Having CD/DVD emulation software works like having multiple CD/DVD ROM drives.
The emulation software allows users to run a CD/DVD image directly from a hard disk after mounting the image to a virtual disk drive. This works the same as or even better than the traditional way for users to run a CD/DVD from a physical disk drive after mounting the CD/DVD onto it.
Depending on the emulation software, the number of virtual disk drives can be easily set to more than 10 or 20 at no extra cost, while the number of physical disk drives is usually limited to one that was bought as part of the PC.
Most users need this software for some reasons such as:
- Run CD/DVD images from a hard disk without the need to burn them into disks.
- Speed up access time as hard drives are much faster than optical drives.
- Backup several disk image files to a new hard drive is much easier and faster than to burn several new CDs/DVDs.
- Do not need to keep favorite software, music or game CD/DVD titles on the physical disk drive for them to run.
- Prevent CDs/DVDs from scratches or wearing out due to frequent switching.
- Keep a copy in the hard disk for running in case a CD/DVD becomes damaged, lost or stolen.
- Free up desk space without the need of having disks scattered around, or carry one disk library in a hard disk without the burden of many physical disks.
- Run disk images from a netbook or a notebook without a built-in disk drive, or with the disk drive turned off to save power.
- Make a disk accessible to users on a network.
- Encrypt disk images for security and decrypt them only when accessed.
Serving most of the objectives, these free CD/DVD emulation software tools, or emulators, are reviewed and rated based on the following features:
- Number of virtual disk drives allowed.
- Support ISO and other disk image formats.
- Able to create disk images from CDs/DVDs.
- User interface and other additional features.
Gizmo Drive is good emulation software which allows you to mount a disk image in ISO or other formats to a virtual drive using its driver. When an image is mounted, it appears as an actual CD/DVD-ROM drive or hard drive in Windows Explorer.
It supports up to 26 virtual drives. Other types of images which can be mounted include VHD, IMG, BIN, CUE, NRG, CCD, MDS, MDF and GDRIVE.
In addition to mounting images to virtual drives, Gizmo Drive allows you to create ISO images from a disk or folder, and burn the contents of an ISO file or a folder to a recordable disk. It comes with a Gizmo Manager and Image Wizard to perform the various tasks.
Support up to 26 virtual drives, create ISO image, burn ISO files or folders to recordable disks, complete with Gizmo Manager and Image Wizard to perform tasks.
Does not simulate audio CDs or video DVDs, required to reboot the system to start or remove its device driver.
MagicDisc, also known as MagicISO Virtual CD/DVD-ROM, is another emulator designed for creating and managing virtual CD/DVD drives.
It allows you to run many types of CD/DVD images without burning them onto CDs or DVDs. It also allows you to create CD/DVD images from CDs/DVDs and save them into various formats including ISO, BIN/CUE, NRG, UIF.
This program with a simple interface supports up to 15 number of virtual disk drives.
Other features are available such as compress ISO, NRG, CUE, MDS and CCD formats into UIF format, or decompress UIF format into ISO format. The feature for burning images to disks is not supported.
Clean and simple user interface, able to mount many types of image files, create image formats including ISO, BIN/CUE, NRG, UIF, compress into UIF and decompress to ISO files.
Limited to 15 virtual drives, burning images to disks not supported.
Virtual CloneDrive allows you to double-click an image file to mount it to a virtual drive.
This program adds a Windows Explorer context menu for mounting and unmounting the images as well. In this version under review, it has increased the number of virtual drives up to 15, same as the number supported by MagicDisc.
Mountable image formats include ISO, CCD, IMG, UDF, BIN, etc., but NRG, MDF/MDS and some other formats are not supported. The program comes with a Virtual Sheep option which is designed to mark all virtual drives created by the software with its icon, so that you can differentiate them from the physical drives.
Auto-mounting the last image is also included as one of the options. On the down side, Virtual CloneDrive does not provide other features such as creating images from or burning them to disks.
Easy to use, double-click an image file to mount the image, mounting and unmounting via Windows Explorer context menu.
Limited to 15 virtual drives, fewer mountable image formats, creating and burning images not supported.
Furius ISO Mount is a simple Gtk+ interface to mount ISO, IMG, BIN, MDF and NRG image files on a Linux system.
This program allows you to select or drag-and-drop a file to mount an image in your home directory easily, and unmount an image with one click on a button. It also supports for burning ISO and IMG files to optical disks.
Other features include generating MD5 and SHA1 checksums, automatically saving the history of the last 10 images mounted and retrieving previously unmounted images.
No creating disk images is included in the program. If necessary, you might want to try Brasero Disc Burner which can create an ISO image from a CD/DVD, without using a command line interface.
Select or drag-and-drop an image file to mount, one-click unmount, supports for burning ISO and IMG files, generate MD5 and SHA1 checksums, saving history and retrieving previously unmounted images.
Creating disk images not included.
Disk Image formats:
These are some image formats used by the emulation software for mounting images to virtual CD/DVD drives or other devices.
|ISO||Standard ISO 9660 image, supported by most emulation software.|
|CCD /IMG /SUB||CloneCD image|
|CDFS||CD File System image|
|CUE /BIN||Cue sheet and binary image, introduced by CDRWIN.|
|GDRIVE||Gizmo Drive image|
|IMG /IMA||Floppy disk image|
|ISZ||Compressed ISO image, developed by EZB Systems.|
|JO||Joliet extension to ISO image, specified and endorsed by Microsoft.|
|MDS /MDF||Media Descriptor image, proprietary to Alcohol Soft.|
|NRG||Nero Burning ROM image|
|PDI||Instant CD/DVD image|
|ROCK||Rock Ridge extension to ISO image|
|UDF||Universal Disk Format, developed by Optical Storage Technology Association.|
|UIF||Universal Image File|
|VHD||Virtual Hard Disk image|