Use Your Spare USB Drive as an MP3 Player

Install a portable audio player on your USB drive for portable tunes

It may sound odd to use a USB flash drive like an MP3 player, but it makes sense if you work on several computers and want instant access to your favorite tracks. Not all computers have the necessary software media player installed, so you may need to install portable software on your USB memory stick to play music anywhere you go. By using a portable version of a media player, you can listen to music from the USB memory stick wherever you find a USB port.

Although each app may come with its own installation instructions, you generally plug a USB flash drive containing a music library into a computer and download a portable audio player app. Double-click the .exe file and select the flash drive as the target. Thereafter, plug the flash drive into any computer or device with a USB port and click the app on the flash drive to launch the portable media player.

Here are some popular portable music players you can install on a USB memory stick.

A person using portable usb hard drive on laptop
Michelangelo Gratton / Getty Images

Regardless of which portable audio program you use with your USB flash drive, when you are done listening, eject the USB drive safely to avoid corrupting your music.

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CoolPlayer+ Portable

The CoolPlayer+ interface in Windows 10.
What We Like
  • Slick and simple user interface.

  • Can be installed on a standalone USB drive.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited compatibility.

CoolPlayer+ Portable from is a lightweight MP3 audio player that can be installed as a standalone app on a USB memory stick. The app has a slick and simple user interface combined with an advanced playlist editor. The donation-ware player is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.

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The 1by1 interface in Windows 10.
What We Like
  • Free player with a customizable interface.

What We Don't Like
  • Dated design.

1by1 is a free portable audio player that browses through the music folders on your USB flash drive rather than working with one music library. When you launch the app on your flash drive, you see a list of the folders on the drive in the interface. Just pick the one you want to listen to. It remembers the last track played and supports gapless playback.

The user interface looks a bit retro, but this light player is versatile and does the trick. 1by1 is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP, and 2000.

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The MediaMonkey interface in Windows 10.
What We Like
  • Full-featured audio player.

What We Don't Like
  • May be difficult to load onto a USB drive.

Although most people don't think of full-featured MediaMonkey as a typical portable audio player, you can install it on a USB flash drive and use it to listen to your tunes. With MediaMonkey version 4.0 or higher, the trick is to check the "Portable Install" option during the setup wizard and then choose the flash drive as the target.

Earlier versions of MediaMonkey can also be installed on a memory stick, but those instructions are lengthy; they can be found on the MediaMonkey website.

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The XMPlay interface in Windows 10.
What We Like
  • Popular among superusers.

  • Lots of features.

What We Don't Like
  • Dated design.

Although it is not primarily a portable music player, XMPlay can be installed on a memory stick and function as one. XMplay is a fan favorite among portable audio player users. It is compatible with all recent versions of Windows, but versions of Windows 2007 and Vista require an additional plugin available from the website.

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The foobar2000 interface in Windows 10.
What We Like
  • Supports lots of audio formats.

  • Gapless playback.

  • Customizable layout.

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat bare feature set.

Foobar2000 is a free audio player for Windows that supports many audio formats. It offers gapless playback and the interface layout is customizable. This is a powerful media player with a plain exterior. Foobar2000 is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP service pack 2 or newer.

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