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How to create ISO files from your software disks

So over the years you've been purchasing software on CD's / DVD's and now have quite the collection. So what do you do with all of the media you are no longer using? How about creating ISO files from them? Here's how to create ISO files from your software CD's / DVD's.

After working with computers for over twenty years, I've managed to amass quite the collection of software disks. One of my biggest problems is that I don't like to just throw away software disks. You never know when you might need them again.

Now in my book there are two kinds of disks; Keepers and Tossers. Software that you paid for is definitely a Keeper, software that comes in the mail / paper is usual a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks that used to come in the newspaper (1 gazillion free hours!). The AOL disks were always quite colorful and made a great wall collage or mobile.

Now I realize that properly stored CD's / DVD's can last quite a long time. I personally have some CD's that are around 20 years old and I can still read them with my Windows 10 computer. So why would you want to change?

Well, first off disks can get damaged. If you scratch the bottom of a disk, you can use a special tool to buff it out. But if scratch the top of a disk you actually damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, just scratch off all of the top layer of the disk with a sharp object, like a nail.

Second, not all devices have nowadays have CD / DVD drives (tablets, netbooks and ultra-thin laptops). This can make installing older software on a newer computer a bit of a problem. So what is the solution? ISO (International Organization for Standardization) files.

ISO (.iso) files are basically an archive file format for optical disks, like CD's and DVD's. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disk. All you need is a computer with a CD / DVD drive, your original disk(s), a program that creates ISO files and plenty of free space on your hard drive.

Here's a list of a few free programs that create ISO files.

Once you have created your ISO files, you can do some cool things with them. Archiving your ISO files is the first thing you probably want to think about. External drives (flash, portable or desktop) are a great for storing ISO files. I've actually taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVD's for off-site storage.

Now what can you do with an ISO file? Sure, you can make a new CD / DVD using an ISO file. That feature is built into Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Or if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive you can use a program like Rufus. And if you're using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, you can even mount (open as a virtual drive) an ISO file and install directly from it. Great for when you don't have a CD/ DVD drive.

How to burn an ISO file to disk inside of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to create a disk from.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 7
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Burn disc image.
  4. Insert a blank disk into the CD / DVD drive.
  5. Left-click on Burn.

How to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive inside of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer
    • Windows 7 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar or press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
    • Windows 8.1 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Windows 10 - From the desktop, left-click on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E, left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer or right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
  2. Locate the ISO file you want to mount as a virtual drive.

    The ISO file context menu inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the ISO file and then left-click on Mount.
  4. Locate the new drive inside of File Explorer and use it like it was an actual CD / DVD drive.

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