Any external USB storage drive, be it a pen drive or a hard drive, is used primarily for that reason - storage. But then, you knew there was more to it than that, didn't you?
So let's find out today what else can be done with these tiny and innocuous looking pen drives. I can bet that some of these tricks will pleasantly surprise you.
1. Install a full-featured apps suite
Using a full-featured apps suite is one of the most common ways to get the most out of your USB pen drive. These suite of tools can help you run just about any software right from that small piece of hardware. They are basically a collection of portable versions of popular tools, organised in an impressive manner. The most popular among these is PortableApps. Another good one is WinPenPack. Try them out and use the one that fits your needs the most.
2. Use it as a bootable device
Using a CD/DVD to install an operating system is out of fashion, apart from being less convenient. Use your pen drive to create a bootable version of an OS you are likely to use each day. Heck, you could also use it to boot multiple operating systems. Interesting, no?
3. Use it to store data safely
Got a lot of pen drives lying around? Why not use some of them as an encrypted storage of confidential data. Most of the popular encryption tools, like TrueCrypt, offer a way to encrypt an external drive. If you want to store and use passwords from it, powerful password managers like LastPass and KeePass offer portable versions to help you carry them around. The setup might take some time but could come in handy on a rainy day.
4. Use Windows To Go
Not many know that the Enterprise version of Windows 8 can be run completely off a USB pen drive. Of course the drive should be 32 GB or larger but then those aren't hard to come by these days. Here's a guide on how to set it up. This isn't useful to the everyday Windows user but I am sure many business owners would find it interesting and might just consider handing over their employees such Windows To Go enabled drives so that they could work in a familiar environment from any computer.
5. Use it to run Dropbox or Google Drive on other computers
You start working on someone else's, or may be a public computer and you realise that all your important files are on Dropbox (or Google Drive). And you've always hated their web versions. What do you do now? How about a thumb drive running the portable version of those tools? Dropbox portable should be available in the PortableApps suite or you could set it up separately. Google Drive portable can be used via SyncDocs.
6. Use it to create a rescue drive
Last but by no means the least is an option to make your pen drive the ultimate saviour. Most of the anti-virus and anti-spyware tools like AVG and BitDefender offer a way to create rescue CDs or drives for saving a PC that's non-functional and infected with malware. You may also consider using an all-in-one recovery tool like Ultimate Boot CD.
Abhijeet Mukherjee (@abhijeetmk) is the founding editor of Guiding Tech, a tech how-to blog. He loves discovering hacks that make him more productive in his everyday work.