Friday, April 10, 2009

Virtual CD/DVD Disks From .iso Files

Regardless of popular opinion, Linux can often be so much more user friendly then Microsoft.

With one simple command I can access an .iso file as if it were an actual physical CD or DVD disc. Why must everything in the Windows world a) be such a pain in the butt, b) usually cost extra to implement a needed feature (virtually always free in GNU/Linux) and/or c) scare away the average user who just wants things to work without playing (or paying) the geek?

First let's examine the Linux version of adding virtual CD/DVD-Rom from an .iso file. Open a terminal session. Ready? Here goes:

sudo mount -o loop some_image.iso /mnt/img

Now was that so hard? Oh, and you can use any mount point you want: /media/lazy; /mnt/disc; etc. Don't have a mount point you like? No sweat. Just add one before you issue the command above, for example:

sudo mkdir /mnt/disc


sudo mkdir /media/image

You get the idea... Once your virtual CD/DVD is ready, navigate to the mount point with a gui file manager or cli and enjoy your virtual CD/DVD. Why burn a disc if you don't have to?

You can get similar results in Windows XP, but it's just simply not as quick, easy or user-friendly as Linux in my biased opinion.

Working with an .iso as a virtual CD/DVD in Windows XP

There are a multiple commercial tools available that will allow you to virtualize an .iso file into a CD/DVD drive, but free is good too. Microsoft offers a free (unsupported) application that will provide you with the functionality to add a virtual CD/DVD-Rom drive from an .iso file in Windows XP similar to what we did above with Linux--the biggest disadvantage is that only a user with administrator rights can utilize the virtual drive. Not so under Linux.

Download winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe from or from Microsoft.

Log into Windows XP as the Administrator or as another user with admin rights.

Run the downloaded file to extract the files to a working directory.

Next, from the command line or the gui file manager, copy VCdRom.sys from your working directory into the %systemroot%\system32\drivers folder.

You can do this with the cli (command line interface, you know: the DOS window) by doing the following:
  1. Click Start → Click Run → Enter cmd → Click OK

  2. Enter copy %systemdrive%\Program Files\msvcd\VCdRom.sys %systemroot%\system32\drivers (all one line)

  3. Press Enter

  4. Enter exit to close the DOS window

Of course you can also copy this file with the gui (graphical user interface, you know Explorer) file manager.

Running VCdControlTool to create your virtual DVD/CD

  1. Open the winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21 application from your working directory

  2. Click Driver Control

  3. Click Install Driver

  4. Navigate to VCdRom.sys or enter %systemroot%\system32\drivers\VCdRom.sys in the File name field

  5. Click Open

  6. Click Start

  7. Click OK

  8. In the Virtual CDRom Control Panel click Add Drive

  9. Click on the drive that appears in the window to select it

  10. Click Mount

  11. Navigate to the .iso that you wish to virtualize as a CD or DVD disc

  12. Select it in the File name field and click Open

  13. Click OK

  14. Click OK in the Virtual CDRom Control Panel window to close it.

You are now ready to use your virtual disc just as you would a physical CD or DVD.

Once you are finished with the virtual disc:
  1. Open the Virtual CDRom Control Panel application

  2. Click Eject

  3. You may now mount another .iso file,

    1. or to finish your session leaving the virtual CD/DVD drive assigned, simply click OK

    2. to end your session and delete the virtual CD/DVD-Rom drive, Click Remove Drive & OK
Final thoughts... Today, the Linux desktop works just as well or better then anything Microsoft is putting out. I find Linux on the desktop often outperforms the Windows desktop in resource management, stability and performance. It is unfortunate that it is not more widely utilized. Of course this article was not about the pros & cons of competing OS desktops. I just think it provides an example of how powerful and simple Linux can be (for free) when compared to the Microsoft offerings.

Note: Use the above information at your own risk. Your mileage may vary. winxpvirtualcdcontrolpanel_21.exe is a free, unsupported application supplied by Microsoft for Windows XP only. The above information is based on my usage of that application as of today only. Others may have more information about usage details and troubleshooting.

As to the Linux details, yeah, use as your own risk (blah blah blah), but don't be scared. It just plain works.

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