One of the tools I have been using a lot of lately is Virtual PC. It’s come in very handy, so over the next few entries I’ll be discussing this and other handy virtualization tools.
Before we get into virtualizing an entire computer, let’s start with just the CD/DVD. There’s a great tool you can get from Microsoft that will allow you to take an ISO image and fool your computer into thinking it’s a CD or DVD mounted in a drive.
The name of the tool is Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel for Windows XP, you can get it by clicking the link, or if you are the distrustful type (and you should be) instead follow these short steps:
First, go to:
Scroll down to MSDN Subscriber Downloads, and click on “What are ISO image files and how do I use them?”
When it expands, toward the bottom you’ll see a section “Mounting ISO files virtually”. Click on the link to download “Virtual CD-ROM Control Panel for Windows XP”
Once you download, the file will expand to 3 files, readme.txt, VCdControlTool.exe, and VCdRom.sys. The readme.txt file has the directions, but the short version is:
1) Copy VCdRom.sys to your %systemroot%\system32\drivers folder
2) Put the exe somewhere and launch it.
OK, your install is done. When you launch it you’ll see this screen that’s not overly intuitive.
OK, this is the tricky part that’s not quite clear in the directions: The very first time you run the program you should click on Driver Control. In the dialog that appears, click on Install Driver, then navigate to the location you put the VCdRom.sys file. Once you click on the sys file click Start to start the driver, then OK to close the dialog. OK, that’s done, you never have to do this again.
From here it’s pretty simple. Click on Add Drive to grab an unused drive letter. The app gets the highest available unused drive letter, typically Z.
Now you have an available drive, click on Mount. When the dialog opens, find an ISO image you’ve downloaded or created (most likely from MSDN, but any ISO works). Once you click Open, a dialog will appear to confirm, normally I just take the defaults and click OK.
Ta da! Your ISO now appears to the operating system as if it was a CD (or DVD) mounted in a drive. When you are done, just click Eject back on the VCDRom panel. That will leave the drive letter available but the ISO will no longer be accessible.
Need more ISO’s mounted at once? No problem, just click Add Drive again, to get another drive and mount it. Done with the drive letter? Just click on it, then click Remove Drive. Finally, if you eject an ISO then decide you want to remount, just click on the drive letter and click Remount.
There you go, a free way to use those ISO images without having to burn them to a CD or DVD first!