It was the case for a long time that when you installed Windows or a game, watched a DVD movie, or installed an application onto your computer, you would have to insert the physical media into the computer’s optical drive to continue. Time moves on and new ways of doing things appear to make life a little bit easier. One such invention was the idea of copying and storing the disc’s contents on the computer in the form of a file which can behave just like the real CD or DVD to the system. These files are generally known as ISO images, and as long as you have the capability to mount ISO images on the system as a virtual drive, the real discs are not required.
Just about anything on a physical CD, DVD or Blu-Ray disc can be turned into an ISO image and stored on your computer hard drive or even USB flash drive. All you need is the space to store what you need and a piece of software for converting the ISO file into a virtual disc when required. The good thing about an ISO image is it can easily be burned onto a real CD/DVD, or even used to boot from a USB flash drive if it’s something like a Windows install disc. These days Windows 7 and 8 install media are both available as an ISO image direct from Microsoft.
Here are 10 free virtual CD/DVD/Blu-Ray emulators that you can use to mount ISO images. Some are very simple and small that are just meant for mounting image files, but some have more features such as allowing you to create images from a physical disc and also emulate CD protections.
1. Microsoft Virtual CDRom Control Panel
Although this tool dates back to 2001, Microsoft actually re-released it in 2013 with a new webpage and an announcement the program does run on Windows 7 despite its age, but they still offer no support for it. What we like about this tool is it doesn’t require installation to mount ISO images and the whole package is very small in size consisting of only a driver file, executable and a text file. It does require a bit of manual work to install the driver though, so you need to read the included Readme.txt carefully.
This is a useful addition to the DVDFab range of tools that specialize mainly in video ripping, conversion and playing. Virtual Drive is like a more simplified version of Daemon Tools, but has some nice advantages like support for up to 18 virtual disks, mounting a Blu-Ray ISO image or folder so it can be played in PowerDVD, and no adware/media tools offered during the install process. Although it doesn’t say on the website CD ISO images are supported, they work perfectly fine. DVDFab Virtual Drive supports mounting 8 types of disc image and works on windows XP and above.
Mounting an ISO image file using WinCDEmu is really easy. Just install and all you need to do is to double click on the ISO image file to automatically mount it to a drive letter. If you want to unmount, just right click on the drive and select Eject. WinCDEmu has a simple option to create an ISO from a CD/DVD or Blu-Ray disc, just right click on the drive in Explorer and Choose to Create ISO Image. A portable version is also available but isn’t quite as up to date as the setup installer. There is support for XP to Windows 7 including 64-bit.
Be careful during install as there will be at least one screen for you to opt-out of installing adware. The free version supports up to 6 virtual drives, RMPS protection emulation which can help with game and music DRM etc, an option to create images from physical discs and a CD/DVD manager that gives detailed information about drives and discs. There is also a downloadable Audio Converter add-on option which can rip music discs to MP3. Alcohol 52% Free Edition works on Windows 2000 up to and including Windows 8.
MagicDisc is created by the same developer of the popular MagicISO. It can mount a wide range of CD/DVD image formats and can also create a CD/DVD image from disc. The program has no GUI and works entirely from the right click context menu in the system tray icon. It supports just about everything from Windows 98 up to Windows 8. Make sure you download the correct version as there are 5 different ones available! One for 98, 2000 and ME, one for Windows 7 (x86 and x64), another for Windows 8 (x86 and x64), and separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions for XP, 2003, 2008 and Vista.