I am a developer and use several applications, tools and programs on my Windows 8.1 machine. I work frequently from home in addition to the office. Currently, I use one souped-up laptop that has all my programs and files installed and configured. In addition, I use DropBox and SkyDrive to sync and share files. I have to carry this laptop everywhere with me.

As a result, I am dependent on my laptop completely. If it breaks down or I need to change my laptop, I have a lot of work to do - re-install apps, setup SDKs, copy files, etc.

Here is a list of programs that I need to have (listed alphabetically):

  • 7-Zip
  • Android Studio (including JRE, Android SDKs, emulators, etc.)
  • BlueStacks App Player
  • Citrix Receiver
  • CorelDraw Graphics Suite
  • DropBox
  • FileZilla
  • Foxit Reader
  • Google Chrome
  • IIS 8.0 Express
  • Java MS .Net Framework (and all related files)
  • MS Office 2014
  • MS SQL Server 2012 Local DB (and a dozen development databases)
  • MS SQL Server 2012 Management Studio
  • MS Visual Studio 2013
  • MS Web Deploy
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Notepad++
  • Skype
  • and lots more...

As you can imagine, it take a while to set up all this up and configure settings, options, etc.

How can I make this portable? So I can switch laptops, desktops, etc. with minimal disruption. I've seen articles on how to create portable windows: Portable Windows, but does anyone have experience with this on a developer level? Does it provide the performance as if the OS was installed on the machine's disk (assuming a USB 3.0 SSD) ? Is the portable OS able to utilize the host machines full resources?

I am not so concerned about files as I sync all with Dropbox or Skydrive. But I want to maintain all applications, settings and databases intact when I switch machines.

Of course, drive cloning programs are available, but I don't want to be doing that frequently. Ideally, I'd want zero time loss when switching to another machine. I am not looking for a backup solution - but rather a portability solution.

Any good ideas?

  • This is what Windows To Go is for. Requires you to be using Windows 8.1 Enterprise. – Ramhound Mar 16 '15 at 10:57

Using Virtual Machines is a good solution. I used to have this kind of problem till I started using VMWare Workstation. You can try it out using VMWare Player free program. Make a virtual machine, install Windows on it, and then install all your programs in it. Once you do that, just moving the vmware machine to other PCs will work. In fact, any virtual machine software will do but I haven't used any other except VMWare.

I have several VMs on my laptop, one for Delphi, another for Visual Studio, etc. I do that to keep the disk size of VMs manageable. I take regular backups of my VMs on an external hard drive. I take incremental backups of only the changed source on dropbox by using 7zip. So if my laptop breaks, all I have to do is restore the VMs from the external hard disk and apply the incremental backup to get back my work environment. I don't have to reinstall any program.

  • Thanks for the suggestion. This would require VMWare to be present on all machines I wish to use. What about performance and resources? Does the VMWare OS perform as fast as the host OS? I imagine you store your VM files on a external hard-disk. What type and capacity is it? – Navigator Mar 16 '15 at 7:46
  • Performance is a bit slower as compared to host but it works for me. I like being safe. On the laptop, I'm limited by 8 GB memory otherwise the performance could be better. Disk space is about 20 to 40 GB for each development machine so I keep them on the laptop only and do a weekly backup to the external drive. You can use an external drive directly but there is more chance of it being corrupted so better to make copies once in a while. One particular thing to remember when you copy a machine to another PC is to say "I moved it" instead of "I copied it" to VMWare confirmation. – user173399 Mar 16 '15 at 8:08

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