If you would have asked me in the late 1990s when CDs (remember CD-RW?) were starting to replace floppy drives as the primary storage method for desktop PCs and servers if we were ever going to see a day when they were obsolete, the short-sighted young adult that I was would likely have said no. The smarter answer would have been ‘probably… but not for a while.’
Well here we are… CDs have come and gone… to a point. The CDFS file system is alive and well… and so is the .ISO file that is an image of the CD or DVD.
Earlier this week a client came to me perplexed. “Mitch, your instructions for transferring the data to an air-gapped virtual machine is to create an ISO file and then mount it. How do I do that?”
I started to answer that you log in to vCenter Server, click on the virtual machine’s settings, but the client stopped me. “No, I mean how do I create an ISO file? I can’t find any way to do it in Windows.”
For the last few versions, Microsoft Windows has had the ability to mount an ISO file. In File Explorer you navigate to where the file is located, you right-click and select Mount. Simple as that, you can read your ISO file. It is, just like most CDs, read-only… but you can copy the contents to your local machine. Why then, one might ask, is there no option to create the ISO files? This functionality requires a third-party tool.
Of course, in a datacenter environment, the primary reason one would likely be creating ISOs is to transfer information to virtual servers. And it’s not only about creating ISOs, but burning CDs for music, DVDs for movies (or whatever other data you might want to put onto CDs and DVDs). This goes both ways… Until Windows Vista, if you popped a music CD into your computer, Windows Media Player automatically ripped the music to your hard drive. From what I recall, the music industry (under the guise of the Recording Industry Association of America) asked them to put a stop to that… and they did. Did this stop people pirating music? Of course not. What it did do was make it hard for people who share their own music (or other types of audio recordings).
So what is the solution? You could fight with Microsoft to have them introduce all of this functionality back into File Explorer… or you could install an inexpensive piece of software that I have been using for years called PowerISO. This compact tool (the download is just over 5MB) gives you the functionality to work with not only ISOs, but also CDs, DVDs, and Blueray discs. You can rip and convert audio files, you can even make virtual floppy drive images (again, not something there is huge call for these days, but occasionally…).
As you can see, the media options are vast… So if you try to create an ISO file and it tells you that you are out of space, it is possible you are working with a smaller image file than you need – say, a 700MB CD instead of a 4.7GB DVD. This tool literally does everything I need when it comes to either creating media or media files. In the years I have been using it I have never tried to open a file it created to find it corrupted. If I need a bootable image, that’s not a problem. It simply works.
There are a number of competing products out there, but for my money, this is the one to buy. It is compatible with every version of Windows dating back to Windows 98, it comes in either 32-bit or 64-bit (make sure you grab the appropriate installer), and it does everything that I need. I first downloaded it in 2005, and have been using it ever since. Of course, back then I didn’t need an external DVD player to connect to my computer!