ISO images are files that contain an exact image of a CD or DVD. Many people use them to burn a CD or a DVD bit for bit, including things like volume descriptors, meta data and boot information. For instance, most Linux distributions come packaged as ISO images, and the Microsoft Virtual PC application can attach an ISO file as a simulated CD/DVD drive.
Creating an ISO image in Windows requires a third-party application, which usually means you'll be paying for more software. However, there is one free Windows shell extension application (it integrates into the right-click context menu in Explorer) that lets you burn CDs of ISO images without any other applications: ISO Recorder. You can also create an ISO image file from a folder and attach a boot sector to it to create a bootable CD from scratch.
Here's how ISO Recorder works: Simply right-click on an existing .ISO image file (to burn an .ISO to CD), or right-click a directory to build an ISO image from the files in that directory. If you want to create a bootable ISO image, you'll need to have a boot sector data file -- usually a file with an .IMG extension, created with a tool like MKBT, which can be used to install FAT, NTFS and RAW boot sectors. If you're using erasable media (i.e., CD-RWs), the program can erase a disk before burning to it.
However, there are three caveats for using the ISO Recorder application.
- The only Windows XP machines that the current build of ISO Recorder will work on are those that have been patched with Service Pack 2. There is an older build for pre-Service Pack 2 machines, but it will probably not work as reliably.
- The program also requires that the IMAPI burning service in Windows (used by Windows Media Player, among other programs) be running. Some third-party burning programs deliberately disable this service.
- ISO Recorder does not create images for audio CDs or video CDs, and DVD burning is only supported in Windows Vista. Windows XP doesn't support this feature through the IMAPI Burning Service, and probably never will.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Insight, (formerly the Windows Power Users Newsletter), a blog site devoted to hints, tips, tricks and news for users and administrators of Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista. He has more than 12 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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