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.ISO Disk Images: A Background and Address to Common Problems Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:02 PM

So the digital age is here. You can make popcorn from your cell phone while browsing the internet, buy furniture from Sweden while playing poker with a man in Denmark, and create and edit models of nuclear weapon systems and print them out to color in; however you still have shelves of CD's physically storing your digital data. This is often seen as one of the most fundamentally outdated technology systems for mass personal data storage. While CD's are good for permanent records and important files, the physical space they take up often outweighs their usefulness in data storage. After all, a single CD-R, CD-RW, or CDR+ only stores 700 MB at maximum capacity. That's about a fifth of what you store on a single $10 4GB flash drive. So what? CD's are beginning to look like floppy diskettes as the technological paradigm shift mercilessly plows forward. Unnecessary, bulky, and inefficient in storing large amounts of data.

This guide however, is not meant to address the rising inadequacy of compact disks, but rather their inability to be versatile. If you want to get a CD to people, the most logical thing to do would be to send it through the mail. This however, is a lengthy, tedious process that can be easily circumvented with a few applications. Programs exist that allow you to copy the disk itself into a digital format. Before you begin, please understand the fundamentals of Compact Disk Storage. As you may know, computers use "Machine Code", which is commonly known as Binary. Binary, being strings of virtual 1's and 0's is just the concept of a charge, or the absence of a charge. Compact Disks do not use electricity, therefore eliminating the use of a "charge" to represent binary signatures. Instead a CD uses a series of pits as illustrated below to store data. Think of a CD as a small mirror. When struck by a laser at 180 degrees perpendicular, a mirror will reflect the light back to it's original source. The pits, which are created when a laser "burns" to a disk, reflect the light away from the source and are collected by sensors. When applied in succession, the result is a series of laser bursts when the disk is spinning.

To make a copy of a CD, theoretically all you need is an exact copy of the pits and the space between them.

Diagram of pits on a CD *Above*

The file format .ISO is just that: a digital copy of the disk. Unlike a copy of the data, an ISO image can not be "read"; meaning you can't access the data within it without burning it to a disk first or mounting it as a file system.

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.ISO Disk Images: Gathering Your Resources Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:32 PM

As you will be interacting with hardware and software alike, you will need to gather a few things first.

You will need: A copy of a disk image capturing program A CD to copy A CD to write to (optional) A drive capable of writing to CD-RW disks (optional) While .ISO has become more important in contemporary application, only the most recent Operating Systems have come to include support for the file type built in. Windows 7 and Ubuntu/Linux are the only systems were support is included. If you have anything else, you need one of the programs below.

~~~~~~ Many image programs exist in the commercial and industrial market. If you only need to make an image of a CD once then I would suggest getting MagicISO. Although this program is free to try, they make you pay to continue using it after a month.

Website Direct Download Link (You're Welcome ^___^ ) ~~~~~~

If you only plan to burn copies of .ISO disks, a free program called BurnCDCC exists. Although you are unable to make images of the disk (ISO files), it is a great tool for quickly burning disks Download Link ~~~~~~ The best utility however, is competent, free, and allows you to "mount" an Image. Mounting an ISO allows you to access the copy of the disk by treating the file as another CD Drive.


ISODisk is free. Period. I highly suggest using this program over the others, seeing as it costs nothing and allows for a greater range of expandability. We will be using ISODisk for the remainder of this guide.

Website Direct Download Link

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.ISO Disk Images: Preparing a Disk Image Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:42 PM

This is were the fun starts! When you first open up ISODisk, your screen should look like the following.

This is the "Virtual Disk" menu. Notice how the drives start at A: and B:, and then skip to G:. Most modern systems no longer use Floppy Disk Drives, which is the industry standard for the A: drive, so you are free to assign a pseudo-CD in it's place. First however, you need to make a copy of the disk itself. For this guide, I will be creating a copy of the old Maxis game, SimAnt. Seeing as this is a step by step guide, I will assert that step one is putting the disk in the drive. GOOD JOB! You are an amazing tech guy now! But you already knew that‌ Now that you have the disk and the program, make sure you are using the correct drive. If you have a large desktop unit, chances are you may have two or three optical drives.

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Click That!

Select the correct one from the drop down menu, and press the disk image button.

It will ask you were you want to save your image. Seeing as the way you store you files is based on personal preference, I really can't tell you want to do with in, however it is often a good idea to have an ISO folder in my documents.

You should get a message telling you that everything was done correctly.

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Great! You now have a copy of the CD you one kept on a shelf.

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.ISO Disk Image: Mounting an ISO Sunday, August 16, 2009 5:17 PM

Now that you have a digital version of the CD, you can treat it as if it were in a CD Drive, even though it's just a piece of data. This is called "mounting". As you may have expected, go to the mounting menu of ISODisk.

Click Here

Click on the folder to select an ISO to mount. For the purpose of this guide, we will be mounting to the A: drive. If you already have something mounted there, choose another drive letter. To check which letters are in use. Go to My Computer.

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You may get an error message saying something such as the following:

Restarting your computer changes the Windows configuration for the mounting system, and gives ISODisk permission to make changes. Go ahead and restart.

Eventually, the image should look like this:

Go into my computer to check!

Great! Now have mounted a digital copy of a CD as an actual one. Realize however, that my CD was only 7MB (give me a break, it's from the early 90's). The file system on any modern CD will be significantly larger.

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.ISO Disk Images: Sending Them to Others Sunday, August 16, 2009 5:17 PM

One of the primary applications of ISO files is to digitally transmit a CD. While the intent of this guide is to express legal and functional software use, it is foolish to deny that ISOs are often used to transmit pirated data. For example, if someone buys a game, they can then make a copy and transmit it over the internet for anyone to download. The purpose of this guide however, is for you to be able to transmit things safely and legally. Please do not use this to pirate games, as you will most likely never get a job. Depending on the size of the file, there is a number of things you can do. Typically, four options exist. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Email File Sharing Site Online Storage FTP Server (if you have one of these and need to read this I am crying right now TT____TT) ~~~~~~

If your ISO is smaller than 15MB, it is possible to email it directly to the place you want to send it. I am not going to give a rundown of how to send email I trust you can do that yourself. :D

~~~~~~ Your second option is to use a File Sharing Site. Most sites require you to pay for files larger than 300MB, however some use trial periods to limit non-paying customers as well. Some services are programs that allow you to use your computer as an FTP server. Chances are programs such as CC File Transfer are going to be a little advanced.

Here is a list of some of the better sites: YouSendIt

14 Days


Cloud Based (Internet Storage)

SendSpace Unlimited 300MB

Cloud Based (Internet Storage)

Rapidshare Unlimited 200MB

Cloud Based (Internet Storage) ~~~~~~

If you are sending a file that is larger than this limit, you may want to try using an online storage vault. Logon, upload the files you want and then pass on the logon information to the other party you wish to send the file to.

Here is a list of some of the better sites:

14 Days 1GB Upload

5GB Storage

A Drive

14 Days 50GB Upload 50GB Storage

Flip Drive 30 Days 20GB Upload 20GB Storage ~~~~~~ The fourth and most advanced option for you is to set up an FTP server. This allows you to use your own equipment to set up a web server, transferring the data over the FTP protocol. Some programs have this functionality built in, so try to take advantage of those.

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Good Servers Include: CC File Transfer Unlimited 4GB Transfer Personal Server Based (Your Computer) Pidgin IM Client Unlimited Unknown

Based in an IM client.

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ISO Disk Images  

A short guide on processing, mounting, and transfering ISO files.

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