I just bought a new USB stick, and when I plug it in and open My Computer, the context menu for the USB stick has an option "open as portable device". Clicking it opens a new window that just seems to show the contents of the drive, and appears to behave the same as just opening it normally.

What does this option actually do, and what it is for?


Use as a portable device means that programs or software run from the device will store their data on the portable device itself and should not require storage or reg changes on the machine which they are running.

Used a lot in the field of forensics where it is critical to access a system while causing minimal (or no) changes to the file system or OS on the target machine.


WPD is a model which provides a way of interaction between computer and portable device plugged into it. Plugged devices publish services which application running on the computer can access. For example mobile device can expose service for synchronization of contacts on the device with the outlook (besides just browsing device internal storage). When you select "open as portable device" context menu option, explorer queries device for available services and shows them. Since your USB stick does not have (basically cannot have) any exposed services this option selection looks similar to a plain storage browsing.


This uses the:

Portable Devices (WPD) Platform Enhancements

When accessing the USB stick more information can be found at:

Windows Portable Devices Team Blog > New Features for Windows 7

I hope this is helpful.

  • I'm still none-the-wiser... My NAS drive uses something like this to show links to the web-based control panels, etc., but this is just a USB stick. I don't understand what functionality is being added, or what difference there is between the "normal" view and the "Portable device" view for this USB stick (it's a SanDisk Cruzer Blade 16GB). – Danny Tuppeny Oct 1 '11 at 21:26
  • The functionality comes into play when A program that uses WPD connections and imports things like picture or music. This is my understanding of the WPD platform. – N4TKD Oct 1 '11 at 23:34

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