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How Do I Play ISO PC Games?

by: Brian Healy ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

ISO images can be downloaded from the internet and are usually complete 'mirror' images of software packages, including games. But how do you use ISO images on your PC?

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    Burning ISO Image Files onto CD

    An ISO image is a disk image of an optical disc. It is commonly used in the distribution of software and the name comes from the file system used with CD-ROM media. However, the term ISO image can refer to any optical disc image.

    Many downloadable, free games come in .ISO format, but to use them, these files need to either be transferred to optical media or used to mount a 'virtual drive' which emulates the optical disc operation. Most optical disc authoring software, such as Nero or Roxio can write ISO files to disc.

    If you have downloaded an ISO image and need to burn it to disc, there are several software packages that can perform this task:

    Active@ ISO Burner
    (Free)

    Finalburner PRO (Free)

    CD Burner XP (Free)

    Deepburner (Free)

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    Using Virtual Drive Software

    As you can see, burning an ISO image isn't that complex. However, you may find it easier to run an ISO image via virtual drive software, which can perform much faster than standard optical media. To set up a virtual drive, you will need to source a disk image emulator, which then creates a virtual drive on your PC, which looks to the operating system to be an ordinary disc drive.

    There are several disc image emulators available, which include:

    UltraISO (Paid)

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    PowerISO (Paid)

    Daemon Tools (Free)

    Using a virtual drive to run ISO files has many uses and benefits for the user. For instance, it helps to save on wear of the physical CD/DVD drive's mechanisms; it helps prevent CD media from being scratched; can enable users to create back-up compies of discs in the case of loss or damage to the original; can be used across a network where several CD copies would ordinarily be required for other users and can make the PC run quieter, as most optical drives tend to be noisy when being accessed.

    However, using .ISO images and disc emulation software also has drawbacks, not least of all is the fact that as .ISO images contain all the files and data of physical CD media, which when used in conjunction with disc emulation software, can be used to aid in the duplication and creation of software which may aid in software copyright infringement.

    With the introduction of broadband internet and peer-to-peer file sharing software, it's relatively easy to find most software - whether games, utilities or other types of software - in .ISO format. Remember, however, that illegal copying of software for distribution purposes is illegal in most countries!

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