One trend that I’ve noticed as bandwidth and hard drive storage space continues to grow is that sending CD/DVD’s over the Internet is becoming a preferred way for distributing media. These files are typically in an ISO or BIN/CUE format, which most people will then burn to a CD/DVD before using them. The good news is that you can easily save the time and money involved in doing this by using a free virtual drive application.
How do you mount an ISO image? It’s actually really simple if you have the right tools. What they do is take an ISO image, BIN/CUE file, or any other supported format and displays it as a virtual drive on your computer. The drive will look just like any other CD drive in Windows Explorer. One of the huge benefits of doing this is that reading/copying files from the “CD” in this way is much faster than using a physical CD-ROM drive.
There are several free applications floating around the Internet that can do this, but you should be aware that some of them (Daemon Tools, etc..) might install spyware/malware on your machine. Luckily there are three great freeware solutions that you can trust, and that’s what we’re going to cover today.
–Virtual CloneDrive (Homepage)–
If you want a no-frills solution for mounting images Virtual CloneDrive is what you’ll likely want to use. It supports all of the common image formats including ISO, BIN, and CDD, and is capable of mounting the last used image file upon startup. You can have up to 8 virtual drives at any one given time, but the nicest feature would be the fact that you can mount an image simply by double-clicking on the file.
MagicISO (commonly referred to as MagicDisc) can do everything that Virtual CloneDrive is capable of plus some. It supports up to 15 simultaneous virtual drives, can automatically mount the last used image file, compress ISO images (which really just converts it from an ISO image to UIF), and more. Plus you can create ISO images from a CD/DVD!
Here are some of the filetypes it supports when creating or mounting images:
- Creating: ISO, BIN/CUE, NRG, or UIF images from a CD/DVD
- Mounting: Not only does MagicISO support the ISO image format, but it also supports over two dozen other popular formats: UIF, BIN/CUE (CDRWin), IMA/IMG, CIF (Easy CD Creator), NRG (Nero Burning ROM), IMG/CCD (CloneCD), MDF/MDS (Fantom CD), VCD (Farstone Virtual Drive), FCD, LCD, NCD, GCD, VaporCD (Noum Vapor CDROM), P01/MD1/XA (Gear), VC4/000 (Virtual CD), VDI (Virtuo CD Manager), C2D (WinOnCD), BWI/BWT (BlinkWrite), CDI (DiscJuggler), TAO/DAO (Duplicator), and PDI (Instant Copy)
The only thing this seems to be missing is the easy double-click to mount an image file that Virtual CloneDrive supports. To mount a drive in MagicISO you’ll want to click on the System Tray icon, go to Virtual CD/DVD-ROM, hover over one of the virtual adrives, and then choose the “Mount” option.
You might recall us writing about StarBurn as a free CD/DVD/Blu-ray burning application, but it’s also capable of mounting an ISO image! Once you have the StarBurn software running you’ll notice that there is a StarPort option located on the toolbar (also in the Action menu), and clicking on that will initiate the StarPort wizard. From there you can mount or unmount an image file on a virtual drive.
If you’ve been wanting a nice freeware application for burning CD’s and DVD’s I highly recommend picking this up. The fact that it doubles as a virtual drive manager makes it extremely worthwhile.
Note: This software tries to change your browser’s homepage during the setup process, but getting around it is as simple as unchecking a box.
It’s good to know that you’ve got options available to you should you decide that you need a virtual drive management application. Each one of the free solutions I’ve mentioned above caters to a different type of need: Virtual CloneDrive is simple and intuitive, MagicISO is powerful and lets you create images from CD’s, and StarBurn doubles as a CD burning application. Pick the one that benefits you the most, but it’s not like you can’t easily download one of the other free alternatives if you don’t like how one of them handles.