Have you ever downloaded an ISO file and did not know what to do with it? More and more software companies are now distributing their software using ISO files. Here is what you can do with an ISO file.
Nowadays, it seems like everyone is starting to use ISO files for distributing software. In fact, ISO files are just an image of a CD or DVD disk. You commonly see them used to deliver software that is bootable.
Now really quick, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. They have a set standard (ISO 9660) for the file system used for optical disks (CD, DVD, BD, etc.).
Even Microsoft is now using ISO files for distributing Windows. If you download Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 from Microsoft, you will get the option of downloading an ISO file.
But once you download the ISO file, what can you do with it? If you are running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 you have basically three (3) options; mount it as a virtual optical drive, burn it to a disk or create a bootable USB drive.
You can also create your own ISO image files. For more information, check out How to create ISO files from your software disks.
By default, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 have the ability to mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive built-in. Windows 7 requires a third-party program to mount an ISO file.
Once you mount an ISO file as a virtual optical drive, you can then access the files and folders inside of it. Most of the time you will use this feature to run a software installation.
For Windows 7, we are going to use the open source optical drive emulator WinCDEmu. Just download and install it using the default settings. Once it is installed, the process for mounting a ISO image is almost the same as Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.
The process for burning an ISO image to disk is exactly the same for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Just make sure you have the correct blank media for the disk you want to burn.
For example, if your ISO file is under 700 MB’s (Megabyte), it will fit on a CD. If it is between 700 MB’s (Megabyte) and 4.7 GB’s (Gigabyte), then it will fit on a DVD. If it is between 4.7 and 8.5 GB’s (Gigabyte), it will fit on a Double Layer DVD. Anything over 8.5 GB’s (Gigabyte) and it is going to go on a BD.
For more information on Megabytes and Gigabytes, check out What is a Bit? What is a Byte?.
When you want to create a bootable USB drive, you will need one that is empty or one that you do not mind if it gets erased. If the USB drive you want to use has been used before, double check it to make sure there is nothing on it you want to keep.
Remember to use a USB drive that is larger than the ISO file you want to put on it. A good rule of thumb is to use one that the capacity is more than 4GB. I prefer using 8GB or larger.
To create a bootable USB drive will require downloading and installing a separate program. There are several out on the Internet, but here are the two (2) most popular programs.
Windows USB/DVD Download Tool from Microsoft
This free tool is mainly meant for creating bootable Window 7 USB drives from downloaded installation media. It is recommended to only install it on Windows 7, as the system requirements do not list support for Windows 8.1 or Windows 10.
Rufus – Create bootable USB drives the easy way
The thing about Rufus is it requires no installation, just download it and it is ready to go. And there are a lot more options including partition scheme, file system and cluster size. You also have more boot options including MS-DOS and FreeDOS.