Friday, September 2, 2011

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Windows 8 Supports Mounting ISO Files | Native Explorer Support For ISO

While optical discs continue to be useful in many situations, large hard disks allow us to decrease our dependence on them. Personally, I’ve spent a load of my time (legally) ripping about 900 GB worth of music, and more recently almost 1TB of home video DVDs into my collection. I know that my backup of our photos and home movies is probably the most important data in my house.

With Windows 8, Microsoft have eliminated using the physical CD or DVD each time when required. You can simply access the contents of the ISO file without either needing to burn a new disc or needing to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO.

Mounting ISOs and VHDs is one of the few third-party utilities I use. Now if Windows 8 is going to support Built-in ISO and VHD mount tool, that's going to be a great news.

So, Windows 8 would not require inserting the first DVD when playing Microsoft Games, that would be perfect. This is one of the few areas where I use VHDs or download Age of Empires just so I do not want to insert the disk each time i play the game.

In continuing with the improvements in core Windows functionality and also oft-requested features, Microsoft were adding native Explorer support for ISO and VHD files in Windows 8. While terabytes of storage are available to all of us, managing disk (or disc) image formats remains important for a number of mission-critical operations in many organizations and among power users. We know even more support for VHD is a big request, so stay tuned for Windows 8, powerful Operating System from Microsoft.

This is terrific news (the ISO mount) for tablet owners! - especially when the actual tablet itself doesn't have a disk drive, and you don't want to carry an external one around with you on the go.

The trend of incredibly large and small form-factor hard disks means we can store ever increasing amounts of data without worrying about running out of capacity. Windows 8 enables easy access to the contents of two important storage formats, ISO and VHD files.

While we generally think of these formats when they appear on media, they are also very useful as files within a file system and that is where native support in Explorer comes in handy. Working with ISO files

The desire for thin and light form factors such as slates and ultra-mobile laptops often leaves no room for vendors to add optical disc drives. This is exactly the feedback Microsoft received from many of us who used Windows 7 – the ability to directly use ISO files (also known as ISO images) without requiring a physical CDROM or DVD drive is very important.

A quick refresher on ISO files might be helpful. ISO refers to the International Organization for Standardization which is an international standard-setting body, and a world leader in developing and publishing international standards. You can also think of an ISO file as a full-fidelity image (digital copy) of the optical disc.

ISO files are used by vendors to distribute software. Backup applications also store content in the ISO format and many utilities allow creation of an ISO file from existing CDROM or DVD media. Once created, these files can be sent around, downloaded, and stored just like any other file – however, before you can access the photos, video, applications, documents, or other content contained within the ISO file, you either have to “burn” the ISO file to a writable optical disc or download and install software that allows you to “mount” and access the ISO file contents directly (i.e. without burning).

With Windows 8, Microsoft have eliminated this last step – you can simply access the contents of the ISO file without needing either needing to burn a new disc or needing to find/download/install additional software just to logically access the ISO.

So how does this work in Windows 8? It’s quite simple – just “mount” the ISO file (you can select mount from the enhanced Explorer ribbon or double-click or right-click on the file), and a new drive letter appears, indicating that the contents are now readily accessible. Underneath the covers, Windows seamlessly creates a “virtual” CDROM or DVD drive for you on-the-fly so you can access your data. Let’s walk through the flow that will enable you to access such an ISO file.

You Can Mount ISO Files In Windows 8  Native Explorer Support For ISO 1

As you see in the screen shot above, we have three ISO files in a local folder. The one we will work with contains the Office application suite. To mount the ISO, you can either double click the file or click Mount on the Actions tab.

Mounting a new ISO

  • Once you mount the ISO, a new drive letter appears for the virtual CDROM/DVD drive that Windows seamlessly creates. The contents of the ISO are accessible just as they would have been had you inserted the CD/DVD media into a physical optical drive.

You Can Mount ISO Files In Windows 8  Native Explorer Support For ISO 2 

  • Only, operating on the contents happens at the speed of your hard drive, not an optical drive.
  • The mounted ISO appears as a new drive letter
  • Once you are done using the ISO, you can (virtually) “eject” it, and the virtual drive disappears.

Creating ISO Files:

In case you need a utility to create ISO images from existing optical media, there are many tools that give you that capability. One I use is the Oscdimg command line tool that is available as part of Windows 8 automated deployment kit.

That is it! Accessing ISO files has now become a snap with Windows 8. Regardless of whether you have an optical drive accessible to you or not, accessing your data is never a problem.

Here’s a quick demo to show you what it looks like to mount ISOs and also VHDs on a new “Windows 8” system. Download this video to view it in your favorite media player: High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4.

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About bench3 -

Haja Peer Mohamed H, Software Engineer by profession, Author, Founder and CEO of "bench3" you can connect with me on Twitter , Facebook and also onGoogle+

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