I haven't found much on this, but what I did find doesn't explain it well enough (at least for me).

What makes the application I make portable?
Or what defines a portable application?
Is there a specific difference that makes an app portable or not?

I always thought if I just made an executable file and some images I could just copy that folder and take it to another computer on a flash drive. But, if you could what is the purpose of having "portable" apps?

I know I have asked a range of questions, but I suspect an answer that addresses one of the questions will cover them all.


1 Answer 1


The Wikipedia definition is clear enough.

A portable app is one that can run in a compatible computer without having to install it. This app can be run from a external storage and writes its data and configuration files to this device, as opossed to in the machine hardrive.

The concept of portable app is distinct from software portability which is the ability to compile software into different platform excutables or be run in different platform virtual machines.

  • There are applications that write all their information in a file located inside the application folder, (instead of writing somewhere else, and/or the registry), could those be called portable because I can copy the application folder, paste it in another compatible machine and it will run (no installation required)?
    – jsedano
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 15:39
  • 1
    @anakata: Yes. Someone who wanted to use such an app would run the installer with their external drive (e.g., USB drive) as the install directory. People talking about such apps (in the context of portable apps) will usually either call out that behavior or (license-permitting) create an install-free bundle. In some cases, there are legal issues (e.g., encryption-related laws) which force app distributors to provide an installer, even though that installer can be used to create a portable distribution.
    – Brian
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 17:34
  • Its funny, because The Eclise IDE has those characteristics (eclipse.org/downloads) (all it's in a "selfcontained" folder, with no installer) I guess, it could be called a portable app, but no one calls it that. By the way Im not trying to say this answer is wrong, I actually upvoted, Im just saying it's curious
    – jsedano
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 17:46

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