I’ve been going through the near annual acrobatics of setting up some new PC’s with all of our standard applications recently. You start off by locating all of the CD’s (for stuff that comes/came on CD) and installing these. Then register them as required. Sounds easy enough, and it sort of is, as long as you can find all of those CD’s.
So I set about thinking that there had to be a way to improve on this system, one that didn’t need me to go and find all of the CD’s. The CD issue isn’t really that bad because I keep all the originals along with all of my backups in a Fireproof Safe. But there were a couple that weren’t in the safe and one that I couldn’t find and couldn’t download from the Net (any more).
After finally gathering everything I needed I commenced step one of my new plan, which is to copy each CD to an ISO Image. An ISO Image is a single file that contains an exact copy of all of the files you add to it, in this case all files on the CD. So instead of have a dozen or so CD’s to find and install I have a dozen ISO images. As I said earlier ISO images are just files so you can put them wherever you want. I’ve burnt them to a DVD and also copied them to a Backup USB Drive. Now I have a few DVD’s instead of 12+ CD’s holding all of my “must have” applications.
By now some of you are probably wondering how do I create these ISO Images. Well there are plenty of programs around that will do this and you may well find you current CD Burning software handles this nicely. If not I suggest DeepBurner which comes in free and paid versions. If you only need to create and burn ISO Images then look no further than the free version. If you want more capabilities and want to support the developers then go for the paid version. Other alternatives include Alcohol Software and lots more you will find at Download.com
Once you’ve created these shiny new ISO Images (and stored them away somewhere safe) you need a way of actually using them to install your software. The good news is this is very easy to do as well. In essence the file which contains the ISO Image gets mounted as a CD-ROM drive. This means that it appears to Windows as a normal CD Drive which you access just like any other CD.
Like the ISO creation programs there are a variety of programs around that enable ISO’s to be accessed as CD’s. I’ll mention a few I tried. First there is Daemon Tools which has been around for some time and is quite popular. This worked fine for me but I didn’t use because it appeared to install more drivers than my chosen solution and it seems to be in a state of flux with no new release for some time. Alcohol 120% is a comprehensive commercial DVD/CD emulation and burning software. program, but did way more than I needed.
My chosen solution is one I fortuitously stumbled upon while Google’ing and happens to be a free but unsupported program from Microsoft named WinXP Virtual CD Control Panel, which can be downloaded from here. The .EXE file is a self extracting Zip file which contains just 3 files. I suggest you create a new directory and Unzip into this. There is a readme.txt file with simple clear instructions on how to install and run the program. Note that this only works on WinXP Home and WinXP Pro, so head on over to Daemon Tools if you aren’t using Windows XP.
Once you’ve copied the VCdRom.sys driver to your
system32\drivers folder VCdControlTool.exe lets you Add a (CD-ROM) Drive and Mount an ISO Image file on this drive. The user interface won’t win any prizes but it gets the job done.
Most Installer CD’s have an AutoRun.EXE or AutoRun.inf file. Clicking on the former should start the normal installation process. For the .inf file, open this in Notepad and the start the program it specifies. I did have one problem installing a program in this way. The actual ISO file was on a DVD drive and I got some strange error when I tried installing it. I UnMounted the ISO image and copied the file to my Hard drive, mounted it from there and it installed just fine.
If you want to make your computing life that little bit easier then follow my lead and build yourself a nice ISO Image collection today.
PS. I also highly recommend Acronis True Image when you are setting up a new PC. Enough said for now, I’ll leave this to talk about in the future.