Difference between Portable and Installer edition software

Software that need to be installed take time as they connect to operating system and part of their procedure calls depend on the resources already available on computer. If those resources – e.g. a common DLL file – are missing from the computer, the installer might either install it separately or the program fails to run. Portable software are better in many aspects. These do not depend on system files and may run without being dependent on system resources. Check out the difference between portable and installer edition software.

Portable and Installer edition software

Portable and Installer edition software

Installer Edition Software

For software that requires installation on to the local computer, programmers use different installer creators to create a program that will install the software. You cannot run the software directly as it needs certain steps such as registration with Windows registry, a registry reload, linking to dynamic link libraries (DLL files). In most cases, such software use the existing common DLL files. If the programmer has created a custom library or something similar, the installer will copy that file to appropriate location while installing the software.

Problems with the software that require installation is that they might leave fingerprints on the computer where they were installed – even after you uninstall the software. Thus, if you are working on something private, people may know that you installed and uninstalled some software.

The second problem is that you have to install such software on every computer where you wish to use it. Installation takes time as it may also require reloading the Windows Registry after installation of software.

When you use installer to install software, one or more of the following might happen:

  1. Software creates a new folder under Program Files or Users, based on how it is configured
  2. New values are written to Windows Registry and/or old entries might be modified
  3. Copying of files from Installer program to local machine
  4. Creation of desktop, taskbar icon
  5. Creation of folder in Start menu
  6. Copying DLL files into Windows or C:\Windows\System32 etc. folders

When you uninstall the same software, one or more of the elements created above may stay back on the computer and may give away that you were using the particular software on the machine.

Portable software are much better compared to Installation based software as this article on difference between portable and installer edition software shows.

Portable Software

When we say portable software, it means that you need not install it anywhere. This makes the software portable because you can carry it on USB sticks and use it on any computer without having to install it to every computer that you wish to use. You simply plug the pen drive containing the portable software to the computer that you are using and start the portable software. There are some good resources on the Internet that allow you to convert installation based software into portable software.

Portable software work in two ways:

  1. The portable software package already contains DLLs embedded into the app
  2. The portable software may create a VM and run in it – especially if it needs to use Registry; the VM is removed as soon as the portable software is closed

You need not install it. So it helps you save some time while at the same time, allowing you to use a computer without leaving software fingerprints in registry or elsewhere.

Programs such as UltraSurf (a proxy software) can simply be carried on a removable drive, launched and used without changing anything in the actual system. Thus, there are less chances that someone else may discover you used the software. They are helpful in getting to work straightaway while protecting you from prying eyes.

While most portable software leave no traces, you might want to check the folder (or any place) where you copied the software to see if it created any INF or XML file when you started it. Some portable software create these files in the same folders where they were present – to save software configuration or something else. It is always better to check the folder where the portable software was present before you removed it. If you find any related INF or XML, just delete it if you wish to keep it a secret.

Portable software are always better compared to installation based software when smaller in size. If it is a huge software and you don’t care if others know about you using it, you may go for installation version. Example of such installation based software is Visual Studio as it needs many DLLs that need to be copied to the computer for proper functioning. Though it is possible to convert Visual Studio into portable software, the end product will be huge, considering the number of libraries and help files etc. that need to be integrated into one portable software. It may run too slow in such cases.

If you are someone – like a technician – who has to run some software on different machines, portable versions are better as you will save on time. In case of censors, blocked sites, and war reporting etc., portable software give you the protection you need.

You might want to take a look at some of these Free Portable Windows Software.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN