Among the many thingsthat Windows is known for are its many file formats. Whereas MacOS only has afew file formats, Windows has a huge amount more. One of them, which isactually one of the most useful ones, is also not the most well-known. Thatfile format is known as .ISO.

What is an ISO file?What does it do, and why should you care about it?

What Is An ISOFile?

As CD & DVD playerson hard-drives are gradually phased out in favour of cloud-based downloadablefiles, ISO files will only become more useful and practical in the future withall those old installation disks you will have lying around in the office.Plus, disks fail all the time, so ISO is a great backup solution.

When you run aninstallation disk for a piece of software, such as Photoshop (for example),there is a set folder structure with each particular file and folder in acertain place. If you move a file or folder to another place in the structure,the whole thing falls apart because the installer doesn’t know where those filesare now located.

An ISO file is an exact duplication of the files andfolder structure on an installation disk with the benefit being that the actualphysical disk is no longer needed. So you can make disk backups to the cloud asISO files, and anytime you want to install that piece of software, there is noneed to hunt out the disk. Just double-click the ISO file.

You can burn that ISOdisk to another disk, move it to a USB stick, email it, or leave it in cloudstorage, just like any other regular file. Since many installation disks canrun to several gigabytes of file space though, email or cloud storage may provea challenge unless you can compress the file some more.

How To CreateAn ISO File

Creating an ISO file is not a difficult process at all. In fact, there are many freeware options out there for doing this. Since I like my solutions to be as free and simple as possible, I have always gone with ISO Creator . It always works a treat.

And to show you howeasy it is to make an ISO backup, I have pulled out my very old and very dustydisk copy of Photoshop Elements. I’ll now take you through the process ofturning it into an ISO file and then running it.

First, install ISOCreator doing the usual “Next–>Next–>Next…:”

When the program hasbeen installed, start it up and then put the disk you want to make an ISObackup of into your hard-drive.

In the ISO Creatorwindow, you need to configure the following :

  • ISO File Path : this tells the program where you want yourcompleted ISO file to be placed on your computer. Click the “Browse” button,navigate to the folder and then type the desired name of the ISO file into thewindow.
  • Volume Name : What the ISO file will be called when it isviewed in Windows Explorer next to the drive letter.
  • Folder Path : the location of the installation disk thatyou want to convert. Click “Browse” and navigate to the disk’s location.

Now click “Start” to begin the conversion process.

The process wasfinished after only a few minutes.

How To Open& Run An ISO File

Now that you have yourISO file, you obviously need to know how to open it and run it if need be.

For that, you can turn to the freeware Virtual Clone Drive .

Not only does it do thejob extremely well but that crazy-looking sheep icon in Windows Explorer isjust great. I know, I am easily pleased.

So how does it work?Well if you run a disk, you obviously need a disk reader on your computer toread the data. With Virtual CloneDrive, it makes a temporary virtual driveattached to one of your drive letters (in my case, the “F” drive) and simulatesrunning the disk by opening the ISO file.

After installing Virtual CloneDrive, go to your ISO file, right-click on it and choose “Open With..”. Now select “Mount Files with Virtual CloneDrive”.

If you plan to workwith lots of ISO files from now on, you can set Windows to automaticallyassociate ISO files with Virtual CloneDrive to save you a couple of clicks inthe future.

When you’ve chosenVirtual CloneDrive as the program to open the ISO file, go to the drive letternow associated with VCD. You will now see your ISO file with the folder andfile structure identical to the disk. You can now go ahead and install theprogram using the setup.exe file.