Creating and storing ISO backups of your important software installation discs, and even operating system setup discs, is a smart plan. Compliment that with an unlimited online backup service and you have a near bulletproof disc backup strategy.
ISO images are great because they're self contained, perfect representations of the data on a disc. Being single files, they're easier to store and organize than simple copies of the folders and files on a disc would be.
Windows doesn't have a built-in way of creating ISO image files so you'll need to download a program to do it for you. Luckily there are several free tools available that make creating ISO images a really easy task.
Time Required: Creating an ISO image file from a CD, DVD, or BD could take anywhere from a few minutes to over a hour, depending on the size of the disc and the speed of your computer
- Download BurnAware Free, a completely free program that, among other tasks, can create an ISO image from all types of CD, DVD, and BD discs.
Important: There are "Home" and "Professional" versions of BurnAware that are not free. However, the "Free" version is fully capable of creating ISO images from your discs, which is the aim of this tutorial.
BurnAware Free works in Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and even Windows 2000 and NT. Both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of those operating systems are supported.
- Install BurnAware Free by executing the burnaware_free file you just downloaded.
Note: BurnAware Free tries to get you to install a browser toolbar from AVG during installation. If you're not interested in doing that, you can skip the add-on by choosing Custom installation and making sure all three boxes are unchecked. You may also want to uncheck the Add BurnAware to AutoRun menu option near the end of the install.
- Run BurnAware Free, either from the shortcut created on the Desktop, or automatically via the last step in the installation.
- Once BurnAware Free is open, click on Copy to Image.
The Copy to Image tool will appear in addition to the existing BurnAware Free window that's already open.
Tip: You might have seen a Make ISO icon next to Copy to Image but you don't want to choose that for this particular task. The Make ISO tool is for creating an ISO image not from a disc, but from a collection of files you select, like from your hard drive or other source.
- From Source, choose the optical disc drive that you plan on using. If you only have one drive, you'll only see one choice.
- Click or touch Browse....
- Navigate to the location that you want to create to ISO image file to, give the soon-to-be-made file a name in the File name text box, and then click or touch on Save.
Note: Optical discs, especially DVDs and BDs, can hold several gigabytes of data and will create ISOs of equal size. Make sure that whatever drive you choose to save the ISO image to has enough room to support it. Your primary hard drive likely has plenty of free space so choosing a convenient location there, like your Desktop, as the location to create the ISO image is probably fine.
Important: If your ultimate plan is to get the data from a disc onto a flash drive so you can boot from it, please know that simply creating an ISO file directly onto the USB device isn't going to work as you expect. In most cases, like when installing Windows 7 from a flash drive, you have to take some extra steps to make sure the flash drive is properly formatted and the files are correctly copied to the drive.
- Insert the CD, DVD, or BD disc that you want to create the ISO image from into the optical drive you chose in Step 5.
Note: Depending on how AutoRun is configured in Windows on your computer, the disc you just inserted may start (e.g. the movie may start playing, you may get a Windows installation screen, etc.). Regardless, close whatever comes up.
- Click or touch Copy.
Tip: Do you get a There is no disc in the source drive message? If so, just click or touch OK and then try again in a few seconds. Chances are, the spin-up of the disc in your optical drive hasn't completed so Windows just doesn't see it yet. If you can't get this message to go away, make sure you're using the right optical drive and that the disc is clean and undamaged.
- Wait while the ISO image is created from your disc. You can watch the progress by keeping an eye on the Image progress bar or the x of x MB written indicator.
- The ISO creation process is complete once you see the Copy process completed successfully box.
The ISO file will be named and located where you decided in Step 7.
- You can now press or click OK to that message, close the Copy to Image window, and also the BurnAware Free window. You can also now remove the disc you were using from your optical drive.
- You can only create ISO images from discs that your optical drive supports. For example, if you only have a CD drive, you won't be able to make ISO images from DVD or BD discs because your drive won't be able to read the data from them.
- While you won't be able to follow my tutorial above exactly, there are several other free ISO creation tools available if you don't like BurnAware Free or it's not working for you. Some include ISOpen, ISODisk, ImgBurn, ISO Recorder, and Free DVD to ISO Maker.