An ISO image usually refers to an archived copy of an optical disc such as a CD or DVD.
You would usually experience such files if you downloaded a full CD copy of an application or a bootable CD.
Other circumstances are if you would like to use a CD without having it physically in the drive, you can do this by creating a virtual drive, using an emulator.
The general term for software that can do this is called a “disk image emulator”, and there are a few out there to choose from.
Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel (free)
This is fine, because its free, but it has VERY LIMITED FEATURES, and is ultimately not very good.
DAEMON Tools (free/adware) ***NOT RECOMMENDED***
I often hear people discussing the use of this application, however I would strongly recommend AGAINST using this software, purely because the installer includes spyware/adware. However it is free, hence the appeal. Besides DAEMON tools is ugly.
MagicISO Maker ($29.99)
MagicISO not bad, but ultimately it is not free.
What people don’t realise is that there is actually another way. MagicDisc is free, and offered by the same people that created MagicISO, so they know what they are doing. This application supports the same formats as DAEMON tools, and then some. This is a much nicer application to work with than DAEMON tools. It also supports .uif files, which others do not. However it does not support PowerISO’s .daa files.
This application is not free, but it is the ONLY disk image emulator that supports .DAA format, giving it the ability to mount and create these files. If I had to choose between this and MagicISO I would select PowerISO because as it has more functions and generally looks nicer, and of course it supports it’s own .daa file format. Update: PowerISO v4.0 now supports .uif files!
Alcohol 120% (29 EUR) or Alcohol 52% (22.50 EUR)
This is a piece of software I almost overlooked. Alcohol 120 % can do it all, burn, create ISOs and mount images. Alcohol 52 % seems to just do the mounting of images.
I’ve not really used this software to any extent, I hear good things about it, but for what you pay, I don’t think its worth it considering the other options out there.
These applications must not be confused with Disc Authoring software, I have reviewed this software for a solution for mounting disc images.
If you want a free solution use MagicDisc, but PowerISO offers far more options at a cost.
I was unable to locate any open source solutions for windows.
Update: You can now convert both UIF and DAA formats to ISO using a set of tools.
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