ISO Means Equal

Category: Software

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?

What are ISO files?

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

Where does the name ISO come from? ISO is actually an acronym for International Standards Organization. ISO 9660 is a standards document which defines the file format for optical disc media such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs. There are hundreds of standards published by the ISO, so there's really no good reason for this file format to have the same name as the organization. But that's just the way it is.

(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...

 
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This article was posted by on 18 Jan 2016


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Most recent comments on "ISO Means Equal"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

bill borne
18 Jan 2016

You are allowed by law to make 1 backup copy of any and all dvd's, bluray's etc you own. You can make ISo images files of them and then watch them on your puter by mounting in the free version of "Virtual Clone Drive" Once you mount it then any media player program can play it from the drive letter that virtual clone drive is using just as it if is on a DVD, etc in your cd,dvd drive.


Posted by:

Art F
18 Jan 2016

Peripheral to the topic at hand, but...

I notice 2 of the 6 comments so far posted are duplicates. I have accidentally posted duplicates also. It happens when you click on Post Comments and nothing appears to occur. So you wait a while and eventually try again, only to find that your comments have now posted twice. Can something be done to fix this?


Posted by:

Art F
18 Jan 2016

And it (posting a duplicate comment) ALMOST happened yet again, with my comment ABOUT duplicate comments. This time I waited a REALLY long time, (or it seemed that way; it was maybe 30 seconds) and eventually I got a new screen with the comment posted. Why does it take so long to get a response? I'd be happy if it just came back with "Working..." or something to indicate that my clicking on Post Comments had been noticed by the system.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'll see what I can do about that...


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
18 Jan 2016

As for duplicate comments -- I use Chrome for my browser, when I click on Post Comments -- First I see a partial gray circle, spinning round & round -- Then a full blue circle spinning round & round. When the blue circle stops & I see an icon of Bob -- I know that my comment has gone through & can be read now.

Does that help anyone? This is really no different than when you are waiting to get to a website that you typed in.


Posted by:

pmwill
18 Jan 2016

Thanks, I have really gleaned a lot from your news letters.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
18 Jan 2016

Now, for my own comments on this article.

Thank you, Bob, for helping clear up some of my confusion regarding ISO files. This is one area of computing that has confused me for years.

Years ago, I had a program for creating a Virtual Drive. I don't know where the program is and I highly doubt that it would work with Win 7 Pro 64 Bit. I think, it was a Win 98 program and I was able to use it on Win XP.

I will now, read further on creating a Virtual Drive on my computer. Heavens, I have a 1TB Hard Drive, so space is not the issue. First I will look in Bob's Archives to seek more information. :)


Posted by:

Art F
18 Jan 2016

@MmeMoxie, re duplicate comments: I'm using Chrome also, and don't see what you're describing. No spinning circles. The spinning circle comes from Windows, and I probably don't see it because I'm using a relatively fast desktop. (Chrome version 47.0.2526 under Windows 10.) No indication at all that anything has happened after clicking on Post Comments until the comment finally posts after a substantial wait. I previously observed the same under Internet Explorer.


Posted by:

Art F
18 Jan 2016

...and that last comment took 29 seconds, by my wristwatch, before I could see that anything whatsoever had happened in response to my clicking on Post COmments.


Posted by:

Rick
18 Jan 2016

Bob you have so many great articles but I don't always have the time or the need to use them when you post them. How do I find them later when I real need them. Thanks again for you help.


Posted by:

Stephen Earle
18 Jan 2016

Bob, nice explanation of .iso files. I'd like to mention one small exception to the statement, "You can�t �run� an ISO file..." When I get a DVD, I make a backup copy using a free utility (DVDDecrypter or ImgBurn) to rip the DVD to an .iso file on external disk. I can then play the movie directly from the image in VLC (Videolan) media player. No doubt VLC has some virtual drive handling built into its code somewhere, but I can "run" it directly from the image. I don't know of any other software that does this, but then I haven't looked for one.


Posted by:

Bernie Liebler
19 Jan 2016

Interesting article, but with a couple of misplaced "facts." ISO is actually a Greek prefix for same (or equal). However, it is not an acronym for the "International Standards Organization."

1. An acronyms is set of initials that spells a word. ISO isn't a word, it's a prefix, as in isobar, or isothermal.

ISO is an alternative descriptor for the International Association for Standardization, one of the world's principal organizations that issues International Standards. The other is the IEC. Check out their website at www.iso.ch. The ch indicates Switzerland. Both of these entities are headquartered in Geneva.


Posted by:

Gerald Rains
19 Jan 2016

Imgburn is freeware and it does a flawless and fast job of copying to ISO files.


Posted by:

Sarah L
19 Jan 2016

As to acronyms, Wikipedia's description does not insist it be a word, but be used as a word.
"An acronym is an abbreviation used as a word which is formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. Usually these components are individual letters (as in NATO or laser) or parts of words or names (as in Benelux)."

Again using Wikipedia, the article on ISO, one reference on the origin of the group explains how ISO was preceded (before WWII) by a mainly European group whose acronym was ISA. Neither acronym matches the spelling in any language of the full name, including the 3 official languages of English, French and Russian for ISO. It is pleasing to know that businesses and nations have been trying to agree on standards for so long. Also interesting to know that the "inch" countries were not active in ISA, that is, the USA and the UK. The reference list linking to a document on how the ISO began notes that the Greek meaning of ISO did not come up in the 1946 negotiations to name the organization. (prefix in English, word in Greek) So, it was serendipity, a way to remember the name that once had meaning only for film speeds for me.


Posted by:

Sarah L
19 Jan 2016

In the US, at least, the url for ISO is http://www.iso.org/iso/home.html and the address given above > www.iso.ch

Thanks for explaining the iso files and how to use them, Bob, while giving me one reason to use Windows 10 this year before the download stops being free. And reasons to read up on ISO at its own web site and in Wikipedia


Posted by:

Sarah L
19 Jan 2016

The less than symbol cut off my sentence above, so I use quote marks now, which was to say:

In the US, at least, the url for ISO is http://www.iso.org/iso/home.html and the address given above "www.iso.ch" brings me to that url. As does searching on google for ISO and following the link provided.


Posted by:

Dave
19 Jan 2016

The "ISO is actually an acronym for International Standards Organization." is a very common misconception.
The actual name of the organization is "International Organization for Standardization" see http://www.iso.org/iso/home.html


Posted by:

Dave W
23 Jan 2016

You missed an important option--rip DVDs and watch them using VLC on any of several platforms--Windows, Android, iPad. I travel a LOT and I don't want to haul DVDs with me, so this is the perfect solution to watching my DVDs on the road.


Posted by:

Andy Suhaka
24 Jan 2016

Bob, I've been a fan since Tourbus days. Thank you for all of your info! I only wish when you talk about something that you would add the Mac end, as well.

Do Macs create and use ISO files? There's many of us who'd appreciate being included.


Posted by:

Brian R
25 Jan 2016

Daemon Tools Lite - Freeware, been around for years, and works great. Just another great option for a Virtual Disc app. I highly recommend it.


Posted by:

jack a postlewaite
13 Feb 2016

why is it so difficult to get rid of syimg.com? and who is responsible for this problem?


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