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Best Free CD-DVD Emulation Software

 
Introduction

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 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 on the hard drive 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 on a hard drive 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 themonly 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.
 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

Gizmo DriveGizmo 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.

User interface of this program is informative and helpful. Other additional features include creating a GDRIVE image for simulating a hard drive with compression and encryption, creating a virtual hard drive backed by system memory for better performance in accessing time sensitive data, etc.

 

MagicDiscMagicDisc, 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 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.

 

Virtual CloneDriveAnother easy-to-use emulator is Virtual CloneDrive. It 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.

 

To be reviewed:

  • ISO Toolkit for Windows allows you to run directly from the exe file without the need to install, mount ISO, NRG, or CD images, create bootable ISO images, clone ISO images from a CD/DVD, extract and convert between popular image formats.
  • WinArchiver Virtual Drive can mount not only all popular CD/DVD image files, but also all popular archives such as ZIP, RAR, 7Z and more. It's clean and lightweight, supporting up to 24 virtual drives.
 
Other CD / DVD Emulators

There are a number of other freeware products which were brought up in comments here or noted from other sources. As they are not rated in this review, I am listing them here with brief descriptions and links to the related sites for ease of reference.

  • Alcohol 52% Free Edition is a trimmed down version of the commercial product Alcohol 120%. The free version has a limited support for 6 virtual drives and installs an optional Search Toolbar in your browser upon installation of the software. The free program features a CD/DVD Manager and an Image Making Wizard to create image files in ISO, MDS, CCD and CUE format
  • Phantom CD, a virtual CD/DVD/Blu-ray emulator, supports only one virtual drive, when tested on Windows 7, with mountable image formats including ISO, CUE and VDD. Creating image files is not supported.
  • Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel is a free utility released by Microsoft without Product Support Services. It is available for download here. This emulator runs on Windows XP and allows you to add available drives from A to Z or remove them, and mount/unmount images in ISO, UDF, CDFS, ROCK or JO formats. It does not allow you to create image files. Less user friendly. The download file includes a readme text on how to install the driver.
 
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
  • BWT: BlindWrite image
  • CCD /IMG /SUB: CloneCD image
  • CDFS: CD File System image
  • CDI: DiscJuggler 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 Associationproofread
  • UIF: Universal Image File
  • VHD: Virtual Hard Disk image
 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Gizmo-Drive
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
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.
2.7.9
8.0 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 2000 to Windows 7

Supported formats for mounting: ISO, GDRIVE, BIN/CUE, CCD, NRG, MDS/MDF, IMG, VHD.
v2.7.9 released 7 May, 2011
View changes here

MagicDisc
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
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.
2.7.106
1.29MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98 to Windows 7

Supported formats for mounting: ISO, CUE/BIN, CCD, NRG, MDS/MDF, BWT, CDI, PDI, IMG, UIF, etc.
v2.7.106 released 24 February, 2009
View version history here

Virtual CloneDrive
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
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.
5.4.7.0
1.60MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98 to Vista

Supported formats for mounting: ISO, CCD, IMG, UDF, BIN, etc.
v5.4.6.0 released 17 May, 2013
View the changelog here

Furius ISO Mount
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
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.
0.11.3.1
77.7 KB
Open source freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Linux

Supported formats for mounting: ISO, IMG, BIN, MDF and NRG image files

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

CD DVD emulator, emulation software, freeware, free emulator, virtual drive, virtual burner, virtual RW, virtual ROM, mount CD DVD drive

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Comments

by olaer069 on 28. March 2014 - 15:05  (115373)

Installed magicdisc on brand new dell precision t1700 Win7P Sp1 32bit and got BSOD at restart and couldn't start Windows.
Had to revert to before install with windows restore point.
After that the machine works like it should again.

FYI

cheers and keep up the good job guys

by sicknero on 3. November 2013 - 11:57  (111973)

I see that Daemon Tools Lite is still removed?

I've used it for a long time, I think for variety of formats supported it's one of the best and I don't know why posters are accusing it of installing Babylon Toolbar without permission.

by metalgear on 3. November 2013 - 11:28  (111971)

I just tried a few of the programs the people talk about in the comments section:
- Gizmo Drive - can mount "img" files but it says the disk is empty so it doesn't help. Can't mount mdf/mds files
- MagicDisc - can mount "img" files but can't mount mdf/mds files
- Virtual Clone Drive - can mount "img" files but can't mount mdf/mds files
- WinCDEmu - can mount img and mdf/mds files. Would be nice to have a tray icon too but it's ok anyways

Therefore WinCDEmu seems to be the best CD emulation software. And it's open source! - http://wincdemu.sysprogs.org/

I think the page should be updated, someone should create some small free ISO, NRG, CUE/BIN, IMG, etc. files (containing a few programs like Firefox) and upload them so then the people can have some quick image files to test

by J_L on 14. April 2014 - 7:09  (115678)

Was looking for something portable, thanks.

by sicknero on 14. April 2014 - 22:28  (115702)

It isn't really portable though, it requires a driver to be installed.

by LOTL on 17. February 2014 - 13:41  (114502)

Your selection may be the correct choice unless your running Windows 8.
It seems there may still be some issues. http://forum.sysprogs.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2482

Windows 8 has its own built in support for ISO files only it appears.
Worked well for me the couple times i have used it.

by mr6n8 on 3. November 2013 - 12:25  (111975)

This page currently has no editor (looks like it has not had one for a couple years). Anytime you see "site editor" for the author of an review here, it means no one is "assigned" to that review.

If you would like to handle this review, then take a look here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/we-need-you.htm

Looks like you have done most of the work towards a review already.

Steve

by mj110200 on 17. May 2013 - 10:22  (107802)

I have been using Gizmo Drive, Virtual Clone Drive and WinCDEmu.
On my computer Gizmo Drive always has given troubles.
I find Virtual Clone Drive better than Gizmo. Actually it works well. Though the Event Viewer of Windows 7 shows sometimes this error:
"VDS Basic Provider. Unexpected failure. Error code: 490@01010004". It seems this is caused by Virtual Clone Drive: http://forum.slysoft.com/showthread.php?t=50197. By the way, on my laptop where also Windows 7 is installed, this error doesn't occur.
I find WinCDEmu the best:
- it is a small program (installation file is less than 1 MB)
- it is easy to use
- it works reliable and so far without failures.

by gzmhanu on 14. March 2013 - 17:28  (106244)

wincdemu 3.6
pros
1.support virtual bd-rom, and lower technology for compatibility
2.double click to mount and select what bd-rom or dvd-rom or etc. or choose auto config.
3.it can mount image with filename has unicode on it. no need to rename again! yay. especially if u download the file from torrent. with japanese word name on it.
4.file installation below 1MB
5.to unmount just eject it from mycomputer
6.Added support for making ISO images of CDs/DVDs
7 Added an option for disabling autorun
8 Added an option for keeping mounted images after restart
9 Added support for translating context menu items
10. no process ,no tray icon running in the background when mounting

cons:
no feature like 'create iso from folder'
supported OS: Windows XP / Vista / XP X64 / Vista64 / 7 / 7 x64

by ektorbarajas on 5. March 2013 - 15:37  (105971)

Hi.

I've noticed that Gizmo Central (Installed when you install the Gizmo drive) runs as a service and lately it shows once a day a notification in the systray icon saying "try our new free app for iphone" and it has a link, if you click that link it opens:goodweather.friedcookie.com

The first time I saw this notification I don't know why it appeared, so I started to investigate and since I'm no longer using Gizmo drive y decided to uninstall gizmo central, so as soon as the uninstall process started the notification was gone.

So this means to me that Gizmo Central has some kind of adware embeded, please be aware of that

by George.J on 22. August 2012 - 6:19  (98111)

2 excellent cd-dvd emulation softwares
Virtual Clone Drive (already mentioned in review)
WinArchiver Virtual Drive - http://www.winarchiver.com/virtual-drive.htm (Goes beyond mounting just ISO and can mount even zip, rar, 7zip files so it saves a lot of time as you dont have to convert them to ISO. Also it supports upto 23 drives, havn't seen any that can do this. Also its extremely easy to use.)

by Mike C on 28. May 2013 - 6:29  (108087)

Thanks, George for mentioning this. I was using Alcohol 52, and this WinArchiver Virtual seems lighter and easier to use. I just starting using and it seems more to the point of what I simply need. Thanks again.

by George.J on 28. May 2013 - 9:22  (108090)

You're welcome. Glad you find it useful. Even am using it too. :)

Since Winarchiver is a shareware archiver, the Winarchiver Virtual Drive also included it's powerful capabilites to mount even archive files. The deal breaker for me was this, since I can mount even 7zip, rar, unlike other programs that just lets you mount ISO. Also it's lightweight and support for 23 drives is pretty nifty.

by Igo (not verified) on 27. July 2012 - 3:48  (96713)

Does anyone know of a free emulator which can mount .ig files?
Thanks

by TotalMounter (not verified) on 16. June 2012 - 9:16  (94941)

TotalMounter allows one to emulate writable CDs and DVDs. Great if some stupid program lets one only make back-ups on optical media and your computer doesn't have any..

by George.J on 26. May 2012 - 17:51  (94008)

Uninstallation of MagicDisc just sucks. Unwise.exe makes a call to Uninstall.exe and the whole system just freezes! I can't believe that they havn't solved this bug for long. It's the MagicDisc SCSI Host Controller that's causing the problems.

Follow these steps for uninstallation
-Boot into Safe Mode
-Type in the Run box "%systemroot%\system32\drivers".
-Delete mcdbus.sys (this is the MagicDisc SCSI Host Controller).
-Reboot and start Windows normally then uninstall it.

by Finer (not verified) on 13. May 2012 - 18:22  (93422)

Program: WinCDEmu

License: GNU Lesser General Public License

Description: open-source CD/DVD image mounter.

click image files in Windows Explorer to mount/unmount (or eject the corresponding drive using the context menu). Supports ISO, CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF, CCD, IMG formats and runs on WinXP to Win7. No creating images is supported.

Website: http://wincdemu.sysprogs.org/

Used, and it's quite good. Hope, it would be reviewed soon.

by MidnightCowboy on 14. May 2012 - 4:52  (93434)

Thank you for the suggestion. This category currently has no editor so there will be no new reviews appearing here until someone volunteers to take it over.

by UriF (not verified) on 29. April 2012 - 1:30  (92738)

Daemon Tools Lite is no more freeware
http://www.daemon-tools.cc/eng/products/dtLite

by Jojo Yee on 29. April 2012 - 9:39  (92751)

Thanks for the feedback UriF. It is now updated in the review.

by UriF (not verified) on 30. April 2012 - 11:38  (92801)

I apologize fro misguiding:
Maybe they added or I missed
http://www.daemon-tools.cc/eng/downloads

"Are you going to use DAEMON Tools Lite at home personally and not for commercial purposes? If “Yes” then press on “Download” and get it for Free!"

Sorry again for inconvenince

by Jojo Yee on 30. April 2012 - 13:49  (92810)

You're welcome UriF. Things might be changing from time to time and it seems that the sentence you quoted only appears on that download page.

I downloaded and gave it a try. It did show up as free-license software, at least for now :)

by supanut on 11. November 2011 - 10:16  (83091)

New version of Daemon Tools Lite is out, this time you can mount up to 4 DT drives as stated in this review which is for me is more than enough.

by supanut on 5. November 2011 - 12:06  (82756)

You forgot to mention Daemon Tools Lite.
It's free (avoid the installation of toolbar, search and home page change, and at the end of the installation has a pre-checked option to send usage stats).
Daemon Tools Lite has more format support, like .mdx,, .mdf, .mds, etc while Virtual Clone Drive don't.

by Anupam on 5. November 2011 - 12:29  (82758)

Its mentioned under the Other CD/DVD Emulators.

by supanut on 6. November 2011 - 0:53  (82789)

Oh thanks for a quick reply.
I use to use Daemon Tools Lite in the pass about a few years ago, but during that time, it did not do too well, and back then the installer require a reboot before you could install the software. But that was on Windows XP. Now Daemon Tools Lite has improved a lot, and no more reboots are required to install the software on my Windows 7 system.
Also one thing that I found out, is that you can only have 2 DT virtual drives, but that doesn't really matter, as I don't need that much virtual drives. I think just 2 virtual drives is good for me.

by eddyhawk (not verified) on 17. October 2011 - 3:58  (81569)

is there a free cd-dvd virtual burner with on-the-fly compression?

by MidnightCowboy on 17. October 2011 - 5:13  (81573)

This category currently has no editor. Please post your question in our forum.

by Mary_ (not verified) on 13. October 2011 - 4:18  (81311)

I downloaded WinCDemu on a flash drive. Am I right that I can install it on my flash and then use on any computer I need?

by innn on 24. October 2013 - 13:40  (111725)

You are right to the extent that you are aware on any other computer wincdemu still needs its driver to install locally so you must grant it in order to actually mount anything. No emulation software is portable. But this comes closest.