How to Use ISO Files
Level of difficulty:
The .iso file format is considered as a type of disk image which normally reflects the contents of entire optical media like CDs and DVDs compiled under a single file which functions similar to how Ghost operates for hard drives and partitions. The most common analogy used for the .iso files is that they are just like the ZIP or CAB format files but with the exception of the compression algorithm applied to them. It usually stores the byte-for-byte copy of the actual low-level data currently stored in the source storage facility. As raw data, it needs to be correctly interpreted to make its contents usable and valuable to the end user; otherwise, it is just garbage.
- CD or DVD drive
- compression or multimedia authoring programs
- hard drive
- CD or DVD media
The first way to deal with the .iso format file is to burn the image onto a disk and make the data usable. Burning of the contents of the .iso file is not similar as burning other file types. Usually, each authoring software application makes use of its own methods in dealing with the .iso file type. The best way is to check the documentation of the chosen program.
When no authoring software capable of burning the .iso file is available in the system, many programs can be downloaded from the Internet for free. Some popular choices that are either freeware or shareware are the ImgBurn, CDBurn.exe, and ISO Recorder Power Toy utilities. When some .iso files are burned, they create bootable discs like in the case of Linux distribution CDs.
Another way of making the .iso file usable to the end user is to make it think that it is being burned onto an optical media disc like a CD or a DVD. This is accomplished with the use of several tools like the Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel, Daemon316, and Daemon Tools among others. These utilities function by emulating CD and DVD drives except that they are created virtually. They have the ability to open the .iso file as if it was physically burned on an optical media and inserted in the drive. These tools provide the user with a way of looking into the contents of the .iso file to decide whether it should be burned onto an optical media or not. The files can also be executed from these virtual drives.
Perhaps, the most seldom applied method of using .iso files is treating them like archive files. Zip and WinRAR are two popular compression utilities with the capability of reading and extracting the contents of the .iso format file. This is normally done by invoking the View or Extract functions of these compression archives. Using this method allows the user to examine the contents of the file including extracting either some or all of the file components.