WinCDEmu is a free (open source) CD/DVD emulator to mount an optical disc image in Windows as a virtual drive, instead of burning it to disc. First, let’s review some of these terms – a virtual drive behaves exactly like a physical CD/DVD and appears in (My) Computer with a new drive letter.
An optical disc image file is an exact copy of an optical disc (a CD or DVD). An example is the Office 2013 trial that we reviewed yesterday – a large .IMG disc image file to download which you can then burn to CD using most burning software.
You would use the new CD to install the Office trial, exactly as if you had bought Office on CD from a shop. However, there are several reasons why mounting a disc image as a virtual drive may be superior to burning it to CD/DVD:
- 1. Software installs more quickly from a virtual drive than from an optical disc.
- 2. Burning a DVD can take up to 15 minutes depending on the size and burn speed whereas creating a virtual drive takes seconds.
- 3. It is wasteful and more expensive to burn a disc – virtual drives cost nothing and do not consume media.
- 4. Modern netbooks, ultrabooks and some laptops may not even have a CD/DVD drive so burning a disc is not an option.
Overall, it is much quicker to just mount an image file as a virtual drive in Windows and install or copy the software from there.
Using WinCDEmu – The program supports image files of type ISO, IMG, CUE, NRG, MDS/MDF and CCD and is compatible with XP, Vista and Windows 7 (Windows 8 has native mounting of ISO disc images). It supports an unlimited number of virtual drives and frees up the drive letter when an image is unmounted.
Download the full program here or as a Portable version here. We’ll cover the Portable version for ease of use – the main difference is that the full version adds the ability to create ISO images through a context menu in Explorer and is a slightly newer version (3.6 instead of 3.4).
Run the PortableWinCDEmu.exe program file and press ‘Yes’ to allow installation of the driver required to create virtual drives:
The main program window opens as shown below:
Press the ‘Mount another image’ button to begin and browse to/select the image file you would like to mount.
The image file is now mounted in Windows and given the next available drive letter – drive i: in our example below:
Now open (My) Computer or Explorer and browse to this new virtual drive letter to see the full content of the ‘CD’. If it contains an installation program you can start the install by double clicking the relevant file – usually called setup or autorun or install etc. You could also copy the contents to a hard/flash drive to keep a permanent copy or transfer to another PC.
Other WinCDEmu Options
Uninstall driver – uninstalls the program driver when you no longer need the program. You will not be able to create further virtual drives unless you reopen the program and allow reinstallation of the driver.
Unmount – unmounts the selected image and frees up the drive letter.
Unmount ALL – unmounts all images and frees up the drive letters.
Close – exits the program but leaves any virtual drives mounted and available to use. To unmount an image you must reopen the program and choose one of the above 2 options.
WinCDEmu Portable works well with most common disk image formats, is quick and simple to use. It’s ideal for occasional mounting of disc images in order to install software, copy data or just to prevent discs from wear and tear.