Best Free CD-DVD Emulation Software

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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.

 

Rated Products

Gizmo Drive  

Excellent emulation software allows you to mount a disk image


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

MagicDisc  

An emulator for creating and managing virtual CD/DVD drives


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

Virtual CloneDrive  

An easy-to-use drive emulator


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
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.
Read full review...

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.

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

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

 

Editor

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

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Comments

gVirtual Drive is also a good option:

http://www.gburner.com/online-help/virtual-drive.htm

Hi everyone,

All of the CD-DVD EMULATION SOFTWARES reviewed so far can virtually mount CD or DVD images to the internal hard disk of the computer. Can i back up these CD or DVD images to an external hard disk?

thanks in advance

I think you can do so indiankoboy with a backup application as CD or DVD images are just iso files.

Hi Jojo Yee,

thanks for the info. After backing up the CD or DVD images in iso files into an external hard disk, can i copy back the same CD or DVD images in iso files into the internal hard disk of my computer then open them without burning them in a blank CD or DVD? Is there a limitation to the number of CD or DVD images in iso files i can emulate from the softwares reviewed to backup into an external hard disk?

In file operations, you may treat an iso file just as you would a normal file, like copying and moving, etc. If I understand your question correctly, one iso file represents one CD or DVD disk image. You can mount multiple iso files at the same time up to the limit allowed by an emulator.

Hi Jojo Yee,

thanks again for the info. My intention is to back up all my CDs & DVDs into an external hard drive software emulated into ISO image files, then whenever i want to use a particular CD or DVD i just mount it into the emulator of my internal hard disk. Is ISO file format the safest format that can be read by the various emulators available? thanks

As provided in a section of this article, ISO is a standard ISO 9660 image, supported by most emulation software.

Hi Jojo Yee,

thanks a lot

Tested few of these but went back into Daemon Tools Lite as it is still one of the best tools in this category.

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

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.

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

WinCDEmu can't handle cue+bin Audio CD, at least for me. MagicDisc works fine.

Was looking for something portable, thanks.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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