I know many of you don't really need to hear this, but this might help some who are just guests here and wondering if a portable version of your browser and email if the right way to go. I will try to make this a brief as possible.
My 14yr old daughter asked me the other day to upgrade her iTunes on our main PC. She said she had tried to but couldn't, because of admin rights. She did have admin rights at one time, but a bad experience with BearShare convinced me she needs monitoring on installs. iTunes did not like the fact that it was originally installed under her user id. After many attempts at fixing the registry for permissions, I attempted the ultimate fix. I uninstalled both QuickTime and iTunes. Seems sensible right? iTunes installer then told me that I needed Windows Installer 3.0. Again, seemed sensible. I went to the MS web site and attempted to download Installer 3.0. Of course the "Genuine Advantage" validation thing came up. MS would not validate my copy of windows, which I bought with this PC and have validated at least a dozen times before. Then after a restart a few hours later, I discovered that my PC was running so slow that it was not even functional. It took about 5 minutes to open each folder. At this point a reinstall of Windows seemed the likely fix.
Was I frustrated? Yes. Did I panic? No. I keep all of my important documents and programs on my flash drive, including my web browser Mozilla FireFox Portable Edition and email Mozilla Thunderbird Portable Edition . I of course use the PortableApps Suite Backup feature to backup my documents and application data 2 or 3 times a week. I then upload the backup files to my Gspace in case of a complete melt down of a PC.
I also needed to get document and other important files off of the PC before reinstall. Well, since Windows XP was running so slow, I decided to use a Knoppix Live CD . With the Knoppix CD I was able to burn DVD's of all the document's I needed.
I did forget one thing though. I have converted my wife from Outlook to Thunderbird, and I forgot to copy her profile over before the re-install. I of course did not have that problem, because all of my email's are either web based or on my flash drive.
I am almost done with the re-install and the estimated 200 Windows XP updates and SP's. Seems like every time, I reboot there are 30 or 40 more to do. If my wife could handle it and the rest of the world would get with it, I would dump Windows for Linux in a heartbeat. Let's face it though, most of the PC world is addicted to MS.
Thanks to John T Haller at PortableApps.com and all of the great developers there.