Cameyo: competent, free program virtualization app can create portable executables from any application

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Software virtualization, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a process whereby a specific program is run in a “virtual layer”, where the interaction with the operating system and the host environment is temporary and is automatically undone once the virtual program is terminated (more commonly referred to as “sandboxed”), until the next time you run the virtualized app.

Most commonly, software virtualization is done for security reasons, for testing purposes, or for the purpose of making a program portable.

Cameyo is a free software virtualization program that is one of only two freeware apps of its kind, the other being the afore-mentioned Altiris SVS, which, however, only works on 32 bit Windows.

Cameyo, in contrast, runs on both 32 bit and 64 bit operating systems. Although still in its early stages, Cameyo is under active development, unlike SVS which has been put on hold ever since it was acquired by Semantic a couple of years ago.

One disadvantage, though, is that unlike SVS, the initial installation of a program is not virtual, at least in the version I tested. I.e., you cannot simply undo an installed program once you virtualize it; rather, you will need to either uninstall the program normally or otherwise virtualize the program within a virtual machine in the first place.

How it works: Cameyo takes a snapshot of your system right before you install a new software, monitors the install process, and figures out all the modifications that were made to your system in the interim. It then wraps the installed program and environment in a virtual layer that is accessed via a single executable. Here are some PROS and CONS:

PROS:

  • Competent application virtualization: in general terms, Cameyo does an excellent job. You cannot expect that all applications can be virtualized using a program like this; however, Cameyo was able to handle an impressive range of programs that I threw at it.
  • Creates portable executables: i.e. these do not require Cameyo to be installed to run, making Cameyo an excellent program for the creation of portable apps out of installers.
  • Sandboxed: all modifications to the registry or data saved locally is sandboxed and saved internally rather than on your system.
  • Easy to use: in the sense that the average user can be up and running creating virtualized app within minutes of running this program; very simple and intuitive.
  • The editing screen: lets you view your virtualized app, as well as all the locations that it writes to, and make edits.
  • Works on all recent versions of Windows: XP, Vista, and Windows 7.
  • Works on 32bit and 64bit OS’s: to its great credit. A few things to bear in mind; processing on 32 bit machines is a better bet for using the virtualized app in both 32bit and 64bit environments. Another tip: when virtualizing, install straight to the root directory (e.g. ‘C:\program-name’), rather than ‘Program files’, in order to work around the ‘Program files’ vs. ‘Program Files (x86)’  directory naming  issue in 32bit vs. 64bit environments.
  • Is being actively developed: which is a gift, really.

CONS:

  • You have to actually install a program on your PC in order to virtualize it: i.e. the initial install cannot be magically undone, as is possible with SVS.

The verdict: overall, a really nice tool. However, the one item in the cons section above is a huge handicap, insofar as it makes Cameyo somewhat useless for testing programs and for security purposes, and relegates it to the function of creating portable apps.

There is a suggestion that users go around this by using a virtual machine as a temporary environment for virtualizing apps, which can work. However, if I had access to a virtual machine I could just as easily use that environment for testing software and for security concerns, and wouldn’t need Cameyo at all. As a result, Cameyo effectively becomes a mere portable app creation tool.

On the other hand this software is still early in its development and has already made strides as far as I am concerned. I am expecting it to get even better; keep a close watch.

If you’d like a step-by-step guide to using Cameyo check out this posting on AddictiveTips. Or see the video below.

Version Tested: 1.4

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; 32 bit and 64bit.

Go to program home page to download the latest version (approx 1.67 megs).