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High quality CDs and DVDs have a lifetime of up to 30 years, while cheap blanks may fail after less than five years. Hence, hard disks, which are said to become error-prone after three to five years, may be less durable and reliable.

However, it’s much easier to transfer data from a hard drive, to date the capacity is much bigger, and when dealing with a mass of data, hard drives are of course cheaper, way faster and much more convenient to use for backups.

Now, even if you don’t make backups to CD or DVD, you probably own commercial discs, be it music, movies or programs you bought. If you don’t want to lose them due to “natural decay”, you will have to prepare a backup. Please mind that this is not an instruction to circumvent copy protection. In case you are dealing with copy protected media, you’d best learn how to treat them to achieve maximal lifetime. There is a very good article about CD and DVD Lifetime and Maintenance on Techworld. And to recover an already broken CD or DVD, you should refer to Bill’s recent article Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool – CD Recovery Toolbox Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Free CD/DVD File Recovery Tool - CD Recovery Toolbox Read More .

So how do you create a backup?

Most CD/DVD burners can save ISO files. Back in February Shankar wrote a great article introducing The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner The Best, Free Alternatives to Nero CD/DVD Burner Don't waste money on a CD/DVD burning tool! A freeware application might be all you need. Here we have compiled five alternatives to Nero Burning ROM for your Windows PC. Read More . Another great tool to extract ISO images from CDs or DVDs, is DuBaron’s open source CD2ISO. The tool does not require an installation, simply run the EXE file, select a drive and a target and go. CD2ISO does not read copy protected discs or audio CDs because it relies on a valid file system.

As you see, creating the backup is easy. And once you have it on your hard drive you can burn it to a fresh disc anytime. But why bother when you can read the backup directly from your hard disk!

Playback CD or DVD on your PC from Backup

Dolly, the first mammalian clone, has inspired the name and logo of SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive. With CloneDrive you can mount a virtual drive to playback CD or DVD backups in ISO, DUE, BIN, CCD, DVD, IMG or UDF format. The program supports up to eight virtual drives and it’s very easy to use.


After installation the tool appears as Elaborate Bytes folder in your Windows programs list. Open the Virtual CloneDrive menu and select how many drives you wish to mount. Check “virtual sheep” for the sheep head logo to appear as the drive symbol, to better distinguish the virtual from your regular drives.

To mount a CD image you can do two things. Either right-click the backup file and select >Open With >Mount Files with Virtual CloneDrive or right-click one of the virtual drives, select >Virtual CloneDrive and >Mount… from the menu, then browse for your backup file. Wait for a few seconds, then proceed as you would after loading a regular disc.

The advantages of using a virtual drive are manifold:
1. quick access to backed up CDs or DVDs
2. no need to carry discs
3. conserve your CD/DVD drive
4. less noise (especially on laptops)
5. less energy use

What is your experience with the durability of CDs and DVDs? Are you prepared to lose the first CDs you bought back in the 80’s?

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  1. Sue
    May 26, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I am totally new to all things CD etc. What I need to do is ZIP a whole lot of pictures (in different folders) then load them on a CD which then will be given to other people who need to be able to view the pictures. It would be nice to have some self starting on the CD and it is an absolute MUST that those people do NOT need any software to view the pictures - unless it can be included on the CD and doesn't need installation on their side.
    One more thing: due to budgetary limits the software to create those CDs would have to be free if possible.
    Any suggestions and help for the newbie?
    Thanks a lot. Sue

  2. Vic
    August 21, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Thank you, thank you AND thank you;

    ....for the great tips. It works really well. No more wheezing sound of spinning disc in the dvd-drive when I bootup the laptop plus one less disc to carry... :-)

  3. curts
    August 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    First, let me say I know CloneDrive is intended for Windows users, but I thought the following info might be of help to other Linux users reading this post.

    HOWTO: Nautilus Script to mount .iso files

    This has been an ongoing topic on the Ubuntu forum for a while. You will want to read the later posts to find the improved methods and scripts for addressing this issue.

    On variant that may be of particular interest is this single script that can do both the mount and unmount operations:

    Another possibility is gISOmount, although I have not tried it myself.

    For the truly adventurous there is

  4. Mackenzie
    August 20, 2008 at 9:30 am

    :-/ This seems rather silly to me. Windows doesn't have some mkisofs equivalent? And it can't loop mount? XP takes up like 5gb and Vista much more...they couldn't get such teeny tiny commands into it? I didn't know these things were possible when I used Windows, but now that I know it, I'm surprised to find out that it can't do such simple things.

    • Tina
      August 20, 2008 at 11:10 am

      Speaking for XP - apparently not. Or at least not in a format that is easily accessible to the regular user (like myself). ;)

  5. curts
    August 20, 2008 at 8:22 am

    Yep, just used EAC earlier this week to rip to the FLAC format the first music CD I acquired (Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, purchased back in 1988) for this very reason.

  6. Eric
    August 20, 2008 at 2:29 am