ISO Means Equal
Today in the USA, we honor Martin Luther King, a man who fought for equality. I've been waiting for the right time to publish an article about the ISO file format, and it struck me that ISO means equal. Yes, it's a bit of a lexical stretch, but I like to play with words. So let's learn all about ISO files...
Things You Can Do With ISO Files
So what is an ISO file, and why are they useful? An ISO file is actually a collection of files, all rollled into one single file. It's somewhat like a ZIP file, or a system image that you create when making a backup. More precisely, it's a disk image (an exact digital copy) of an optical disk (CD, DVD or Blu-Ray).
An ISO file has the extension “.iso” so you can tell what it is at a glance. Disk images contain a copy of every bit that has been written to a disk, including system files normally hidden from view and the file system structure itself.
ISO files are commonly used to bundle software for delivery over the Internet, dispensing with the need for shiny disks, jewel cases, bubblewrap mailers, and postage. Open-source software repositories such as GitHub make ISO files available for downloading free of charge. Techies who enjoy testing out new operating systems may use ISO files to install a new version of Linux. Some commercial software is available for instant downloading in an ISO file. But then what do you do with an ISO file?
You can’t “run” an ISO file; all of the component files must be extracted from the ISO archive before you can run any executable files or an installer such as “setup.exe.” There are three ways to extract files from ISO files.
(1) Burn the ISO’s contents to an optical disk. Windows 7 and higher versions include the ability to burn CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray disks from an ISO file. Of course, your computer needs to have an optical drive with read/write capability. Just insert a blank writeable disk into the CD/DVD drive, then use Windows Explorer to navigate to the ISO file’s location on your hard drive. Double-click on the ISO file and select “burn to disk.”
(2) If you don’t have a blank optical disk, or if you have a read-only optical drive, you can extract the ISO’s files to a folder on your hard drive or a USB drive. Windows does not do this natively, but many free archive management utilities handle ISO files. WinZip http://www.winzip.com/lanall.htm and 7Zip http://www.7-zip.org are two good archive managers; there are even old versions for Windows XP and Vista.
My Preferred Method for Working With ISO Files
(3) “Mount” the ISO file as a virtual disk drive. Then the ISO file will appear in Windows Explorer as a new drive letter (e. g., G:, H:, J:, etc.). You can run software as if it was installed on your hard drive, or run the software’s setup utility to install the software where it’s needed.
Windows 8 and higher can mount an ISO file easily; just right-click on the ISO and select “mount.” For Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, you'll need a third-party utility such as Virtual Clone Drive, Gizmo Drive, or MagicISO. All of them are free, and have the ability to mount an ISO file as a virtual drive, which works exactly like a real CD/DVD drive. When you're done working with the ISO image, just unmount it and the virtual drive goes away.
Generally, I prefer Option 3, mounting an ISO as a virtual drive. Doing so doesn’t clutter my desk with shiny disks or my hard drive with hundreds of files and folders. My hard drive is much faster than any optical or USB drive, and it won’t scratch as easily as a CD or DVD. The exception to this rule is when the software in an ISO must run from an external drive; for instance, if I want to install a new operating system. Then I would burn the ISO to a USB drive or an optical disk which can be used to boot the system.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jan 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- ISO Means Equal (Posted: 18 Jan 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved