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In the good old days of Windows XP we had the Microsoft Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel for mounting ISO's.

Since Vista I have struggled to find a driver level shell extension that works on a 64 bit Windows.

I have tried Virtual Clone Drive and have no real complaints but what I really want is software that behaves just like MVCDControlPanel ie:

  • I don't want a permanent drive waiting to mount an ISO sitting in my drive list.
  • I really liked the tiny footprint and minimal resource usage of MVCDControlPanel so something that doesn't use much CPU (when it isn't reading ISO's).
  • Preferably with a right-click shell extension to mount an ISO or simply open it as you would a zip file.
  • It only needs to provide read-only access to the ISO
  • I always prefer software that doesn't stick its branding and silly logos or icons all over the place or on the temporary drive in explorer

I'm happy to pay for it. What are my options?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 2 down vote accepted

By far the best free ISO mounting tool out there is Pismo file mount.

Some highlights:

  • Works great on Windows Vista/7 x64 (not natively x64 but completely compatible)
  • Drives only exist when an ISO is mounted and are removed when there is no ISO mounted
  • Small memory footprint
  • Has simple minimalist right click shell integration
  • Unattended installation
  • No Branding or silly logos to speak of (very clean professional feeling program)
  • Fully featured command line control that is automatically working right after unattended install
  • Plus all the normal features you would expect from an ISO mounting tool
  • Free for corporate use

Some things you will want to pay attention to though is that by default it will not mount the ISO to a drive letter but instead mount it to a UNC path which can cause some software installers to fail when installing from the mounted path. Just make sure you specify that you want Pismo to mount to a drive letter when you are doing the mount and it will work fine.

Here is the unattended install of SQL to demonstrate my real world use of Pismo.

SET MSDNIsoPath=\\itapp\ISO Library\MSDN
SET ScriptPath=%~dp0
SET ScriptPath=%ScriptPath:~0,-1%
SET MountPath=m:
SET pfmMount=pfm mount -m %MountPath%
SET pfmUnMount=pfm unmount

echo -Installing Pismo File Mount
"%ResourcePath%\pfmap-051.exe" /q

echo.
echo Install and configure Microsoft SQL Server 2005 
echo -Installing Standard Edition
%pfmMount% "%MSDNIsoPath%\en_sql_2005_std_x86_dvd.iso"
%MountPath%\Servers\setup.exe /settings "%ScriptPath%\Configuration\Microsoft SQL Server 2005.ini" /qb /norestart
%pfmUnMount%
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thats beautiful dude. –  grenade Feb 11 '10 at 4:08

ISO Buster

If all you're looking for is a way to browse and extract from ISO files (i.e. not actually mount them in a virtual device), this is what I'd recommend. It doesn't have a native 64-bit version, but it works just fine on 64-bit Windows. It's purpose is usually for creating the ISO's from physical media. But it works just like WinZip for opening and extracting the contents of existing ISO's. That also means it's only running and consuming system resources when you're using it.

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I like 7zip. Not only does to do most compressed file formats, but it also handles ISOs.

Pros:

  • You can "extract" them out like a zip file.
  • It integrates with Windows Explorer to allow for "right-click" expansion.
  • It's open source, and there are 32 & 64 bit versions.
  • Runs on all modern versions of Windows, including Windows 7

Cons:

  • It does not do mounting, unlike most of the other programs listed.
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I've been a happy (and paying) user of MagiISO for quite some time.

I also have a license for Nero, but when it comes to the "virtual CD", I usually use MagicDisc (it's freeware "mount disc image" product, http://www.vmware.com/products/server/)

It has versions for most OSs, so I'd recommend you give it a spin. The price (free) is just right :)

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I would say Total Commander - it has a CDFS plugin which works pretty good.

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For 64-Bit there is only two that I use. The first is Daemon Tools Lite. It's a tray icon application that allows you to mount an ISO by double clicking and fully 64-Bit. Since I have never really minded having a drive letter waiting I am not sure if you can make it create a drive on the fly however.

Since Windows 7 I have been using MagicISO. It's Windows Vista/7 64-Bit compliant, but also keeps a drive letter available at all times. The sole purpose of this application is to mount ISO's and it has a very small footprint.

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Cheers, I'm goint to check out MagicISO. –  grenade Aug 30 '09 at 11:02
    
I absolutely recommend Daemon Tools Lite. It's small, free, easy to use (you can associate .iso files with it and mount them with a single click) and supports multiple virtual drives. The latest version works greatly on Windows 7, both x86 and x64. –  Massimo Aug 30 '09 at 17:37
    
Does Daemon Tools still bundle spyware? That killed it's reputation with me a few years ago. But MagicISO is great. –  Michael Stum Aug 30 '09 at 19:27
    
@Michael - The lite version doesn't. As long as you untick everything. But I have stopped using it since it is not Windows 7 compliant. –  Diago Aug 30 '09 at 20:38

I agree with Alexander here. (+1)

I use Vista 64-bits too, combined with Alcohol 120% which I purchased with a lifetime license. It's not free but the price is very reasonable. Since you're happy to pay for it, well... For $57 you'll pay just once. :-) I actually switched my Alcohol installation from a XP 32-bits system to my current one, so the license isn't tied to a single system. However, you can only use one license on one computer and will need more licenses if you're going to install on multiple systems. The license key is tied to some identification from your system so it will notice it if you're trying to use it on two systems.

In the past, I also tried DEAMON Tools but around 2005 it was made known that the free version came with additional adware, which resulted in me immediately removing this application again! They have a bad reputation now, because of this, even though more recent versionss seem to be aware-free again. (Or maybe you can tell the installer not to install the adware/spyware or whatever they're messing with.)

I don't know MagicISO

Microsoft themselves have tried in the past to create their own virtual CD's but they've ever been really successful. Maybe in Windows 8 or whatever.

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I am using Alcohol 52% Free Edition under Windows Vista x64 for mounting ISO files.

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That's great. What is it like? Going by the screenshot in that page you linked to it looks bulkier than Virtual Clone Drive. -or am I wrong? –  grenade Aug 30 '09 at 9:42
    
Note: it does not work under windows x64 –  gbn Aug 30 '09 at 10:11
    
@gbn, I have Alcohol running on Vista 64-bits! Why do you say it doesn't work, while it does? –  Wim ten Brink Aug 30 '09 at 11:47
    
@grenade: I don't know VCD. But Alcohol intergrates into the exporer context menu, so you can mount and unmount iso files with a single click. @gbn: Alcohol definitly works on Vista x64! I am also running it without any problems. –  Alexander Aug 30 '09 at 12:32

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