Extend The Life Of Your Optical Discs With ISO Backups & Virtual Clone Drive [Windows]

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virtual clone driveThere is absolutely no reason why you would still want to routinely run games, movies, or music from optical discs. Inserting, ejecting, and switching discs is a nuisance and subjects both the drive and the discs to wear and tear. Moreover, optical drives are annoyingly loud and probably use a fair bit of energy. Finally, you might not have an optical drive to begin with. So what should you do instead?

If your CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays are dear to you, store them safely and use them less. You can create backups (disc images), for example using ImgBurn, and store them on your hard drive. The disc images can be used just like the physical original. All you need is a virtual drive to mount them on.

What Is Virtual CloneDrive?

Virtual CloneDrive is a free tool to play CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray disc images straight form your hard drive. Disc images come in several formats, including ISO, BIN, and CCD. Virtual Clone Drive supports all of these and more. You can run up to 15 virtual drives simultaneously, meaning you can read data from that many discs at once.

Installation Tip

When you install Virtual CloneDrive, you can choose which image formats should be associated with the tool. While it is possible to change those associations later, you will have to do it manually for each format.

virtual clone drive

How To Set Up Virtual CloneDrive

Once installed, Virtual CloneDrive will reside in your system tray. Left-click the icon to open the options window. Under Settings you can set the number of virtual drives. Check Virtual Sheep to exchange the default optical drive logo with the sheep logo. This makes it easier to distinguish your virtual from your physical drives.

using virtual clone drive

Go to your Computer to see the available virtual drives.

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using virtual clone drive

How To Mount a Disc Image

To mount an ISO image or another type of disc image, you can go several different routes:

Direct via Associated Disc Image

If the respective format is associated with Virtual CloneDrive, you can simply double-click the file and it will be mounted to an available virtual drive.

Direct via Non-associated Disc Image

You can right-click the file, click Mountand select an available virtual drive.

using virtual clone drive

Indirect via Virtual Drive

Go to Computer, right-click on an available virtual drive, hover mouse to the Virtual CloneDrive entry, and click Mount…This will launch an Explorer window. Browse to the disc image file and open it.

optical disk life

Indirect via Virtual CloneDrive Icon In System Tray

Right-click the tool’s system tray icon, select an available virtual drive, click Mount…, and browse to the ISO file you want to open.

optical disk life

How To Unmount a Disc Image

To unmount an image, you have two options:

Via Your Computer

Right-click the respective virtual drive, find the mounted image in the list, hover over it and select Unmount from the sub-menu.

Via Virtual CloneDrive System Tray Icon

Click the respective virtual drive, and select Unmount from the menu.

Once you have mounted images, you will notice the options to purge images that no longer exist from history or clear the history.

virtual clone drive


Virtual CloneDrive is a simple tool that can save you the time and hassle of having to deal with optical discs. Unlike your physical hard drive, it supports multiple virtual discs at once. The only limitations are available hard drive space and copy protection of your optical media.

Convinced, but need a complete walk-through for backing up your CDs and DVDs first? Check out these articles:

Also, here are alternatives to Virtual CloneDrive and optical discs:

What is your experience with disc images and virtual drives?

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Comments (19)
  • Gideon Waxfarb

    Windows 8 does this natively :)

  • Anonymous

    i ve been using virtual clone for the last couple of years…its a must have tool for me

  • Carl Colvin

    Virtual Clone drive is good I have used it in the past but lately I found wincdemu and I really like it

  • Mayur Godhani

    I’ve used Ultra ISO till today.
    Now I think that, i should try Virtual Clone Drive atleast once.

  • Guest

    Great article, Tina. With disc images, you can keep a master copy of the physical medium as a backup while still being able to access the files/software on it using an emulator like VCD or Daemon Tools. I prefer VCD because it’s completely free and not nag/ad/crippleware like Daemon Tools Lite (vs. the paid-for full version). You can make disc images from your preexisting CDs/DVDs using a tool like ImgBurn or, for encrypted movies, the (in)famous DVD Decrypter (still available and still the best).

    The only real issue I’d have is with hard drive space, that is if you’re keeping the .iso file for repeated use and not just a one-shot deal. I have a LOT of file backups made on optical discs FROM a portable hard drive (since I’ve had them fail before) and can’t afford a subscription like Mozy or Dropbox. Counterproductive as it might seem, since I’m paranoid about never having too many backups, I’ve ended up making copies of the discs themselves onto more discs, especially after reading MUO’s article on “bit rot” (physical decay) of optical discs (disks? Probably a few fluky floppies still floating around in the world somewhere). Though it’s way out of my budget, a disc duplicator would reduce some of the tedium involved. HD space comes at a rare premium for me. :-\

    • Tina

      Well, it’s good to have a backup of data either way. You might want to back up your hard drive to Blu-Ray discs. But you should also back up your movie, music, or software discs, in case the original rots. Discs you use frequently rot faster, hence it’s a good idea to store them on the hard drive and give the hardware, i.e. both the optical disc and the drive necessary to read it, a break.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.