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Is there a part of the Windows XP filesystem that is always writable, regardless of other types of permissions and such?

When on the public machines at my local library, the computers are locked down with IE 6, and I would just love to use Portable Firefox so I can view the internet properly. If I have a flash drive with me I can just load it up onto that, but most of the time I leave it at home.

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Interesting question, this could be useful at universities and schools as well – Ivo Flipse Sep 22 '09 at 6:33
Wait, they locked down the computers and forgot USB? – Joey Sep 22 '09 at 6:35
Shouldn't the Desktop be naked and open? – random Sep 22 '09 at 6:38
If they lock down USB how do I print my thesis or something else I don't have online? – Ivo Flipse Sep 22 '09 at 6:59
@Johnannes - They didn't forget USB, they allow it so people can save their work and stuff too. – Josh Hunt Sep 22 '09 at 23:28
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You should consider using Google Chrome for what you want. It installs to %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Google\Chrome (which can be written by the user) and does not need administrator privileges.

If you install Chrome the normal way, via the installer provided by Google, it fails to install due to limited permissions. But there is an offline installer which does not need any rights.

Edit: updated the link to the latest dev build of Chrome (as of 16.12.2009). The path is simply:

Replace 266.0 with the latest Chrome dev build (mine right now is You can find out what the latest dev build is from the Chrome Releases blog.

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Fantastic! I just went from IE6 to Chrome thanks to this! – Josh Hunt Dec 15 '09 at 22:54
Glad to know it helped you out. Enjoy Chrome! – alex Dec 16 '09 at 8:14

I would use the environmental variable %APPDATA% or %TEMP% to find the folders for the current user. Even a standard user has write access to the folders so that applications can use them to store settings and data.

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You can restrict access to those as well. And as long as your software doesn't complain it should work. – Joey Sep 22 '09 at 6:36
You can restrict access, but I find that a bit silly. – alex Sep 22 '09 at 6:44
It turns out that they have actually denied you from using Explorer, so you cant even do that... – Josh Hunt Dec 15 '09 at 22:53

If you have a flash drive with you, your flash drive should be writable! :-)

Even though those machines might have a writable area, do consider the fact that they might have set some tool to auto-clean those areas every day! Something that clears all temporary files, for example. Or all downloads and other stuff. You might find some writable space on that disk, only to discover it has been wiped again the next day.

(My employer has set up a network disk where we can store stuff for the rest of the week. Every weekend, an automated process just deletes all content from this disk so it can be used for a clean start next week. Perfect for sharing files with colleagues while also making sure the file system doesn't clog up with all kinds of garbage...)

Furthermore, you should check their policies about this! They might not want you to use any custom executables on their system! What if your FireFox copy is infected with something nasty? You could be held responsible for any damage if they ever catch you using FireFox on their systems. My advise: if you want to use FireFox, bring your own laptop... (And use their network, if possible.)

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