An ISO file, often called an ISO image, is a file that perfectly represents an entire CD, DVD, or BD. The entire contents of a disc can be accurately reproduced in a single ISO file.
Think of an ISO file like a box that holds all the parts for something that needs to be built – like a baby toy you can buy that requires assembly. The toy box in a toy is not the actual toy, but the content within it becomes something you want to use once brought and put together.
An ISO file works the same way. The file itself is no right unless it can be opened, assembled, and used.
Where You will see the ISO file in use
All ISO images end with the ISO file extension and are often used for distributing large programs over the Internet since all program files can be neatly contained as a single file…
An example can be found in the free Ophcrack password recovery tool (containing the entire operating system and some software). Everything that makes the program is packaged in one file. The file name for the most recent version of Ophcrack is as follows: ophcrack-vista-livecd-3.6.0.iso.
Phrack is undoubtedly not the only program to use an ISO File – many types of programs are distributed this way. For example, most bootable antivirus programs use ISO, like the ISO file bitdefender-rescue-cd.iso used by Bitdefender Rescue CD.
In these examples and thousands of others on it, every file required for any tool to run is in a single ISO image.
As I mentioned, that makes this tool easy to download, but it also makes it easy to burn to a disc or other device.
Even earlier, Windows 10 and Windows 8 and Windows 7 could be purchased directly by Microsoft in ISO format, ready to be extracted to a device or installed in a virtual machine.
How to Burn ISO File
The most common way to use an ISO file is to burn it to a CD, DVD, or BD disc. This is a different process than burning music or document files to disc because your CD / DVD / BD burning software must “assemble” the contents of the ISO file onto the disc.
Windows 10, 8, and 7 can burn the ISO image to a disc without using any third-party software – just double-tap or double-click the ISO file and then follow the instructions that appear.
The same logic applies when writing an ISO file on a USB device. This is much more common when the optical drives are becoming less common.
Burning an ISO image is not just an option for some programs; it is required. For example, many hard drive diagnostics tools are only available outside of the operating system. This means that you have to burn the ISO to some form of removable media (like a disc or flash drive) that your computer can boot.
While more common, some programs are distributed in ISO format but are not designed to boot. For example, Microsoft Office is usually provided as an ISO File and is designed to burn or mount, but since it doesn’t need to run from outside Windows, there is no need to boot from it (it won’t do Anything if you have tried).
How to Extract ISO File |
If you don’t want to burn an ISO File to a disc or USB storage device, most compression/decompression software programs, like the free 7-Zip and PeaZip programs, will extract the contents of an ISO file to a folder.
Extract ISO File copies all the files from images directly into a folder that you can browse like any folder you find on your computer. Although the newly created folder cannot be written now to the device, as I discussed above, knowing that this can be helpful.
For example, let’s say you downloaded Microsoft Office as an ISO File.
Instead of burning the ISO image to disk, you can extract the installation files from ISO and install it as you would any other program.
Each extraction program requires a different set of steps, but here’s how you can extract an ISO image using 7-Zip: Right-click on File, select 7-Zip, then choose the option. Choose Extract To “ “.
Many of them free; some programs let you create your ISO File from your choice’s disc or set of files.
The most common reason to build an ISO image is to back up a software installation disc or even a DVD or Blu-ray movie.
How to mount ISO files
You are mounting an ISO file that you have created or downloaded from the Internet tricks your computer into thinking that the ISO file is a real disc. This way, you can “use” an ISO file just like it would on an entire CD or DVD, only you don’t have to waste your disc or burn your time.
When mounting an ISO file is useful, a typical situation is when you are playing a video game that requires the original disc to be inserted. Instead of mounting the disc into your optical drive, you can mount the ISO image of the game disc you created earlier.
Mounting an ISO file is usually as simple as opening the File with something called an “emulator disc” and then choosing a drive letter that the ISO file should represent. Even these letters are a virtual drive, Windows sees it as a reality, and you can use it.
One of my favorite free programs for mounting ISO images is WinCDEmu because of its easy use (plus, it’s included in this portable version). Another one I feel good at recommending is the Pismo File Mount Audit Package.
If you are on Windows 10 or Windows 8, you will be in luck to get the ISO mount built into your operating system! Just press and hold or right-click the ISO File and choose Mount. Windows will create a virtual drive for you automatically – no additional software required.
Note: Although mounting an ISO File is useful in some cases, please note that the virtual drive will be inaccessible whenever the operating system is not running. This means you cannot install an ISO file that you want to use outside of Windows (required with some hard drive diagnostic tools and memory testing programs).