ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. You wouldn’t know it but it’s one of the most powerful non-governmental organizations in the world. These are the guys who set the universal benchmarks known as ISO standards.
Why are we discussing a world body in a tech site? It’s because they lend their name to a well known file format too.
The ISO file (.iso) is just an archive file format of an optical disk. It can be said to be an exact clone of a file system because it’s a byte for byte copy of a disk with all of its data and metadata. It’s a popular format for downloads and transport over the internet. Anyone who has downloaded a game, an OS like a Linux distro, or an OS update would know them by sight. Also, being an open standard format along with another called UDF it’s supported by all optical disc software.
ISO is not the only one of its kind. There are others, each created by a disk manufacturer and his competitor. Some others you may have come across include – img, bin, mdf, mds etc.
So how does one deal with these ISO files? There are several easy ways :
- You can burn them directly to a disk.
- You can open them like an archive (remember they are uncompressed archives) using archive tools like WinRAR.
- You can mount them and treat it like a virtual drive.
Using widely available tools called free virtual drive software or Disk Emulators, it’s easy to mount an ISO file (or a disk for that matter) and use it as one would with a disk loaded in the CD tray.
Let’s load with three simple and free virtual drive tools.
Virtual CloneDrive is a light 1.5 MB download which supports all common image formats such as ISO, BIN, IMG, CCD, UDF, DVD etc.
Mounting an image file is as simple as double clicking it or selecting it with a browse from the system tray. Virtual CloneDrive can mount up to 15 virtual drives at the same time.
Virtual CloneDrive is supported by Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP/XP64/Vista/Vista64.
Note: During the installation an alert that Virtual CloneDrive has not passed the Windows Driver Signature Test and the Windows Logo Test crops up. Ignore and continue with the installation.
MagicDisc is another light free virtual drive tool, downloading at 1.3MB. MagicDisc supports a large number of image formats like ““
BIN, IMA/IMG, CIF, NRG, IMG/CCD, MDF/MDS, VCD, VaporCD, P01/MD1/XA, VC4/000, VDI, C2D, BWI/BWT, CDI, TAO/DAO and PDI.
MagicDisc allows for the creation of 15 virtual drives and can also mount images on a networked machine. Mounting images is easy as the program also comes with an automatic image detection engine. MagicDisc can be set to auto-mount images after a reboot.
MagicDisc also comes bundled with a lot of other features like ““
- It can make ISO images from a physical disk.
- It has the ability to compress and encrypt ISO files.
- It features an interface that can decompress UIF images to ISO format.
MagicDisc (v2.7.106) is supported by Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP /Vista/7.
DAEMON Tools Lite is the bulkiest of the trio with a 7.3MB download size. It is free for personal use. DAEMON Tools Lite supports a large number of image formats like ““
b5t (BlindWrite images)/b6t (BlindWrite images)/bwt (BlindRead images)/ccd (CloneCD images)/cdi (DiscJuggler images)/cue (Cue sheets)/ iso (Standard ISO images)/mds (Media Descriptor Files)/nrg (Nero images)/ pdi (Instant CD/DVD images)/ isz (Compressed ISO images).
DAEMON Tools Lite gives us four virtual drives to work with. The image files can be mounted from the tray icon with a right or a left click. An image catalog saves a record of all image files mounted.
Also, the DAEMON Tools Panel gives a convenient interface to all functions of DAEMON Tools.
The Mount’n'Drive Manager bookmarks all your image files to give one touch access to mount and use them. The manager handles all mounting and un-mounting functions of the image files.
The Disc Imaging utility is a handy for creating image files in MDS or ISO format from physical disks. The data can also be compressed or encrypted with a password.
The program’s settings also lists a host of functions like auto-mounting, blocking un-mounting while image is in use, hot key settings, association settings with image formats and an Advanced Tab which handles copy protection features.
DAEMON Tools Lite (v4.30.4) is supported by Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP /Vista/7.
Any of these three free virtual drive tools can stand up to the task of handling virtual disk jobs.We have previously featured a few other image mounting software’s on these posts…
Which one is your pick? Let us know about your favorite tools to mount disks and ISO images.
Image Credit: bobbigmac
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