I hope my question fits superuser. I am a PhD student and I must use a software on my computer at the faculty's office but unfortunately, the informaticians are not at the university since a quite long time and I can not install the software myself because the computer requires an administrator password in order to install softwares.

Is there any way to open and use a software without installing it to the computer ? For example, installing the software on the USB key ? or another method ?

Any help highly appreciated.

  • 3
    Look for portable version of the same software.
    – kenorb
    Oct 15 '15 at 22:29
  • It depends entirely on the software and operating system you want to use. As Bram says Portable Apps is an excellent resource for Windows, but the software available is (necessarily) limited to freeware, though I have found that some installed programs will run if you copy the installation directory from one machine to another, but you must be careful that you do not infringe licensing terms if you do so. On Linux there is no equivalent, but by setting appropriate paths in the environment and scripts you can install programs into a user's home directory.
    – AFH
    Oct 15 '15 at 22:36

Out there exists a lot of 3rd party applications that trace the installation of another software to create a portable version of the software that you want.

These kind of applications are commonly known as "install tracers", it basically monitors the filesystem and registry modifications to reproduce them in an automated way. This avoids the need of an installation procedure in other machines.

Note that obviously an installation of the software is need to be realized once to track what files the installer expands and what other things the installer does, but you can do this for example in a Virtual Machine.

I suggest you to use VMWare ThinApp because it's the most automated way I discovered.

VMware ThinApp is an agentless application virtualization solution that isolates applications from their underlying operating systems to eliminate application conflict and streamline delivery and management.

enter image description here

It is intuitive with a user-friendly GUI, and it comes with an offline user guide in pdf format which you also could see online in VMWare's website.

ThinApp is a paid product, however, with the trial mode I think you could do the task you require.

  • 1
    It also is extremely expensive.
    – Ramhound
    Oct 15 '15 at 23:06
  • @Ramhound, yes, thanks for point it, but the OP seems to need to perform this task once in his life, then it could do it within the trial expiration of the ThinApp. Oct 15 '15 at 23:22
  • Anyways if someone is interested: Free alternatives are Regshot 2 Unicode for registry monitoring (it creates a snapshot of the registry translated as a functional registry script) and Moo0 File Monitor for file monitoring. Of course out there are much more free apps like ProcessMonitor of SysInternals, but I mentioned two basic apps that works good, note that maybe it could need more work with other monitoring applications for example if the app to portabilize install drivers or register shell extensions or codecs. VMWare ThinApp does all those mentioned things. Oct 15 '15 at 23:26
  • 1
    Wouldn't it be ironic if this had to be installed! Oct 16 '15 at 0:27
  • @N_Soong An installation is need once to track filesystem changes, however, depending on the kind of installer builder used to compile the setup.exe (as Inno Setup, NSIS, MSI, etc) it could be unpacked to obtain the setup script/project, in that case an installation will not be needed if enough programming knowledges to understand the unpacked script, because the script should contains all the operations that the installer do. Oct 16 '15 at 0:49

Portable apps has a great selection of tools you can run without installing them. Of course since you didn't specify what software you need specifically you will have to check yourself.

On linux you could compile and run from e.g. your home dir without installing.


Short of hacking the machine for an admin password... the only option I see is trying to use a Live USB version of Linux (like an Ubuntu-loaded USB), and see if you can install and run your app from there.

Doing this often requires entering into the BIOS and making sure the boot process checks for bootable USB drives before running the hard drive's main OS. However, the BIOS might have a password on it, which then would make changing the boot order impossible.


Use a virtual machine to install software without installing in your local computer, virtual box by oracle is a decent choice. Get a portable version of the software if you don't want to have a vm.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.