Working with ISO Files

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated March 14, 2016)

If you have the proper type of drive on your system, when you insert a CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray disc into that drive, it normally "mounts" so that you can see or hear what is on the disc. (What exactly happens depends on your AutoPlay settings, as discussed in other WindowsTips.) This is exactly what you would expect in Windows—the ability to "play" your CDs, DVDs, or Blu-Ray discs.

However, Windows also includes the ability to "mount" or "play" what some people refer to as "virtual discs," without the need to even have a disc drive on your system. These "virtual discs" are typically known as ISO files, and they contain the entire contents of an optical disc. In other words, they are a digital copy of the disc. ISO files use, as you might expect, .iso as the filename extension, similar to how PDF files use .pdf or DOC files use .doc.

One of the features added to Windows 8 (and continued in Windows 10) is the ability to mount ISO files. Once mounted, they behave in the same was as the physical disc would if it were in your disc player. Here's how to mount an ISO file on your system:

  1. Open the File Explorer. (The easiest way is to press the Win+E.)
  2. Use the controls in File Explorer to locate the ISO file.
  3. Click once on the ISO file so it is selected. Windows should display the Manage tab in the ribbon at the top of the File Explorer.
  4. Click the Manage tab of the ribbon and then click the Mount tool.

That's it; at this point, Windows will behave as if you just inserted the optical disc in your disc drive. That means that if you have AutoPlay set to play such discs, the ISO file will start playing.

If you want to later unmount the ISO file (which is analogous to ejecting the optical disc), all you need to do is follow these steps:

  1. Open the File Explorer. (The easiest way is to press the Win+E.)
  2. Use the controls in File Explorer to locate the ISO file.
  3. Click once on the ISO file so it is selected. Windows should display the Manage tab in the ribbon at the top of the File Explorer.
  4. Click the Manage tab of the ribbon and then click Eject.

 This tip (3071) applies to Windows 8 and 10.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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