If you aren’t sure exactly what VMware ThinApp does or how it can be of use to you continue reading. Have you ever wanted to have an portable application, but it wasn’t made that way. With VMware ThinApp you can make virtual apps without the operating system. Then you can put the application on a flash drive or move it onto whatever machine you want, such as a laptop when you are on a trip and copy it back to your main PC when you are done. You can also setup a portable application of some software that only worked with an older version of Windows, some other OS or a very specific configuration.
You have to first create a Virtual Machine with a clean install of whatever OS you need for the applications you will make into virtual applications. They recommend you do not install any anti-virus or firewall or any other programs on the VM; therefore, you’ll want to disable any networking for the VM (and I would also disable any of it inside the OS). I don’t even bother with any updates other than making sure I have the latest Service Packs (SP3 for Windows XP) and possibly any .NET framework installations. Then you install VMware ThinApp on the VM. I would recommend to save a snapshot afterwards, which is possible if you use VMware Workstation. The reason for that is so you can restore the VM back to a clean slate without any programs installed. Now before you install the application you wish to turn into a virtual app, you need to run VMware ThinApp so it can analyze the OS and see what is on the machine. If you want you can create another snapshot after doing it does the analyzation. Once it is done analyzing, minimize but don’t close VMware ThinApp and now then you can install whatever application you want to turn into a portable app. Note, that if you are using an application that needs the .NET Framework you will of course have to install it in the VM. Once your program is done installing, then you unminimize VMware ThinApp and have it reanalyze the changes on the computer. It may take a long time depending on how big the program you installed was. Once it is done it will come up and give you some options on what executables to keep and so on.
Then you can tell it to build the application. Once this is done, copy over the files onto your host OS or save on a USB or Flash drive. You now have a Virtual Application that will let you run the app anywhere you like without the virtual OS.