by Barry Dysert
(last updated February 20, 2017)
An ISO image is a file on your hard drive (typically with an ".iso" extension) that is an image of an optical disc (like a CD or DVD). Using free software, you can create an ISO image from an optical disc, then mount the .iso file and use it as if it were an actual optical disk—even though it's all on your hard drive.
An advantage to having ISO images is that they are portable. Once you create it, it's like you have the disc it came from always available. You can transfer the .iso file to another device, store it on a flash drive, etc.
If an ISO image was created from a video DVD, it can likely be played through Windows Media Player simply by double-clicking the .iso file. Otherwise (for example, if it's an image of a data disc), you may need to mount it and treat it just like you would a physical optical disk in your drive. I happen to use "Virtual Clone Drive" by Elaborate Bytes AG for dealing with data .iso files (it's a free download from most of the popular download locations).
To create an ISO image, I often use BurnAware Free (but the free version is only for non-commercial use) or ImgBurn. Both are available at popular download locations.
This tip (13015) applies to Windows 7, 8, and 10.
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