PortableApps.com Platform setup wizard, and select to install it to your USB drive. When the software is up and running on your USB stick, you can click its system tray icon to open it as below.

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To add new apps to the USB drive, you should click Apps > Get More Apps > By Category. That will open the Portable App Directory window in the snapshot below. There click the check boxes to choose some apps and press the Next button. That will add the apps to your USB drive, and you can open all the portable apps saved from the left of the PortableApps launcher.

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Alternatively, you can open the apps from File Explorer. Click the USB/SD drive on the left of the File Explorer window. Then select the PortableApps folder. That includes subfolders from which you can open the apps.

You can click Options > Themes to further customize the app launcher. That will open a list of themes as below. The drop-down menu includes alternative colors for the software.

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So now you can run apps on an external drive either by configuring the Windows 10 app storage settings or by adding PortableApps.com to a USB stick or SD card. That could save you hundreds of megabytes of C: storage.

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