The ability to use a virtual drive to mount optical media from a file will undoubtedly save you time and effort, but if you’re a Windows user then your operating system can’t do it without a helping hand.
For years DAEMON Tools has been regarded by many as ahead of its class in this field, but it is not without its rivals. If you’re searching for a decent alternative then we’ve got 3 hot tips right here.
If you’re using Linux then you can get better instructions here, these apps are Windows-only.
Do I Need A Virtual Drive?
You only really need a virtual drive if you want to mount image files. Image files are digital copies of optical media, such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. It is possible to rip the entire contents of a CD (or other optical media), and then mount it with image mounting software.
The software (in this case DAEMON Tools) installs a virtual optical drive on your PC, which functions exactly the same as a normal drive ““ only instead of physical media, you feed it image files. You can then access the image file as if you had put a disc into your computer. If you download software or applications and want to avoid burning the downloaded file to a CD, then you can simply mount your chosen software in the virtual drive.
You could even rip often used media so it’s that little bit easier to access. Using virtual drives in this way can vastly speed up your workflow, especially with multiple-disc installs.
There exists a free version of the commercial DAEMON Tools product line, DAEMON Tools Lite. This is the best alternative to the paid versions, with a few restrictions imposed over the pro edition. The interface is familiar and easy to use, and there’s plenty of power beneath the hood.
Not only will it mount a wide variety of familiar and obscure file types (.MDX, .MDS/.MDF, .ISO, .B5T, .B6T, .BWT, .CCD, .CDI, .CUE, .NRG, .PDI, .ISZ) but you can also have up to 4 simultaneous virtual drives (which should suffice for personal use).
DAEMON Tools Lite also includes the ability to make disc image files from your own optical media. As this is the free version, you can only rip to .MDS/*.MDF and .MDX.
Maybe you’ve tried DAEMON Tools, decided it’s not for you and fancy something else. You may also be one of the unlucky few who experience problems with the program, and need something a bit different.
Here are 3 good alternatives to DAEMON Tools that won’t cost you a penny.
The first on the list is the completely free and open source WinCDEmu. As there are no commercial versions of the software, the free version packs everything the developers could come up with into one cost-effective package.
Mountable images are limited to: .ISO, .CUE, .NRG, .MDS/.MDF, .CCD and .IMG. This isn’t quite as many as DAEMON Tools, but the major formats are fully supported. WinCDEmu completely integrates with Windows Explorer, allowing you to simply double-click a supported image file for it to be immediately mounted. You can then unmount the disc image using the right-click context menu from My Computer.
WinCDEmu should suffice for most common disk image tasks. What’s more its free and open source to boot.
Brought to you by Alcohol Software, Alcohol 52% is the smaller, non-commercial edition of the popular Alcohol 120% image tool. It supports the mounting of common image file formats and a maximum of 6 virtual drives in this free edition.
Alcohol does not integrate with Explorer quite in the same way as WinCDEmu, instead you must add your image files to Alcohol first and then double-click to mount them.
This version is free for non-commercial and personal use only, otherwise you’ll need a licence. Don’t forget to uncheck that pesky Alcohol Soft Toolbar that’s bundled along!
Note: if you’ve been using Alcohol 120% and want to downgrade to this free version be sure to remove your old version first.
We’ve mentioned it before, and for good reason. Virtual CloneDrive is a freeware image mounting tool with the usual support for common formats (including .ISO, .BIN and .CCD) and a whopping 8 virtual drives. You may get a Windows driver warning whilst installing, but soldier on and click Continue Anyway to proceed with the installation.
Once installed you can associate your image files with the program so that in future all it takes is a double-click to mount. Virtual CloneDrive is simple, cost-free and effective.
We’ve already covered a lot of optical media tools, but it’s always nice to have a selection. All of these programs should work on machines running the Windows XP, 2000, Vista and 7 operating systems. let us know if they work out better than DAEMON Tools for you.
Do you have any preferred image mounting software? Have your say in the comments.
Image credit: Shutterstock
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