Microsoft

Quick Tip: Mount ISO files with Virtual CloneDrive

Virtual CloneDrive makes using ISO files in Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, just as easy as it is in Windows 8.

One of the new features in Windows 8 is the ability to natively mount an ISO file. This is a very handy feature because it allows you to immediately access the content of an ISO file without having to first burn the ISO to an optical disc. You just double click the ISO file in File Explorer and Windows 8 automatically assigns it a drive letter, thus allowing you to access its contents as a virtual drive.

Microsoft has a similar tool for older versions of Windows called Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel. Unfortunately, this tool is unsupported, out-of-date (the files are dated from 2001), and when it does work, you are forced to go through a very kludgy set of steps to use the tool. As such, you will be better served by looking elsewhere.

While there are lots tools out there for mounting and using ISO files, one of the simplest and easiest to use is a FREE program called Virtual CloneDrive developed by SlySoft in collaboration with another company called Elaborate Bytes. (Apparently, these two companies have a close working relationship, so while it will be a bit odd to see different company names, there is nothing to be concerned with.) This program makes using ISO files in Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, just as easy as the new feature built into Windows 8.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

What is an ISO file?

An ISO file contains an image of the contents of an optical disc and is often used to distribute software on the Internet - instead of ordering a CD/DVD that will be sent in the mail, you simply download an ISO file and then burn it to an optical disc. For example, you can purchase the Windows 8 upgrade from the Windows Store and download it as an ISO file. I showed you how this process works in the article Take advantage of the $15 Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Offer. Of course the $15 upgrade offer has long since expired, but the process of downloading the ISO file is the same.

Download and Install

Downloading and installing Virtual CloneDrive is easy. To begin, point your browser to the Virtual CloneDrive page and follow the Download links. Once you have downloaded the executable file, just double click on it and you'll see the User Account Control prompt shown in Figure A. You'll notice a reference to Elaborate Bytes here. To continue, just click, Yes.

Figure A

The UAC contains a reference to Elaborate Bytes.
In a moment, you'll be prompted to accept the license agreement, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You'll need to click the "I agree button" in order to proceed.
You'll then be prompted to select the installation options. As you can see in Figure C, I just selected the program files and to associate the program with ISO files.

Figure C

Choose the options that you want to install.
When you click Next, you will then perform the first part of the installation, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

There are two parts to the installation procedure.
Once the program is installed, you'll perform the second part of the installation procedure, which installs the Elaborate Bytes driver, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

In the second part of the installation procedure, you'll install the Elaborate Bytes driver software.

Working with ISOs

After you have Virtual CloneDrive installed using it is easy as the program is integrated into Windows Explorer. However, a configuration tool and a link to a user manual are installed on the Start menu.

To begin using Virtual CloneDrive, just locate your ISO file in Windows Explorer, right click, and select the Mount command, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Just right click an ISO and select the Mount command.
As soon as, the ISO file is mounted, you'll find a new device in Computer called a BD-ROM Drive. If you access that drive, you'll find the contents of your ISO file, like the one shown in Figure G.

Figure G

You can now access the contents of the ISO file.
When you are finished using the ISO file, you can simply right click, and select the Unmount command, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

When you are finished using the ISO file, select the Unmount command.

As you can see, Virtual CloneDrive makes working with ISO files in Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, just as easy as the new feature built into Windows 8.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

9 comments
MichaelCarr
MichaelCarr

Like others, I've used Virtual CloneDrive for several years and on many systems. Excellent software, "works like a hose."

hartvix
hartvix

Like several of the other commenters, I've been using Daemon Tools (Lite/Free) for many years. If anyone can come up with pros and cons of VCD vs DT, that's much appreciated.

Arctic.Moet
Arctic.Moet

I've been using Virtual CloneDrive for a couple of years now, and it's my default go-to for mounting ISO files. It's part of my personal bundle of tools I install on every machine I use myself when I do a clean install at home, and any machines that are added to my network, right alongside my other favorite utilities. I've installed and used it mostly on Windows 7 32 & 64 bit machines, never had any issue with installation or use. It's small, quick, and painless and does what it's supposed to do, what more can you want? Highly recommend it.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Virtual CloneDrive is one of those applications you would think would already be an integral part of all Windows versions. How do you handle ISO files? Do you have a suggested application?

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Both do similar things, both are unobtrusive, both take about the same time to mount ISO's, even if just forced from a context menu, both are free. It's 6 of 1 and a half dozen of the other. Like choosing between free antivirus software, or malware tools. The known solutions are all about the same. What one misses another might stop and vice versa.

Arctic.Moet
Arctic.Moet

I'd be glad to try out, though, and see how they compare When I've had a chance to give it a run I'll post back here with the findings. (so far my day looks strangely quiet, enough to test a new app, but I do get very nervous when the Help Desk phone is silent, lol)

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

Agreed. I haven't had any problems with it.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I seem to use either Daemon Tools or Virtual Clone drive on different boxes, no particular reason for one over the other, just what I happened to download when setting it up. I think they both work about the same and I like the prices too.

steve
steve

I've been happily using Daemon Lite for years and have just refurbed my PC which requires a fresh install of all software. I'll give Virtual CloneDrive a go for a while - just out of interest.