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My computer doesn’t have any optical drives anymore. That means CD drives, DVD drives, Floppy drives–they’ve all been cut out and done away with forever. If a particular piece of peripheral gear doesn’t have a USB interface, then it won’t be dealing with my PC. But luckily, even if you don’t have a CD or DVD drive, you can still find use in a disc by using the ISO format.
The data on an optical disc is referred to as a “disc image.” The most common format of disc image is .ISO, an internationally accepted format for archiving data onto optical discs. If you don’t have the physical copy of a specific disc, you can still obtain it in digital form by grabbing an ISO image of it. On the flip side, if you have an optical disc, you can duplicate its data by creating an ISO image of your own.
If this sounds difficult, then don’t fret. It’s really no tougher than moving files around and clicking buttons. Most ISO manipulating programs are extremely straightforward and easy to use. Here are some of the best ones you’ll find on the Internet without having to pay a single cent.
Just recently I realized that my current PC didn’t have an ISO program on it, so I looked around and stumbled across WinCDEmu, an open-source one-click disc image mounting tool. I immediately fell in love with the simple interface. I don’t even need to open any programs; just right click on the .ISO file, select Mount, done.
ISO creation is just as simple. Insert a disc into your optical drive, right click on the drive, select Create, done. Name the resulting file and it’ll be ready to go instantly.
WinCDEmu is versatile in that it supports disc image formats of multiple types: ISO, CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF, CCD, and IMG. Unlike most free mounting tools, WinCDEmu can handle an unlimited number of virtual drives.
Available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7.
Another lightweight ISO management tool in the same vein as WinCDEmu is ImgBurn. This tool packs a serious punch for its size, being able to handle the image files of CDs, DVDs, HD-DVDs, and Blurays. If I wasn’t already a WinCDEmu user, ImgBurn would be top on my list.
Out of the box, ImgBurn supports numerous image types: ISO, BIN, CUE, IMG, NRG, CCD, CDI, DVD, GI, MDS, DI and PDI. I haven’t even heard of half of those formats.
ImgBurn can create ISO images of your optical discs, create ISO images out of scratch, write ISO images to a disc, verify the integrity of a disc’s readability, and more. It’s designed so that any newbie can pick it up right away, but advanced users will prosper from ImgBurn’s configurability.
Available for Windows 95, 98, Me, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8.
SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive is one of the better known ISO management tools out there. It mounts images with a simple double-click and supports up to 8 separate virtual drives at a time. Plus, it supports all of the common image formats, including BIN, CUE, and CDD. Unlike SlySoft’s others software packages, this one is completely free.
Available for Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7.
A long time ago–I’m talking nearly half a decade–Daemon Tools used to be the household name for ISO-related tools. Nowadays, there are so many free alternatives that Daemon Tools has fallen a bit by the wayside. The Lite version can be obtained for free, but it lacks in everything but the most basic of features.
If all you need to do is mount a basic image file, then it will suffice. If you want to do anything more advanced, you may run into some limitations unless you pay around 15 Euros for the premium version.
Available for Windows 98, XP, Vista, 7 and most recently, Mac OS.
AcetoneISO is an ISO management tool aimed primarily at users on Linux-based platforms. It’s an open-source software package that can handle free and proprietary disc image formats, including ISO, BIN, NRG, IMG, NDF, and more.
Many Linux gurus could probably burn entire archives full of CDs and DVDs using nothing but the terminal, but Linux newbies will find this program to be invaluable when dealing with disc images. Burn images to CDs and DVDs, convert images from one format to another, generate ISO files from scratch or from a disc–AcetoneISO can do it all and more.
Packages available for Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Mandriva, Archlinux, Slackware, and Gentoo.
Want more? If you have a tablet or notebook without a DVD drive, you can use a laptop drive instead.
Image Credit: DVD Image Via Shutterstock