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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 couple 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.

How to use Libraries in Windows 10

Remember the old saying "A place for everything and everything in its place"? Same holds true for your files inside of Windows 10. And managing your files in Windows 10 can be a breeze when you use Libraries.

One of my favorite Windows file / folder organization features has to be Libraries. Libraries are really nothing more than a collection of shortcuts to the original file / folder locations. But the locations can be either on your local computer or on a network drive. Once you add a location to a library, it's just one-click away inside of File Explorer.

Now let's not confuse user file folders with Libraries. User file folders are actual folders; Libraries are collections of short-cuts to user file folders. In fact, your user files are already included in the Libraries by default. User file folders have to be located on your computer, but Libraries can be short-cuts to both local and network file folders.

How to enable the Library view in Windows 10

It's kind ironic that one of the coolest features that I can think of inside of Windows 10 is hidden by default. But you can un-hide Libraries in just seconds. Here's how:

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the View tab on the top of the Ribbon.
    How to enable the Library view in Windows 10
  3. Left-click on Navigation pane button and left-click on Show libraries.

How to modify Library properties in Windows 10

We are all familiar with files and folders, but when Windows 7 came out; we got another way to manage them, Libraries. Libraries are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.

In some ways, a Library is similar to a folder. For example, when you open a Library, you'll see one or more files. However, unlike a folder, a Library gathers files that are stored in several locations. This is a subtle, but important, difference. Libraries don't actually store your files, just shortcuts to them. Libraries monitor folders that contain your files, and let you access and arrange the files in different ways. For instance, if you have music files in folders on your hard disk and on an external drive you can access all of your music files at once using the Music Library.

Windows 10 has four (4) default libraries (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos) and includes links to your user files by default. Remember that you can add up to fifty (50) folders to a Library. And if you like, you can also create your own Libraries. Here are some other ways you can modify an existing Library.

  • Include or remove a folder. Libraries gather content from included folders, or Library locations.
  • Change the default save location. The default save location determines where an item is stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.
  • Change the type of file a library is optimized for. Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the available options for arranging your files.

How to add a folder to a Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library you'd like to change.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, click on Add, navigate to and highlight the folder you want to add to the Library and left-click on Include folder.
  5. Left-click OK.

How to change a Library's default save location in Windows 10

A Library's default save location determines where an item will be stored when it's copied, moved, or saved to the Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change and left-click Properties.
  3. Select the Library location that you want as default, left-click on Set save location and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to change the type of files a Library is optimized for in Windows 10

Each Library can be optimized for a certain file type (such as music or pictures). Optimizing a Library for a certain file type changes the options that are available for arranging the files in that Library.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Right-click on the Library you'd like to change, and then left-click Properties.
  3. In the Optimize this library for list, select a file type, and then left-click Apply.
  4. Left-click OK.

How to create a new Library in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on Libraries.
  3. Left-click on the Home tab, left-click on New item and then choose Library.
  4. Enter a name for the new Library, and then press Enter.

How to remove a folder from a Library in Windows 10

If you don’t need a folder in a Library anymore, you can remove it. When you remove a folder from a library, the folder and everything in it is still kept in its original location. Remember that when you delete a folder from a Library, the folder and everything in it is deleted in its original location.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on the Library where you want to remove a folder.
  3. On the Ribbon on top, left-click the Manage library button.
  4. In the Library Locations dialog box, left-click on the folder you want to remove, left-click Remove, and then left-click OK.

How to add a network folder that is not indexed to a Library in Windows 10

There will be times when you cannot get a shared network folder added into a Library due to indexing issues. The way I found to get around this problem is by creating a symbolic link.

  1. Open File Explorer by either
    • Left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar.
    • Left-clicking the Start button and left-clicking on File Explorer.
    • Right-click on the Start button and left-click on File Explorer from the Power User menu.
    • Press the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. Left-click on This PC and create a folder on your drive for your network folders, for example c:\share.
  3. Create another folder within that folder, for example c:\share\music.
  4. Select the subfolder you just created, left-click the Home tab, left-click Easy access, choose Include in library, and then select the library to which you want to add the folder or create a new Library.
  5. Delete the folder.
  6. Open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges (click here for complete instructions)
  7. Enter mklink /d, and then enter the path of the folder you just deleted and the path of the network folder. For example, mklink /d c:\share\music \\server\music. If either of the folder names has spaces, encase the path(s) inside of quotes. For example, mklink /d "c:\shared files\music" "\\server\shared music". This creates what is called a symbolic link.

Here's how to create a symbolic link in Windows 8. It's the exact same procedure for Windows 10.

How to change the default location of user files in Windows 10

User files (documents, music, photos, etc.) can take up allot of space on your computer. But if you have a second drive inside your computer you can easily move your user folders to it. Here's how to change the default location of user files in Windows 10.

Quite a few computers nowadays are coming with two drives, a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Since SSD's are generally smaller in size and faster than HDD's, they normally are used just for the operating system and program files. User files should always be moved to the HDD to conserve space on the SSD.

Now there are six (6) user file folders that can be relocated: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos. Before you change locations of the user files / folders you will need to create new folders to move them to.
Recently created new user folders inside of Windows 10
I usually create a folder called User Files in the root of the D: drive and then create the individual folders for each user; example D:\User Files\username\Desktop, D:\User Files\username\Documents, etc.

How to change the default location of user files in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, left-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer, right-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer from the Power Users menu or by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. In the left-hand column, expand This PC so that the following folders are shown: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos.
    The context menu for user folders inside of Windows 10
  3. Right-click on the folder you want to move and from the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  4. On the dialog box that appears, left-click on the Location tab.
    The properties dialog box for a user folder inside of Windows 10
  5. Left-click on the Move button.
    Select the new location of a user folder inside of Windows 10
  6. Navigate to the new location for the folder. Once you have selected the folder you want to use, left-click on the Select Folder button.
  7. Left-click on the Apply button in the lower right-hand corner.
  8. In the confirmation dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  9. Left-click on the OK button in the lower left-hand corner.

How to restore the default location of user files in Windows 10

  1. Open File Explorer by either left-clicking on the File Explorer icon on the Taskbar, left-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer, right-clicking on the Start button and selecting File Explorer from the Power Users menu or by pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + E.
  2. In the left-hand column, expand This PC so that the following folders are shown: Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos.
  3. Right-click on the folder you want to move and from the context menu that appears, left-click on Properties.
  4. On the dialog box that appears, left-click on the Location tab.
  5. Left-click on the Restore Default button.
  6. Left-click on the Apply button in the lower right-hand corner.
  7. In the Create Folder dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  8. In the confirmation dialog box that appears, left-click on Yes.
  9. Left-click on the OK button in the lower left-hand corner.

My personal upgrade to Windows 10

Upgrading your computer to Windows 10 can be pretty simple task. But there are occasions when upgrading can be a really big headache. And then there is my Windows 10 upgrade. Here's my personal experience upgrading to Windows 10.

My personal upgrade to Windows 10

Let me first start out by saying that I knew right from the start that upgrading my personal computer to Windows 10 would be allot of work. But it was something that needed to happen. When I built this system in January of 2013 it was because the original motherboard failed. So I picked up a new motherboard, processor and memory and reloaded all of the software.

Little did I know that my biggest problem for my Windows 10 upgrade started when I installed all of the software in 2013. I installed Windows 8 (Windows 8.1 hadn't been released) instead of Windows 7 that I had previously. All worked well until Windows 8.1 was released. It turned out that one of my major programs, QuickBooks Pro 2010, didn't support Windows 8.1. If I upgraded to Windows 8.1 I would have to upgrade to QuickBooks Pro 2013. It seemed like a waste of time and money, so I decided to wait.

Now let's fast forward three years or so to February of 2016 when Microsoft ends support for Windows 8 (not Windows 8.1). I decided it was time to move to Windows 10. I picked up a new 1TB hard drive and installed it alongside my 1TB Windows 8 drive. I was going to just switch boot drive in the motherboard Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) temporarly until I got the Windows 10 drive all set up. That's when I remembered that my version of QuickBooks Pro 2010 wasn't going to install on Windows 10.

So just for the fun of it, I tried to install QuickBooks Pro 2010 inside a Windows 10 Virtual Machine (VM) running on the Windows 8 drive. The installer just wouldn't run. I tried everything including compatibility mode, nothing worked. So I decided that I could run QuickBooks Pro 2010 inside of a Windows 7 VM. I got the Windows 7 VM all set up and running. Then things got really busy at work and my upgrade to Windows 10 had to be put on the back burner. So I disconnected the drive with Windows 10 and keep using Windows 8.

My Windows 10 upgrade got back on track last month when Intuit made me an offer to upgrade my version of QuickBooks. Seems there is a security issue with older QuickBook versions and Intuit offered me the latest version for 70% off. That was just the thing to get my Windows 10 upgrade gong again. To be honest, I would have lost the integration with Microsoft Word (printing envelops) and Outlook (contacts, e-mail) running QuickBooks inside of a VM. That was something I really didn't want to loose.

My original plan was back on. I had already performed a clean installation of Windows 10 and just need to install all of the rest of the software. Yes, it is a lot of work, but a Windows 8 to Windows 10 upgrade isn't possible. And besides the new version of QuickBooks, I had several other software upgrades that I'd been waiting on doing. It seemed like the perfect time to do them all.

My idea was to recreate the three (3) partitions and drive letters (C:, D: and E:) from the original 1TB drive using both of the 1TB drives. The C: and D: drive partitions would be on the first (boot) drive and the E: drive partition would take up the whole second drive. This, in effect, would double my storage space.

Now when I originally started this upgrade in February, I disconnected the old 1TB and performed a clean install of Windows 10 on the new 1TB drive. Once I had Windows 10 installed and drivers updated, I shut down my computer and reattached the old 1TB drive. During this time, I also changed the port that the drives connected to on the motherboard (I wanted the boot drive on the 0 port).

Now I've done this type of upgrade many times before. The only problem I was having was the motherboard BIOS was having issues with the boot records on the two drives. It didn't help that the drives were from the same manufacturer (Western Digital) and the exact same size (1TB). The new one was a 'Black' drive and the old one was a 'Blue' drive. They have the same specs but the 'Black' drive has a five (5) year warranty, were the 'Blue' drive has only a two (2) year warranty.

It was time to make the change over. I booted up to Windows 8 one last time and did a software inventory using Belarc Advisor. When it was done, printed out a copy for my use. Belarc Advisor gives a complete list of all the software installed on your computer. Since I was doing a clean install of Windows 10, I would defiantly use the list for reinstalling software.

Then I went into the BIOS and changed the boot order so that Windows 10 drive booted automatically. Once Windows 10 was back up and running, I needed to get my files off of the old drive. I had already created the new C: and D: drives / partitions on the new drive, so I just copied over the contents of the old D: drive (which was now H:) to the new D: drive. The contents of the third partition (E:) on the old drive would have to go onto an external drive temporarily.

A screen shot of the Disk2vhd user interface
A screen shot of the Disk2vhd user interface

At this point I have two of the original three partitions / drives recreated (C: and D:). It was time to take care of the original C: drive. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to create an image of it. I downloaded the latest version of Disk2vhd from Microsoft (it's part of the Sysinternals Suite) and proceeded to create an image of the C: drive. Once it was done I copied the image over to an external drive along with a copy of the AppData folder from my old profile.

It was now time to delete all of the original partitions on the old 1TB drive and reformat it into just one partition / drive (E:). When I reformatted it, the Master Boot Record (MBR) was also deleted along with all of the partitions. This solved the problem with the motherboard not knowing what MBR to use at start up. Now that the E: drive was back in place, I copied all of the files I had put on the external drive.

Attaching a VHD file inside of Disk Management
Attaching a VHD file inside of Disk Management

Everything from here on out was downhill. The only issue I had was a disk collision warning when I first attached the VHD in Windows 10. Windows 10 wrote a new disk signature to the VHD file and all was good. Now all I had to do is just reinstall all of my software.

The Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

Nobody likes to have to reinstall Windows. Nobody. In the past it has been a major headache, with finding or creating the recovery / installation media and if you can find and / or read the product key from the Certificate of Authenticity (COA). But with the Windows 10 online upgrade, things just got a whole lot easier.

 Windows 10 feature you hope you never have to use

There may come a day when you may need to repair or reinstall Windows 10. In previous versions of Windows, you had to create the manufacturers branded recovery disks or use the hidden recovery partition to reinstall Windows. Or maybe you were one of the luckily ones that got an OEM disk. Either way, you had to have the same media that originally installed the operating system to do a reinstallation.

The really big problem was allot of people didn't know they needed to make the recovery disks. They only found out after their hard drives crashed. At that point, they have only two choices; contact the manufacturer to find out if they sell the recovery disks. Some do, some don't. But the cost for replacement recovery disks is going to be less than the second option, which is to purchase a new installation disk.

Now if you're one of the millions that have upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 online, you now have a digital license. You can use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft to create either a bootable USB drive or an ISO file that can be burned to a blank DVD. And the cool thing is that you can make the installation media on another computer, just in case your Windows 10 computer needs to be repaired.

All you need for hardware is a USB drive (8GB or larger) or DVD burner and a blank single-side or double-side DVD. What you need to know about your version of Windows 10 is what language, what edition (Home, Pro, etc.) and what architecture (32-bit or 64-bit). Most consumers use the Home edition as the Pro edition does cost more. Unless you specifically order your computer with the Pro edition or your computer is part of a domain, it's probably the Home edition. And most computers nowadays run 64-bit versions of Windows.

The next thing is the product key. In previous versions of Windows, once the operating system was installed the product key was stored on the hard drive. With Windows 10, once the operating system is installed, the product key is stored on the cloud. So if you're doing a clean / repair installation of Windows 10 on a system that has already been activated, you will not need to enter a product key when prompted for one. You can just click on the Skip button and Windows 10 will automatically activate when it gets online. It's one of the coolest features of Windows 10 you hope you never have to use.

For more information on the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool from Microsoft, just follow the link below.

Windows 10 Media Creation Tool

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