An ISO image is an exact copy of the data on an optical disc, such as a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc. Using the right software, you can create ISO images from optical discs and use them in place of the physical discs. "ISO" refers to the International Organization for Standardization, a group that sets common commercial standards. The term is also a reference to the .iso file extension for disc-image files.
Creating an ISO image is an effective way to back up data on an optical disc. To access the data in an ISO image, you can either burn it to a disc or use software to read the contents of the image file as if it were a disc. If you use a disc frequently and you don’t want to have to load and unload it all the time, making and using an ISO image is a convenient alternative. ISO images are also useful for distributing the contents of an optical disc digitally.
You can find many programs that are capable of creating and loading ISO images, including a handful of no-cost options. One free program worth trying is Daemon Tools Lite. Like just about all free ISO-image programs, Daemon Tools Lite requires you to opt out of installing additional software during its installation procedure; pay close attention, and you can easily avoid the extra software.
How to Create an ISO Image
1. After downloading and installing Daemon Tools Lite, launch the program.
2. Click the Disc Imaging icon in the main window.
3. Choose the drive where your optical disc is loaded from the Device drop-down.
4. Under 'Destination image file', choose a path and name for the disc image. Be sure to enter .iso as the file extension.
5. Click Start. The tool will create your ISO image.
How to Mount an ISO Image
When you insert a disc into a PC's optical drive, Windows automatically mounts the disc on the drive. When you want to use an ISO image, you must create a virtual drive and mount the ISO image on it. During its installation, Daemon Tools Lite creates a virtual drive for you.
1. Launch Daemon Tools Lite.
2. In the main window, right-click a virtual drive in the bottom panel. Select Mount from the context menu.
3. Choose the ISO image you wish to mount.
4. The selected ISO image will appear in Windows as a virtual disc loaded in a virtual drive. You can interact with the ISO image as you would with an optical disc loaded in a drive.
If you have commercial disc-authoring software (from a company such as Nero or Roxio), you might already have the ability to create and use ISO images. Consult the documentation that comes with your application for detailed information. Typically you need to choose an operation labeled 'Copy disc' or 'Create image' to make a disc image. Be aware that some programs will create disc images only in formats other than ISO; these alternative formats (such as IMG or NRG) are similar to ISO files.