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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 CDs / DVDs.

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'm not particularly eager to 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 a Keeper; software that comes in the mail/paper is usually a Tosser.

I'm old enough to remember the AOL disks 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 CDs/DVDs can last quite a long time. I have some CDs 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. You can use a unique tool to buff it out if you scratch the bottom of a disc. But if scratch the top of a disc, you can damage the layer that stores data. Geek Tip: To destroy the data on a CD / DVD before throwing it away, scratch off all of the top layers 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). Not having an optical disc drive 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 an archive file format for optical disks, like CDs and DVDs. They contain an exact sector-by-sector, non-compressed copy of a disc. All you need is a computer with a CD/DVD drive, your original disc(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 consider. External drives (flash, portable, or desktop) are great for storing ISO files. I've taken several small ISO files and burned them on to DVDs 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. This feature is built-in to Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. You can use a program like Rufus if you want to burn an ISO file to a USB drive. 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 as an actual CD/DVD drive.

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