How to use CDs and DVDs on a disc-less PC

Darren Yates looks at how to turn your discs into ISO images for play on your netbook or ultrabook.

Optical disc drives have been steadily becoming more like “optional disc drives” over the last few years as first netbooks and now ultrabooks hit the market without them. But plenty of disc-based software is still used. One way to install disc-based software on a disc-less computer is through a networked optical drive. While it works and works well, it’s not always the most convenient option. That’s where ISO images can help.

ISO images

An ISO image is a complete mirror of an optical disc stored as a single file. You can create an ISO image from an optical disc using ImgBurn. Once you have the ISO image, you can copy it to a disc-less computer and load it up or “mount” it as a virtual disc using an app called Virtual CloneDrive. Although it’s just a single file, the ISO image is turned into a virtual drive by Virtual CloneDrive inside Windows Explorer, allowing you to access it as if it were a normal optical disc, except that there’s no optical drive in sight.

Not only is this great for disc-less systems, it’s actually a much faster way to access and install software than using the original disc media – that’s because everything happens at hard drive speed, not optical disc speed. It’s also a great way of backing up your software discs – once you’ve turned them into ISO images, you can burn them back to disc again to make a legal backup or you can simply use the ISO images virtually and keep your software discs in pristine condition.

The process doesn’t work with discs that have copy protection – that means DVD movies, Blu-ray movies and some games – but for general software discs, it’ll provide an easier way to backup your original discs and install your software faster.

STEP-BY-STEP: Turn a PC User cover disc into an ISO image

iso-1STEP 1: Launch ImgBurn, select “Create image file from files/folders”.

 

 

 

 

 

iso-2STEP 2: Select the folder icon (middle column, third down) and choose the drive letter of your optical drive with the disc already installed. Under “Destination”, press the browse button at the end and choose a location to save your new ISO image. When you’re ready, press the big “make ISO image” button on the left-hand side bottom of the ImgBurn window. When the process is complete, you’ll have an ISO image of your disc.

STEP-BY-STEP: Load an ISO image on a disc-less PC

disc-1STEP 1: Install Virtual CloneDrive onto your PC. Make sure you select press the “Install” button to install the Elaborate Byte’s CD driver. Next, copy the ISO image from your other PC to this PC’s hard drive. NOTE: if using a flash drive to copy, you’ll need to first it in exFAT or NTFS format if your ISO image is larger than 2GB.

disc-2STEP 2: Launch Windows Explorer, right-click on your ISO image copied from the other PC and choose “Mount (Virtual CloneDrive X:)”.

 

 

 

disc-3

 

STEP 3: Once the ISO image is mounted, you can use it as though it was the original disc – even autorun launchers should begin. To remove the disc, just follow Step 2 but choose “eject”.

 

 

 

Software

ImgBurn – http://imgburn.com/index.php?act=download

Virtual CloneDrive – http://static.slysoft.com/SetupVirtualCloneDrive.exe

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