One of the wonders of modern computing is the virtualization of DVDs and CDs. What is that you ask? CD and DVDs were once exclusively physical objects. Installing Microsoft Office once required the original Office 2000 DVD, to install that game you wanted to play, again, you needed the DVD. However, because of amazing technological advancements, we are now able to virtualize our CDs and DVDs through ISO images.
What are ISO files?
An ISO file is a clone, or image, of an actual physical disc. For example, the ISO file Windows7.iso is a file that contains every file and folder inside the original Windows 7 DVD.
ISO files can range from as tiny as 1 megabyte to several gigabytes, especially with the popularity of Blue-ray discs.
Why are ISO files useful?
ISO files are useful for namely two reasons. Firstly, it allows the backup of DVDs and CDs without physically cloning it on to another disc. For example, if you wanted to back up your OfficeXP DVD in case it got stolen or scratched, you could:
1. Clone it on a blank DVD
2. Create an ISO image of it and store it on your computer's hard drive
Another purpose why ISO files are useful is transmission. If you wanted to give you friend the installation disc for Windows10, you would you send him the DVD by mail, or would you rather inexpensively send him the ISO image of the DVD by Google Drive, Dropbox or another digital transmission medium?
Hence, we can see that ISO files are useful for the virtual storage and transmission of physical DVDs and CDs.
How do I use an ISO file?
With an ISO image, the common computer user can do two things:
Burn the ISO image to a blank/rewritable DVD
By burning the ISO image to a new DVD, you are essentially cloning the DVD that the ISO image was generated from. This is useful when you download an ISO image for the Windows 10 installation, and you want to convert it to something that can be inserted in to your PC.
However with new technology, we can now virtualize or mount the ISO image. Mounting is the process of tricking your computer in to thinking that the ISO image has been inserted as a CD or DVD. This allows you to skip the burning of ISO images to DVDs, and skip straight to the good stuff!
For example, by downloading the latest Sims game (legally of course), you received an ISO image called Sims3.iso. What do you do?
You can either burn it to a blank DVD, and then use that DVD to install the game, or you can easily mount the ISO image with Daemon Tools Lite, so that your computer thinks that Sims3.iso is a DVD that has been inserted. Either way, you will then open the DVD, or virtualized DVD and run the setup from there.
So in conclusion, ISO files are a really useful thing in modern day computing. From large companies such as Microsoft, to smaller non-profit organizations, ISOs have become a standard form of DVD/CD cloning. ISOs effectively allow physical devices (DVDs, CDs, Blueray discs) to be converted to a digital form (.iso files) that can be stored and shared, with the option of mounting, making them truly versatile and flexible.