Saturday, July 15, 2006

Standalone Web Browsers

After having to have spent untold sysadmin-hours troubleshooting the myriad of issues in Windows that come from having Internet Explorer so tightly integrated into the operating system, it came as a pleasant surprise to find that some web-browsers can be run in "standalone" mode.

By "standalone" I mean that they don't have to be "installed" in the normal sense to function fine. In fact, many can be ported to your USB drive, a folder on your hard-drive, or even on CD-R.

Here is an offering of these "Lone-Ranger" web-browsers to try out, if you are curious. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention they are all free?

Internet Explorer

Yes, contrary to popular thinking, one can run Microsoft's Internet Explorer in "standalone" mode:

John Galloway posted the IE7 Standalone Launch Script that allows one to run IE7 Beta 2 without installing it on your system. I've used this for many months now with nary an issue. I love it. Unfortunately, it isn't working for IE7 Beta 3.

Yousif Al Saif then stepped into the mix and is offering his solution to the IE7 Beta 3 standalone problem: Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 in standalone mode(IE7). This one is only a tad more tricky and I haven't tried it out yet, but the commentators seem to report success.

Web browser archivists Evolt also offer many of the former Internet Explorer builds in standalone packages as well--just in case you are feeling nostalgic here.


No surprise here. Firefox has been doing this well for quite a while.

The best of the bunch for a standalone Firefox build has to be John Haller's Portable Firefox. This is simply the best there is.

If you actually want to run Firefox off a burned CD-R, you will need to use Firefox 1.0.3 as the base version and not the newer releases. Combine that with a .bat file and you should be good to go.

If you want to experience the excitement of Firefox 2.0 Beta but don't want to risk tanking your current Firefox installation, try downloading Cybernet's Ryan and Ashley Wagner's Portable Firefox 2.0 Beta 1 I've tried it out and it works great. I'm not giving up my current Firefox build, but I look forward to the final version (once all my favorite extensions get updated for it as well....).

Related cousin: TorPark. Mixing the TOR anonymous routing system and Firefox, this is a great standalone build (though page-loads can be slow) for the security minded.


I'm not much of an Opera fan anymore, but I know it also has a strong following. It is actually a great browser-I just find it awkward to how I use the net. I used it quite a lot when I got tired of IE and Netscape's Navigator, but before Firefox/Mozilla burst onto the web-browser scene.

Portable Opera @USB is one attempt at making Opera portable for USB operation. It promises to leave no registry entries or data on the host machine (assuming you use it on your USB drive).

Kejut also offers two standalone versions of Opera: Opera Portable Personal 9.00 and Opera Portable One-Use 9.00. The first is for USB users who want to retain personal settings and data on run. The second is for those who want no (normal) evidence left behind after running. (I say normal as I cannot tell if the written data is just deleted or secure-deleted.)

Off by One Browser

The Off by One browser is a very "quirky" animal. Once you get used to its geeky interface and having to type the fully qualified URL addresses in, it is a great product. It is very small (1.2 MB) and quite fast runs great off USB or CD-R media.

Two related IE browser tools

IE Cache Explorer - utility to display list of IE cookies, visited URL's, and files, as well as provides a way to delete them. Somewhat useful for sysadmins doing cursory checks on business workstations for web-use policies, though not really useful for a forensic-level system inspection.

Index Dat Spy - index.dat file viewer - handy little utility to view contents of Windows/IE's index.dat files. Again, can sometimes provide helpful information to sysadmins looking into problems (system/user) with Windows.

See you in the skies,

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