An application device (401) is connectable with a donor device (541) such as a portable memory card (560) or widely accessible central database (550). The donor device (541) stores and provides preferences to the application device (401). The donor device (541) contains a reference preference memory capable of storing preferences for a particular user. A controller (450) accesses the donor device, when the donor device is available, to obtain preferences that pertain to the particular user under certain conditions and stores preferences obtained from the donor device in the session preference memory (490) of the application device (401) for use in a session by the particular user. When the donor device is unavailable, alternate preference establishment procedures are used.