Tips

ISO Virtual Drive

You have a nifty ISO image that you can use as a backup. So, how about mounting it into a "virtual CD player?"

In an earlier column I discussed how you might use create and use ISO images. But once you have an image, what next? Well, the obvious choice is to burn a copy to media, which is the right solution for long-term archiving and offsite storage. However, you have an additional option. The ISO image is a virtual CD (or DVD if over 650MB or so), so why not "play" it in a virtual CD/DVD player?

A virtual CD drive is a small piece of software that can mount the ISO just as if you had popped a CD into a physical CDROM drive. You don’t even have to spend a lot of money. For the longest time I used a free (but unsupported) virtual CDROM tool from Microsoft called VCDControlTool. Recently I’ve been trying out another free tool, MagicDisk, from the makers of MagicISO.

Both tools work basically the same: You create a virtual CDROM device and assign it a drive letter, then mount an ISO. The file can be local or on a network share, although I’d recommend a local file if you plan on using it frequently or you’re concerned about network utilization. Once you mount the ISO image, you can use the drive like any other device. Both tools even let you make your ISO mountings persistent so that they survive reboots.

Imagine a situation where the finance department needs read-only access to the previous year’s financial data that was previously stored in a network shared folder. Burn the files and folders to an ISO image. Install a virtual CDROM. Copy the ISO image to each finance computer and mount it. Now every member has fast access to the data they need. Need another year? Add another drive. You don’t have to worry about accidental file modification, deletion or viruses. And there’s no need to back up the data -- it's already backed up!

If you're using a virtual CDROM/ISO solution other than the ones mentioned here, I’d love to hear about it.

About the Author

Jeffery Hicks is an IT veteran with over 25 years of experience, much of it spent as an IT infrastructure consultant specializing in Microsoft server technologies with an emphasis in automation and efficiency. He is a multi-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP Award in Windows PowerShell. He works today as an independent author, trainer and consultant. Jeff has written for numerous online sites and print publications, is a contributing editor at Petri.com, and a frequent speaker at technology conferences and user groups.

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