Especially if you built your own computer or had someone build it for you, chances are that you got a few CDs and DVDs along with it, containing utilities and device drivers for your motherboard, your graphics card and all the other components you have in it. Optical media is great in theory: it’s easy to store and widely available, but these pros are counterbalanced by the fact that they get damaged quite easily and they’re easy to lose track of, causing all types of headaches when you need your motherboard driver CD because Windows doesn’t recognize your Ethernet drivers by default. Thankfully, starting with Windows 8, you can mount ISO files without the need for a third-party application. Just double-click the ISO you want to mount and voila, the operating system sees it as an additional DVD drive.
What is an ISO file?
You can think of an ISO file as a “fictional” DVD: you can have the operating system behave as if it’s an additional DVD drive attached to your computer, even though the DVD drive isn’t physically there. This operation is called “mounting” and happens at boot time for hard drives, when you attach an external drive or when you insert an optical disc.
How do I create an ISO file?
Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t allow you to create a new ISO file or edit the content of an existing one. There is, however, a free software that can create an ISO file from a DVD drive inside your computer. It’s called ISO Recorder. There are 4 different versions of the program, described in the web page at the previous link. Just select the one for your operating system and let it download. Don’t let the phrase “ISO Recorder V3.1 – for Windows Vista/Windows 7” fool you, though: this version runs perfectly fine on Windows 8, 8.1, and 10 as well, with a small caveat that we’ll cover in the following lines.
After you downloaded the application, run the installer and let it do its job. At the end, you will notice that there’s a new entry in the right-click menu when you select a DVD drive: Create Image from CD/DVD and Copy CD to CD. Select the first one.
You will be prompted with the following window:
The drop-down menu From: lists all the DVD drives attached to your computer, whereas the field To: allows you to select where you want to save your newly-created ISO file. In case you don’t want to save it in the default location, click on the ellipses to select a new one. In our case, we’ll be saving our file in the G: drive.
Once you’re ready, click Next. A progress bar will appear, telling you how far into the creation process the program is. Be patient, for this may take a few minutes, depending on your optical drive read speed and your storage device write speed.
At the end of the procedure, click Finish.
In our G drive, we’ll find the newly created ISO image. Before we can browse it, however, we need to fix a little problem. As I already said earlier, the latest version of ISO Recorder was made specifically for Windows 7, that allowed burning ISO files, but not mounting them. As such, the install process makes ISO Recorder the default application associated with ISO files. Since we want to be able to mount them, we need to right click on the ISO file and select Open with, then click Choose another app. A small window will open in the middle of the screen where you can choose which program you want to use to open the file. Tick the Always use this app to open .iso files, then on Windows Explorer.
Now you can double-click on any ISO files to mount them as if they were physical CD or DVD drives. This small trick is very useful if you want to keep all of your driver discs in a secure place, like an external or network drive.