An .ISO file is a file that contains the complete image of a disc, either a CD or a DVD. Such files are often used when transferring CD and DVD images over the Internet (for example, most MSDN downloads that are available from the MSDN subscriber downloads page, AND the files that are delivered monthly with the MSDN subscription package – are in .ISO format). ISO files are typically created through an application that will open, create, edit, and extract CD or DVD image files, then convert the extracted image to an .ISO file, easily allowing users to burn an exact copy of the original onto CD or DVD.
When you get your hands on an .ISO (or other image file format) that you want to use, you can either burn it to a physical CD or DVD media (thus “wasting” a few cents and valuable rack space in your CD shelf, or mount it by using some sort of emulating software. By using a mounting software you can keep the .ISO file as a file somewhere on your hard disk or network, and then just access it like it was a real CD or DVD drive.
Prior to Windows Vista there were a lot of tools that allowed mounting of .ISO files. With Vista, many of these tools were not compatible anymore and some even caused blue screens (BSODs) on Vista. I decided to make a list of the tools that do work, and the only condition was that they were totally free and had no hidden costs or other issues.
Listed in no particular order:
ISO Recorder by Alex Feinman
A longtime favorite of mine, I’ve been using it since Windows XP came out.
ISO Recorder has been conceived during Windows XP beta program, when Microsoft for the first time started distributing new OS builds as ISO images. Even though the new OS had CD-burning support (by Roxio), it did not have an ability to record an image. ISO Recorder has filled this need and has been one of the popular Windows downloads ever since. With an advent of Windows XP SP2 and Windows 2003 the version 2 of ISO Recorder has been released, which introduced some new features including ISO image creation and support for non-admin user.
Currently in V3 RC1 phase (as of June 2007), ISO Recorder supports Windows Vista. Hopefully it will be soon released in its final version (if you happen to know it already did please send me a note by using the Feedback page)
Note: As some readers correctly said, while a fantastic tool by itself, ISO Recorder by Alex Feinman will allow you to burn any ISO file to CD, and NOT mount it by its own.
ISO Recorder http://isorecorder.alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm
Virtual CloneDrive works and behaves just like a physical CD/DVD drive, however it exists only virtually. ISO image can be mounted onto a virtual drive from your hard-disk or from a network drive and used in the same manner as inserting them into a normal CD/DVD drive. It works very nicely!
Some of the features included in Virtual CloneDrive are:
- Supports all common image formats such as ISO, BIN, CCD
- Supports up to 8 virtual drives at the same time
- Easy to use – just double-click an image file to mount as a drive
SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive http://www.slysoft.com/en/virtual-clonedrive.htm
MagicISO Virtual CD/DVD-ROM (MagicDisc)
Like the previous listed tools, MagicDisc is freeware. It is a helpful utility designed for creating and managing virtual CD drives and CD/DVD discs. MagicDisc allows you to use almost all CD/DVD image file type without burning them onto CD or DVD in order to easily access your favorite games, music, or software programs.
MagicISO Virtual CD/DVD-ROM (MagicDisc) http://www.magiciso.com/tutorials/miso-magicdisc-overview.htm
WinCDEmu is an open-source software that allows mounting CD/DVD images by clicking at the image files in Windows Explorer. It supports both Windows XP and Vista, is open-source and completely freeware. Version 2.0 supports ISO, CUE, BIN/RAW/IMG file formats as well as SMB network shares. Each mounted image will be represented by a separate virtual CD device, as in MacOS. There is no limit for the number of simultaniously mounted images. To unmount an image, double-click the corresponding file in Explorer again, or simply eject the corresponding CD drive using the context menu.
Daemon Tools used to be my favorite, but that stopped being true the moment they began to insert spyware and other crap into their software. Although they *claim* they do not force you to accept the “optional software offers” when installing Daemon Tools, I do not trust them anymore and therefore will not even post a link to their site. The reason I did mention them was because with their latest version, they now fully support Vista (32-bit and 64-bit versions).
If you must, Google them and download the software. Be warned, you might compromise your system by installing it on your computer.
Note: As usual, if you happen to know of other, good, and most importantly – freeware – tools for mounting .ISO files on Vista – please drop me a line by using the Feedback page.
Got a question? Post it on our Windows Vista Forums!