portable apps

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Today I realised I was running short of space on one of my drives. With larger disks and online backup services it is not such a common problem as it use to be, but when it happens Windows still doesn’t offer a simple and intuitive way to find the largest files that are causing the problem.  Step in, WinDirStat!

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics)  is a free program that makes finding and removing large files an easy, almost pleasing experience. It displays the contents of your disk as a colourful chart of grouped rectangles that helps you to easily spot where all your space has gone.

WinDirStat in action

WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) cam be downloaded from here.

WinDirStat is, as the name implies, for Windows only, all versions,  it is quite old now so I don’t know if it works on Windows7 (thank you Brian Jacob). WinDirStat is based upon KDirStat which is still available for Linux systems. There is also something similar called GrandPerspective for the Mac.

I have used this software several times in the past and knew I needed it again today, in looking for it I realised it is not referred to in many places so, as much for my own benefit as for yours, I thought I would make it that little bit easier to find by blogging about it here.

Once downloaded, before it can display your disk in its useful coloured box format, WinDirStat  needs to look at your disk to see how much space all the files  are taking up. When you first run the program you are offered the choice between scanning all drives or selecting an individual drive (or even just a folder), if you are only concerned with one drive it will obviously be a lot faster to view only that one.

The next screen you see is  really just telling you that the software is getting the information it requires, the display shows pacman chomping through your folders, but rest assured he is not eating any files.

Once WinDirStat has finished analyzing your hard drive you get to see what I find to be the most useful representation of your hard drive for determining which files and folders are taking up the most space on your system. As shown above, the main window is full of coloured boxes and rectangles, each one representing an individual file on your system, grouped into larger rectangles representing the folders that they are within. As you move your mouse over the colourful graph you see the file names appearing in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Click on any box and the traditional file manager view at the top of the screen will jump to that file. If you want to see how much space the entire folder that that file sits in is taking up simply click on the folder in the top left file manager and you will see the box representing its disk usage highlighted on the main chart.

Right click on any box or rectangle representing a file in the main window and you get the option to zoom in or out of the picture, giving you more detail on those numerous smaller files on your system.

Right clicking on any file or folder in the top-left file manager view gives you the option to delete it or open an explorer window onto it. When a file is deleted using this menu the image below is automatically updated to accommodate the change.

I hope you find this program as useful as I do!

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Trying to work from Ladan’s side I have used a number of old, second hand laptop computers that have been on their way to the the microchip graveyard. When a computer dies, be it a recoverable error or not, it often takes a while to get a system up and running with my email and important data in place, especially if I am in need of another computer.

Acronis True Image Home 2010I decided I needed a solution that would enable me to get working quickly from any computer, and i bought a 4GB USB Disk to try to set somehting up. Now, had I bought a 2GB disk I now realise I could have done something a little more clever that would have worked without the need for WIndows being installed, but I may well come back to that in a future post, for now I have a 4GB disk and am very happy with what I have got, which is this…

  • An encrytped, password protected, briefcase of my most important documents
  • An encrypted, password protected, backup of my Outlook email folders and settings
  • A one-click facility to synchronise my public and private documents, and email, with any WIndows computer (in the case of email it needs to have Outllok XP or better installed)
  • All my essential applications installed on the USB disk and launchable from there
  • A nice launcher that sits in the Windows system tray and accesses all the facilities from the disk

So, not only do I have my data backed up but I can use almost all of it without interefering with another machine. If I want to use my email on a friends machine I will have to configure a user account under my name to use a fresh copy of Outlook, but I can use webmail for email too. I did consider using Thunderbird as my primary email client and then not needing access to Outlook on any machine (as I can run Thunderbird from the USB Drive), but I prefer Outlook for email management tools.

Here are the tools I am using, and hereby recommending…

  • Truecrypt – This creates an encrypted briefcase file that I can “mount” as a drive when I need access to it.
  • Allway Sync – A utility that can be set to synchronize between certain folders on the USB and the host computer]
  • PStart - An application launcher, like the WIndows start button, that can be configured to work for all the programs on a USB stick.

I also have OpenOffice, Firefox, Mozilla, FileZilla, Gimp, GeoClock, CCleaner, Process Explorer, InfraRecorder, VLC Media Player, Notepad++, Audacity, and a large number of other portable applications installed which can run from the USB drive. Using PStart I can open my briefcase as Drive J: with just one click, and carry out synchronization of Outlook between computers I use with just one click.

One note about Outlook and Encryption, if you are familiar with creating a new .pst file in Outlook then you will know that you are offered three levels of encryption for your messages… None, Compressible or Best… Outlook does not compress the .pst file itself so unless you are going to compress it then the Best option is best!

Most of my blog visitors are not that technical minded to want to know more details about this, so if you do want to know more please le tme know.

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