Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Most programs need to install on a computer in order run and cannot be burnt to a portable disc or thumbdrive.

I just bought Adobe Elements 10 on disc. Can I put it on an external hard drive so that I can take it with me from one computer to another and plug it in? The license says two, but I have five computers to use. Thank you.

In this excerpt from Answercast #41, I look at how installing a program on a machine is necessary for it to run and why that makes most programs not portable.

Run program from disc?

The short answer is no.

Any program that requires a set up in order to be installed on a PC is, well, installed on that PC.

Program on external drive

It can certainly reside on an external hard disk. I don't recommend it typically because the hard disk could be disconnected or it might actually end up being slower for you.

  • But nonetheless it's "installed" on that specific machine.

  • If you take that hard disk to a different machine, well, it's not installed.

  • So, it's not there for that machine to be able to use. It really doesn't work.

Portable applications

There's a class of applications that do; they are specifically designed to be portable and that's exactly what you would look for in a so-called portable application. Those are the kinds of applications you can simply copy to things like a USB stick or an external hard drive and just run them without running a set up program.

But programs like Adobe Elements, or any other fairly large or significant program that has a set up process in order to be installed on the machine in the first place, can't be done:

  • It can't be made portable in the way that you're looking for it to be.

Licensing limitations

And I do have to comment that this is not a way to get around licensing limitations either:

  • If it says two, then you need to stick to two or buy additional copies.

  • That's what the licensing agreement is all about.

In this particular case, there's no portable solution for you, so you're kind of stuck;

  • You will be able to install it on two computers, but that's it.

Article C5666 - August 6, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Chuck Eglinton
August 6, 2012 3:08 PM

This is the exception, not the rule, but some portable programs are designed to run from an external disc or USB drive, such as these

August 8, 2012 5:07 AM

With a lot of Industrial software, the license becomes a physical 'thing' (be it a file, or hardware key, or whatever).
The software can be installed on as many computers as you want, but will only run properly (or even at all in some cases) with the correct licence 'key' present.
In network situations, the 'key' can even be installed on the network server - in these cases each key becomes associated with the first computer to request one, and is released when the program is closed down.
I've never used Adobe Elements, so I am unsure if it has a 'network installation' option.

A Richter
August 9, 2012 3:44 AM

Elements is nice, but not very special. There are a number of excellent, free viewers-cum-editors that more than fully can replace it: FastStone; XnView; Paint.NET; IrfanView. They are so good one should pay for them. In fact, Windows (Live) Photo Gallery sports an editor that is "lean and mean", and works very well for general purposes.

August 15, 2012 8:46 AM

I'm not a computer guy, just a nurse and geek wanna-be. But could he use one of the many programs that allow remote access to his computer to use Adobe elements from one of the other computers? I have not idea where licensing issues come in there. In the end, it's probably still easier (and perhaps more useful) to use one of the free programs mentioned by @A Richter.

Mark J
August 15, 2012 9:12 AM

Remote access to a computer with Adobe Elements would work. There are no legal barriers, as the remote computer is licensed to run the program, and it is only running on the remote computer. I agree that using a freeware alternative is probably much easier.

August 18, 2012 4:11 PM

Not sure how you feel about this, but the governments theory was that if you had a laptop and a desktop, but only used one at a time, you could load the software on the laptop and the desktop with one license.

John Smith
August 24, 2012 9:15 AM

I have a dream. One day my "computer" will be the size of a credit card. I just slot it into any machine, anywhere, and there is all my software, my data... everything.

With camera chips now running to 32Gb, it shouldn't be too long before my dream becomes real.

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