Elite News

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Installing Programs on a U3 Smart Drive Launcher

I needed a new USB flash drive because the one I was using was only 64 MB and I was unable to install all of the programs I wanted so I bought a 2 GB SanDisk Cruizer USB Drive. What I didn't know when I purchased it, is that it came with a nifty U3 Launchpad that lets you access your programs quickly and easily.

I then drag and dropped the contents of my old USB drive into my new one. But then I thought, it would be cool to have my programs on the U3 Launchpad. I quickly realized the only way to add programs was adding programs from their list of supported programs [ http://software.u3.com/ ] or by adding a .u3p package. At first I thought the Launchpad was useless because the programs I wanted didn't have a u3p package, but I knew there had to be a way I could get my programs onto the Launchpad List.

Beginner's Guide to Adding Programs

A U3 "smart drive" is a USB drive with a small partition that acts as a virtual CD-ROM drive. The virtual CD drive allows the USB drive to autoload the U3 Launchpad when you insert it into a computer. The Launchpad allows you to easily access your programs. For more information about the U3 smartdrive visit http://www.everythingusb.com/u3.html

This is a simple guide to adding a icon to your program list. I'm going to use PortableVLC for this example. [ PortableVLC ]

1. Install the portable Application anywhere on the USB drive.
(ex: G:\program files\PortableVLC\)

2. Open up the Hidden System folder in the root of the drive and navigate into the Apps folder. Create a folder of any name, the program name makes things easier. This is going to become the uuid, so remember what you named it for later.
(ex: i created G:\System\Apps\vlc\)

3. Inside the newly created folder, make a new folder named Manifest . Inside create a new notepad document. Rename the document to Manifest.u3i . Manifest.u3i is really a disguised XML file that the U3 Launcher uses to describe your program with. Having one is Vital to the Launcher.
(ex: i created G:\System\Apps\vlc\Manifest\Manifest.u3i)

4. Make or find an icon. I normally either find the offical *.ico somewhere in the folder where its installed or just go to the website of whoever makes it and steal the favicon.ico (ex: for vlc i found the vlc icon in G:\program files\PortableVLC\PortableVLCCode\ but you can also find a lower quality one at http://videolan.org/favicon.ico ). Put the .ico in the Manifest folder right next to the Manifest.u3i

5. Edit Manifest.u3i in notepad (or TextPad, etc)

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<u3manifest version="1.0">
<application uuid="vlc" version="0.8.4a">
<vendor url="http://portableapps.com/apps/audio_video/media_players/portable_vlc">Portable VLC</vendor>
<description>VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, XviD, WMV, mp3, ogg, ...) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.</description>
<upgrade appData="overwrite" deviceExec="overwrite"/>
<appStart workingdir="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\program files\PortableVLC" cmd="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\program files\PortableVLC\PortableVLC.exe">start</appStart>
<appStop workingdir="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\program files\PortableVLC" cmd="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\program files\PortableVLC\PortableVLC.exe">stop</appStop>

Make application uuid the same name as the file folder in your Apps directory (ex: vlc in my case). This is the ID of the application, you will need to use it again elsewhere. version is just the version of the application, its arbitrary, set it correctly if you want your launcher to display the correct ver #.
icon is the name of the icon that you want to display on your program list. ill go over this in the next step.
name = display name.
vendor url and description = the url of the program's website and the description displayed in "Manage U3 Programs."
minFreeSpace = number of MB that the program requires on the drive, rounded up to the nearest MB.
appStart and appStop , there are a few more optional actions like clean up, but these two are the required two to run your program. workingdir = the directory that your program runs from/in. Set this as the file folder that your executable is located in, make sure you use %U3_DEVICE_PATH% rather than the drive letter (ex: G:). cmd = the executable that you want to run when you click the button.

6. Zip the Manifest folder and name as the same name of your uuid from before. The items inside the zip file MUST be placed in the correct location.
Follow my example:
Inside my vlc.zip is a Folder with the name Manifest
Inside the Manifest folder is a Manifest.u3i and a vlc.ico
vlc.zip => Manifest\Manifest.u3i and Manifest\vlc.ico

Now rename the uuid.zip folder to uuid.u3p (ex: vlc.zip -> vlc.u3p) and leave it in the uuid folder (ex: now i have a G:\System\Apps\vlc\vlc.u3p)

7. Go back to the Apps folder (ex: G:\System\Apps) and find and edit the LPDB.xml file.
add in <APPLICATION guid="vlc" launchOnStart="N" lastUsed="5/4/2006 10:03:12 AM">\vlc.u3p</APPLICATION> right next to the ones similar to it. change the guid to your uuid and the location accordingly.

8. Eject your USB Drive and plug it back in.

When the U3 Launcher loads when you plug it back and and you did everything correct, you have a new item on your program list. If you left a typo in the code or something went wrong, it will tell you that the u3p failed to load and if you want to delete the program associated to it.


Finished Product:


To better understand what's going on here are some definitions.

*.u3p - Type zip. This is the u3 package that stores the program for initial installation. Contains the folders: Data, Device, Host, and Manifest.
*.u3i - Type xml. This contains the data displayed inside the Program Manager inside the Launcher.

Data folder (inside u3p) - The contents of this folder is transfered out of the .u3p package into the Data folder outside of the package. This has data much like Windows "Application Data".
Device folder - The contents of this folder is transfered out of the .u3p package into the Exec folder outside of the package. This contains the actual application executables.
Host folder - This remains inside of the package. This contains each application's launcher.
Manifest - Stores the information given to the U3 Launcher about the program. Contains Manifest.u3i and an icon of *.ico.

Data folder (outside u3p) - Automatically copied from the Data folder inside the *.u3p.
Exec folder - Automatically copied from the Device folder inside the *.u3p.

LPDB.xml - Program list that is accessed when the U3 Launcher starts.
LPGDB.xml - Program list automattically spawned of the current programs installed on the U3 Program List. Also includes their order and last running time.

uuid/guid - Application ID.
appStart - Action in the u3i that is taken when you start the program.
appStop - Action taken when you exit. For many simple programs, just have it as the same file as appStart.
hostCleanUp - I think its the Action taken after the application is stopped.
hostInstall - Action taken when installed.
hostConfigure - Action taken when configured.


  • Doesn't work for me, I keep getting errors when I click on the startup item

    By Anonymous Eric , at 5/26/2006 1:17 PM

  • Sweet! Works great. Thanks for posting the details.

    By Blogger dogu , at 6/02/2006 5:00 AM

  • Great stuff. I have OppenOffice running. I tried posting the contents of the Manifest.u3i I created with your guide but got an error.

    By Anonymous Xcapepr , at 6/06/2006 2:51 PM

  • Thanks a bunch for this tip: not being able to include all my programs on the launchpad was a major irritation, and after following your step-by-step approach (making the usual number of mistakes along the way, of course), I was able to add two of the most important programs to my launchpad.

    The biggest problem has been finding the icons: it seems that TrueCrypt and PStart have no separate .ico files, and I haven't been able to figure out how to extract icons from the programs or how to copy and paste the images (so I just grabbed decent icons from my computer to make it work). Fortunately, that's the most trivial of the issues.

    Thanks again

    By Anonymous Less Antman , at 6/13/2006 1:15 AM

  • You sir are a godsend! Excellent writeup and exactly what I needed.

    By Anonymous Mike S. , at 6/16/2006 9:49 PM

  • That's very useful! Thanks for this great article!

    By Blogger √Čric , at 6/18/2006 3:46 AM

  • YOU ARE THE POOP! Thanks sooo much! Now how about an article on how to reinstall the whole U3 launcher incase you format the drive? Like backing up both partitions and re-imaging them. Thanks again!!!

    By Blogger , at 7/24/2006 2:17 PM

  • Planning on buying a U3 stick, doing some research before I do.
    Your article helped a lot.
    Many thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/02/2006 4:49 PM

  • this is awsome..............thanks man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/02/2006 7:59 PM

  • I followed your instructions to get VLC on my U3; however, it didn't work. Do you have an updated tutorial?


    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/04/2006 8:09 PM

  • ...just what the doctor ordered! can't wait to try it out, thanks!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/07/2006 7:35 PM

  • Thanks for this Brian. I haven't seen any other appreciative posts so i figured i should leave you one. Got this working nicely for ver 0.8.5 - one word of note, VLC doesn't seem to like the 'start' at the end of the start cmd - I just deleted this 'start' & it runs fine (i did the same with the stop cmd, i haven't yet seen any side effects).

    By Anonymous Iain , at 10/02/2006 10:52 PM

  • This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Eric Van de Kerckhove , at 10/05/2006 4:01 PM

  • Thanks, it worked for me but I get an error message when I launch portable vlc 0.8.5:
    Unable to open 'start'
    (this is in a vlc window, the app workds fine).

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 10/16/2006 4:40 AM

  • Really enjoyed this tutorial, I'm trying to something similiar but in Linux OS. After reading your article, I feel very confident it's possible. Thanks, G.

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 10/16/2006 3:53 PM

  • I would recommend you use 7-zip to zip up the contents of your u3p file. The Windows compression utility is not recommended for use with U3 packages.

    In addition, you shouldn't have to manually edit the LPDB.xml file. Instead, if your manifest file is formatted correctly, you can go to "Add Programs"\"Install from My Computer" on the U3 Launchpad, and it will add your app to the Launchpad menu automatically for you.

    By Anonymous Gummibear , at 11/01/2006 2:43 PM

  • Tha-hank you! Very informative!

    I was going to get rid of the LaunchPad, but this makes it awesome! :D

    By Anonymous The Lazy Canadian , at 11/19/2006 9:57 PM

  • This is a great walkthrough and worked a treat!! I only just got my U3 flash stick and have managed to follow your example without any problems!
    Now im going to try and create my own u3p's for the rest of my programs i would like listed!

    Great post!!

    By Anonymous Anthony Stubbs , at 12/14/2006 8:09 AM

  • Thanks so much for this blog entry.

    I got a SanDisk U3 drive today and am trying to move my KeePass (http://keepass.sourceforge.net) installation over to it and get it in the U3 menu system.

    However, I can't get KeePass to "remember" where the database last used was. It seems to be updating the keepass.ini file in the program directory but then not acknowledging it when you open again. I've toggled the relavent switches in Options to no avail.

    Here's the U3 xml file (Manifest.u3i) in U3-speak:

    [?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?]
    [u3manifest version="1.0"]
    [application uuid="keepass" version="1.05"]
    [vendor url="http://keepass.sourceforge.net/"]Portable KeePass[/vendor]
    [description]KeePass, the free, open-source, light-weight and easy-to-use password manager.[/description]
    [upgrade appData="overwrite" deviceExec="overwrite"/]
    [appStart workingdir="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\Program Files\Keepass" cmd="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\Program Files\Keepass\keepass.exe"]start[/appStart]
    [appStop workingdir="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\Program Files\Keepass" cmd="%U3_DEVICE_PATH%\Program Files\KeePass\keepass.exe"]stop[/appStop]

    And here's the keepass.ini file:

    KeeLastDir=G:\Program Files\Keepass
    KeeHeaderItemOrder=0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    KeeListFont=MS Shell Dlg;8,0000

    I've tried to put the path and name of the database in the command that U3 executes (see [appStart ... [/appStart]. Any suggestions?

    (Less than and greater than symbols have been replaced by [ and ].)

    By Blogger Ben Moore , at 12/18/2006 8:21 PM

  • Thanks for the welcome
    Christmas Day falls on December 25. It is preceded by Christmas Eve on December 24, and in some countries is followed by Boxing Day on December 26. Some Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on January 7, which corresponds to December 25 on the Julian calendar. December 25 as a birthdate for Jesus is merely traditional, and is not thought to be his actual date of birth.Good luck!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 12/25/2006 8:36 AM

  • Happy new year !-!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 12/30/2006 5:47 PM

  • Great post... Especially important now that the PortableApps.com does not offer a Firefox 2.0 for U3...


    By Anonymous , at 1/05/2007 6:54 AM

  • Thank you ...
    I'll try it asap. I also bougth a Sandisk Cruzer 2GB U3 but the programs (which I install from web) were really bad except Firefox and WinRar.

    By Anonymous Aegnor , at 1/11/2007 1:03 AM

  • I tried to install VLC on launchpad, but I made some mistakes, because the u3p failed to load. I delete the VLC from the folder System/Apps. After that the U3 Launchpad doesn't run. Can I make something in order to use my U3 stick again (not than regular one)?

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 1/13/2007 4:30 AM

  • Great article - you've confirmed what I did to change Firefox on my U3 drive. The U3 Software central only has v1.5.0.1 whereas PortableApps.com has v2.0.0.0. (Funny considering that PortableApps provides Firefox for the U3)

    I started using portable apps a couple of days ago, but I've actually been running to two flash drives - my U3 one and a normal flash drive with PortableApps Suite on it. My PortableApps drive had Firefox 2.0, Gaim and Google Talk, but I'll now be moving the last two across now that I know how the U3 works! :)

    Either way, U3 and PortableApps are the way forward!

    By Anonymous Barkie , at 1/14/2007 2:52 PM

  • ??When i rename the zip file it is still u3p.zip what do i do

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 1/27/2007 7:32 AM

  • Thanks a lot!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 3/06/2007 12:52 PM

  • Woow!
    This was a leaver for me to put a side U3..... the none integration of portable apps in the U3 launcher.

    Thanks for all the work and details, it just works!!

    Kind regards,
    Erik Janssen

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 3/07/2007 8:13 AM

  • Thanks, I have been searching this info for a long time, it worked GREAT!
    Thank you very very much!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 3/15/2007 7:49 PM

  • I just wanted to say thanks!!!!

    By Blogger , at 3/20/2007 8:39 AM

  • hi,,

    this is what i was looking for,

    some suggestions, download and use the vlc player first, make sure the installed directory name is same as given in the below i.e portablevlc,

    Edit Manifest.u3i in notepad (or TextPad, etc)

    thge new VLC player installs as VLCPORTABLE not portablevlc, so please edit the directory name and exe file also after you install it


    it won`t work unlike what someone else(fool) left a comment here, wasted 2 hour2 on it, you need to add the line into LPDB.XML

    suggest you try adding vlc first, with the same program locations, just copy and paste the u3i file text, then try to install other programs cos then you belive it can be done,by replacing the text in the manifest.u3i file for another programs.

    it works(worked after trying 3 other programs,trying without editing lpb.xml,then gave up last try with vlc,it worked)

    dont give up!!!it does work


    By Blogger , at 3/27/2007 4:11 AM

  • Thanks for the instructions - they worked for me. I used the 'Add Programs-Install from My Computer' and it worked. It also acted as a quick check on whether my manifest was correct.

    By Blogger , at 4/05/2007 10:01 AM

  • I included the portableapps application (base edition) as a program in the launchpad menu using the same procedure as described above.
    The portable apps menu can then be selected just like every other program and programs of your choice can be installed using "Options -Install A New App". When the PortableApps is active the grey Icon is visible in the taskbar.
    The only catch is that you have to manually close the portableapps application before ejecting the U3 Launchpad.
    Otherwise everything works OK, and you only have to import one single program in the launchpad menu!

    By Anonymous Way2Loud , at 4/06/2007 3:29 PM

  • Ok... So I got it to work on my first try... but it doesn't work correctly... I tried to get it to start a game known as N... It does... It brings up the Flash player 7 window... and the game never loads...

    By Blogger , at 4/17/2007 11:38 PM

  • Works like a charm.

    Will post a note about it on my blog.

    All the best,


    By Blogger Barts_706 , at 4/23/2007 8:36 AM

  • Hello way2loud,

    I tried the portable apps base, but it does not work. I have installed some other applications like 7Zip. Is there some specific point to note.



    By Anonymous kmn , at 4/26/2007 4:17 AM

  • Hi kmn,

    Nothing special, just follow the instructions. It works on my old home PC, 600Mhz Dell and also on my job PC 3Ghz HP, both running XP Pro SP2. Do you get some kind of error message when you try to load portable apps?


    By Blogger , at 5/01/2007 6:08 AM

  • Hi kmn,

    nothing special, just follow the instruktions. Do you get some kind of error message when you try to load portable apps?

    // W2L

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 5/01/2007 6:11 AM

  • Great article. I just got a u3 drive and am trying it out. I got vlc working. I had to delete start from the appstart tags because it was trying to launch "start" which it couldn't find. The apps on my drive seem to run sluggishly. I'll try it for a couple weeks, but I may end up just removing u3. :P

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 6/27/2007 2:17 PM

  • Just stopping by to say thanks for the great tut! I use it quite often for my work U3 drive. Very easy to follow and well described. Keep up the good work!

    By Blogger , at 8/07/2007 7:30 AM

  • Hey, just stopping by to say thanks for the great tut! I've used this quite often already on my work U3 drive for VLC media player and a few other progs. Great tutorial and very easy to understand and follow. Keep up the good work!

    By Blogger , at 8/07/2007 7:34 AM

  • if u have a sandisk reinstall ur u3 @ www.sandisk.com

    please bk up ur drive urself... u might get an error.

    after bking up ur drive..
    select format my drive...

    then bk ur drive up to its original drive when its done

    By Anonymous dbdii407 , at 8/12/2007 6:18 AM

  • you can download vlc player for U3 here:

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/12/2007 5:45 AM

  • Great job! Took a couple tries to get everything right, but this works great, and is one of the fundamental issues that was bugging me with my U3 drive. You'd think U3 could offer this functionality in their software rather than making users come up with their own hacks to accomplish this.

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/18/2007 9:16 AM

  • thanks for the tutorial...

    infact the script works for Winamp lite...and probably anything that's portable

    1 think tho...anyone know how to get rid of the error "Unable to open 'start'" during launch...doesnt effect VLC as it runs perfectly...it's just annoying to close it all the time

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/19/2007 11:43 AM

  • Found another solution that made things much easier, a few clicks and its done.


    I'm not trying to steal any of the glory from the one who wrote the tutorial, which is greatly appreciated. I just figured this might be better for some of the less tech savvy users out there. Enjoy!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 9/22/2007 1:24 PM

  • Geez, dbdii407,

    You saved 12, count 'em, a WHOLE *12* characters in a 244 character post, by writing 'u' not 'you', 'ur' not 'your', etc.

    MUST you do that? It takes twice as long to read the "cute" abbreviations.

    Sorry for the rant here! It just gets SO tiring when trying to read everything quickly and then being forced to visually stumble.

    [PS: Don't believe it slows you down? Here's the above with all y's and o's removed; they occur in nearly the same proportion as the other omissions...

    "Srr fr the rant here! It just gets S tiring when tring t read everthing quickl and then being frced t visuall stumble."

    By Anonymous jb , at 10/05/2007 4:48 PM

  • I would recommend setting the .u3p ext as a Commpressed(zip)folder in window's folder option> file types

    so that if you have to fix something, you don't have to keep changing .u3p to .zip

    By Blogger , at 10/11/2007 7:03 AM

  • Seems like my cruzer cant do it :/. Got a 4gig cruzer micro for xmas..

    Did this guide and I get a "corrupted device" error when I plug it in. The simple part of it part works fine although i could still browse thought it, remove my changes in the system folder and it was fine.. Mabe the newer devices don't support adding "unofficial" programs. :(

    By Anonymous jockas , at 12/24/2007 1:04 PM

  • It works on my new U3 flash drive. (after a hour of searching for the error) Just make sure you check the spelling since a single letter misspelled can cause an error. Very useful!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 12/26/2007 3:50 AM

  • By Anonymous Anonymous , at 12/26/2007 4:25 PM

  • Great!
    Works like a charm on sandisk cruzer u3 4GB!
    Added keepass, popcorn and filezilla portable

    From France

    will make a translation in a few days on necesware.info

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 1/08/2008 9:56 AM

  • Translation to french done on necesware.info!

    See "Installer des programmes dans le lanceur U3"


    By Anonymous Neces , at 1/09/2008 2:05 PM

  • Awsome post Brian thank you very much for this guide it was great. I was wondering if you think it would be possible to install a program such as Nortons Antivirus // internet security on a U3 device or would that be too much for the U3 drive to handle? I have the software disc bought and ready just curious if you though it was possible and if it was done if it would leave behind traces of itself or damage the U3 device in anyway (sorry i'm alittle bit of a U3 application noob)


    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 1/23/2008 8:47 AM

  • The PackageFactory for U3 software doesnt really work that well.

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 1/28/2008 9:31 AM

  • So glad something like this is out here. If it doesn't work for you be persistent and you'll get it to work.

    Thanks for the blog.

    By Anonymous Mycophiles , at 2/06/2008 10:30 AM

  • Works fine for me, thanks a lot! First try, no problems.
    I was just looking for an idea how to put Mozilla Thunderbird Portable in that list, and i found your tutorial. Great!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 2/08/2008 3:11 PM

  • Perfecto! This article it dope! Nice work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 3/05/2008 7:54 AM

  • YOU ARE THE POOP! Thanks sooo much! Now how about an article on how to reinstall the whole U3 launcher in case you format the drive? Like backing up both partitions and re-imaging them. Thanks again!!!

    By Blogger , at 3/06/2008 2:17 AM

  • i was freaked out when i tried this with Yahoo Widgets. the u3 drive was unable to load, and no matter how many times i plugged it back in i kept getting an error message. luckily, i was able to access the drive info from my computer. the tag under the LPDB file (< /LPDB>) was not at the end of the document. for more advanced programmers, this might never happen to them, but for new programmers and people who will follow your directions step by step, this would be a big concern.

    By Anonymous jake , at 3/10/2008 4:58 PM

    GREAT POST !!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 4/04/2008 11:13 PM

  • Brilliant!!! Old post from 2006 but still a unique resource for u3 users.

    I have used it with PStart which gives me the flexibility to order all my (numerous) portable applications by folders while accessing in one click it via the U3 launcher. I get the icon from the U3 version of PStart.

    The interest of using this hack + a non U3 version of PStart is that you can backup in one go (1) your favourites apps, (2) their associated settings and (3) the PStart menu all in one go, really easily and then move this in between several USB sticks...

    Great stuff, love it. Thanks a lot. :)

    By Blogger , at 6/02/2008 1:54 PM

  • i am having trouble getting my text document to turn into a u3i file any suggestions?

    By Anonymous ricardo , at 10/17/2008 8:34 PM

  • salam kenal bagi pencari program aplikasi portable. ni aku punya programnya yang full.
    untuk download praogram thinstall dengan versi full silakan klik

    By Blogger , at 2/04/2009 5:42 PM

  • Very nice it took me some time to figure it out but it work fine , it was my 1st time editing XML file this article was really usefully

    By Anonymous T-blan , at 7/08/2009 2:35 AM

  • Many thanks for this excellent tutorial.

    Managed to install a Subversion server and Portable VirtualBox without any problems.

    Keep up the good work!


    By Anonymous Anonymous , at 8/21/2009 2:02 AM

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