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Should CS2 applications be downloaded to a removable drive?

Even though U3 smart drives can execute Windows-based applications directly, the devices can introduce security risks into the enterprise. Michael Cobb lays out the pros and cons of the technology.

I would like to buy an 8 GB U3 "smart" flash drive. I hope to download the Adobe Creative Suite 2 applications from my work computer onto the removable drive for when I take work home. Can I do this without moving or damaging my employer's applications and CS2 files?
Standard Windows applications are designed to operate on only one computer, making the apps, as well as related program settings and data, difficult to move. This shortcoming can have a big impact on productivity for mobile workers like yourself. Programs installed and used at work have to be licensed again for home use, and the files of work-in-progress need to be copied back and forth between the two. The time-consuming and expensive situation is changing, however, thanks to the introduction of U3 smart drives.

U3 has developed a way to execute Windows-based applications directly from a specially formatted USB flash drive or thumb drive. USB flash drives adhering to the U3 specification are termed "U3 smart drives." They come preinstalled with the U3 Launchpad program, which emulates the Windows start menu and controls program installation and launch. The U3 Launchpad supports the Windows Vista, XP, and 2000 Service Pack 4. Mac OS, Linux, Unix and the older versions of Windows OS are not supported.

However, only applications that are specifically developed for the U3 platform can be installed and run through the U3 Launchpad. As far as I can tell, Adobe Creative Suite software has not yet been specifically developed for the U3 platform. If or when that occurs, you would then be able to work on your CS2 projects and files without interfering with your work PC. There are some software applications that can be installed and run from any removable storage device, like a USB flash drive. These applications are referred to as portable applications, because they do not depend on running from a particular PC. You will need to check with Adobe about whether Creative Suite can be run like this. If so, then you can install it on your U3 smart drive and use it on any computer that runs an operating system supported by Creative Suite.

U3 applications are allowed to write files or registry information to the host computer, but this information is removed when the flash drive is ejected. If you use a portable, but non-U3 smart application, the U3 Launchpad will not ensure that the application shuts down properly upon device ejection, nor will it clean up any temporary data that the app might have saved on the host PC.

Before you try any of these possible products, you need to check with your IT security administrator about what the policy is for portable drives and, in particular, smart drives. Although they can be helpful, the drives can be used to download confidential data or to introduce malicious code to a network. Software programs can also be downloaded to them without any administrative privilege requirements on the host computer. As you can imagine, this has the potential of being an administrative nightmare, as users can easily run unauthorized programs that may consume bandwidth, impair network performance and generally undermine productivity.

Finally, you may want to look at a rival to U3 called Ceedo. Ceedo-based applications run differently in that they do not write any data to the host PC. Instead they store all information on the USB drive. Although you can only run Ceedo-ready applications, there is an available add-on called Argo Application Installer, which utilizes Ceedo's virtualization technology to allow regular programs to run on the drive.

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This was last published in December 2007

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