A Guide to Stand-Alone Software

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Stand-alone software is any software application that does not come bundled with extra software, nor does it require anything else to run. Essentially, it's software that can "stand on its own," without help from the internet or another computer process.

You would typically install stand-alone software on your computer's hard drive. Once it's installed, you won't need to use a web browser or connect to the internet in any way.

Examples of popular stand-alone software include Quicken and Microsoft Money. These two software packages don't require anything more than the basic operating system on your computer.

Different Types of Stand-Alone Software

Stand-alone software has certain defining characteristics. The following represent a few examples:

Software that runs on its own without an internet connection: This includes anti-virus software or financial software (like Microsoft Money) that can be installed on your computer via CD, thumb drive, or internet download. Stand-alone anti-virus software is important because you can scan for viruses without the chance of an online virus re-infecting your computer. Having Microsoft Money installed on your computer means you can enter transactions at any time, without the need for an internet connection.

Software that isn’t part of a bundle: When you buy computer accessories, such as a printer, it may come with stand-alone software that helps the accessory communicate with your computer. The software could serve as a full interface, such as a desktop program that works with a USB-enabled label printer. Or, the software might only install drivers and other files needed to get the accessory up and running. The opposite of this kind of stand-alone software is bundled software, or several types of software programs sold together, like the software that comes pre-installed on a new computer. 

A program that runs separately from all other computer processes: This type of program doesn’t rely on any other software to function. The most common example of this software type is your computer's operating system. While the operating system contains a large number of interrelated files, it isn't dependent on any of those files—it runs on its own without any companion software or internet connection.

A portable application that doesn’t need to be installed on your computer: An example is a software program that runs on its own using a disc or flash drive. When not in use, you can easily eject the disc or flash drive. You can keep the program self-contained, and it saves space on your hard drive. You might keep a program for virus removal on a separate flash drive so that the anti-virus program doesn't become tainted by an infection. You might also keep software on your flash drive that can "rescue" your computer. If disaster strikes, you can boot your computer from the flash drive, rather than using a potentially damaged hard drive.

Not all stand-alone software needs to be installed on your hard drive or run from an external device. Simple software can operate independently, directly from the file location on your computer. Simply copy the executable file from an external source, save it any place on your computer, then double-click on it with your cursor to run the program. 

Pros and Cons

Stand-alone software usually excels at giving you exactly what you need at a detailed level. This is because the software is designed with a tight focus on a specific problem and solution. Bundled or enterprise software often incorporates several types of functions. This is sometimes done well, but it can also suffer from trying to do too many things at once without providing depth in any of them.

On the other hand, stand-alone software can create problems if you decide to switch software or incorporate the information into another software package. It was built to be used alone, not as an add-on to other software, so attempting to integrate it will be clunky and inconvenient. When it comes to financial programs, stand-alone software also lacks the convenience of internet-connected services that can automatically pull data such as account transactions or stock quotes.